There’s nothing worse than waking up at night and not being able to get back to sleep. If this happens on consecutive nights, you can suffer from poor sleep. In a vicious cycle, poor sleep leads to worrying, and worrying leads to poor sleep. Eventually, poor sleep can lead to you having negative thoughts, and even feeling depressed or anxious. If you do not get enough sleep, you may find that you’re less able to rationalise worries or thoughts. Poor sleep can also make you feel lonely or isolated, as you may not feel up to socialising with friends or family when you’re tired. Below, you’ll find some handy tips and tricks to get a good sleep.
1. Establish a Routine
Try to establish a regular sleeping pattern by going to bed and waking up at same time every day – even on weekends! Go to bed only when you feel tired enough to sleep; if you’re restless in bed, your mind will associate your bed with struggling to sleep.
2. Relax Before You Go to Bed
There are several ways you can relax before going to bed and let your body know that you’re getting ready for sleep. Do something calming, like listening to relaxing music or having a bath. You could also try breathing exercises; breathe in your belly (not your chest), and then out through your nose, making your exhale longer than your inhale. Repeat this until you feel relaxed enough to go to bed. Muscle relaxation is also a great way to relax. Consciously tense and relax your muscles, one after the other, starting with your toes and working up your body until you reach your head. You can also try meditation, and people find mindfulness helpful, too. You can learn more about meditation here, and read our article about mindfulness here.
3. Make Your Bedroom Comfortable
Experiment with the temperature, light, and noise levels to work out what works best for you. Generally, dark, quiet, and cool environments make it easier to sleep, but this will vary from person to person.
4. Keep a Sleep Diary
If there’s something causing you to lose sleep, it can be difficult to figure out what this could be. A sleep diary involves recording information about your sleep habits that will help you understand your sleep problem, and what’s affecting it. Doctors will sometimes ask you to keep a sleep diary if you consult them about sleeping problems, as it’s a good way to work together to understand the problem. A sleep diary could include the following information:
- What time you go to bed and what time you get up.
- Total number of hours of sleep.
- Overall quality of sleep – you could rank it from 1 to 5
- If you wake up during the night and, if you do, how often, how long you’re awake for, and what you do while you’re awake.
- Whether you have nightmares, night terrors, sleep paralysis, or sleepwalk.
- Whether you sleep during the day and, if you do, for how long.
- Any medication you’re taking – include dose and what time you take it.
- The amount of caffeine, alcohol, or nicotine you have.
- Any physical activity you do during the day, and for how long.
- What you eat and drink.
- Your general feelings and moods, and any anxious or repetitive thoughts.
You can find a handy template offered by NHS here to get you started.
5. Try to Resolve Stresses and Worries
If there’s anything in your life that’s causing you stress or worry, this could be affecting your sleep. Talk to a friend or family member about these thoughts and feelings or write them down before you go to bed.
6. Enjoy Some Tech-Free Time
Using bright screens, such as laptops or phones, can negatively affect your sleep. The artificial blue light that’s emitted from these screens can restrain the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleep. By keeping away from these screens at least an hour before you want to go to sleep, your quality of sleep will be much better. Instead, read a book or listen to relaxing music.
You can read more about how these screens affect our sleep in our article here.
7. Eat Healthy, Drink Healthy, and Exercise Regularly
What we eat can affect how we feel. Improving your diet can help to improve your mood and think more clearly. Eating regularly and choosing foods that will release energy slowly will help to keep your sugar levels steady. If your sugar level drops, you can feel tired, irritable, and depressed. Slow-release energy foods include pasta, rice, oats, wholegrain bread and cereals, nuts and seeds. Caffeine and alcohol will disturb your sleep pattern, so avoid these in the evenings. Exercising regularly will also help you sleep better, as it makes you more physically tired. It doesn’t have to be strenuous exercise – simply doing some housework, gardening, or going for a walk can help.
Losing sleep is extremely frustrating, especially when you don’t know what’s causing it. Consulting a doctor is one of the best ways to improve your sleep, as they will help you find out why you’re not sleeping well, if there’s an underlying condition affecting your sleep, and how to solve this.