Sleep restores our bodies and minds and allows us to keep functioning during waking hours. Insomnia describes either difficulty falling asleep, or staying asleep. Around 1 in 3 people suffer from sleep disturbances.
If you are one of these people, here’s some tips to develop better sleeping habits.
Firstly, try to identify what is causing the sleep problem and write down your worries. On average, adults should sleep 7-9 hours a night, but this varies from person to person, usually decreasing with age. Practice relaxation techniques and try to exercise 20-30 minutes a day. Watching the sunset is a beautiful way to stimulate melatonin levels needed for a healthy wake-sleep rhythm.
Some medicines can keep you awake if taken close to bedtime. Ask your pharmacist about medicines you may be taking that could be the reason you stay awake at night. If you suffer from pain, having adequate pain relief is important for a good night sleep.
Practice good sleep hygiene to create a habit for yourself around bedtime. Establish a pattern of only going to bed when you are ready for sleep, and only trying to go to sleep when you get into bed. Make your bedroom a sleep haven, lovely and dark, quiet, cool and comfy. Remove stimulants, such as bright lights, televisions, phones and computers from the bedroom and turn them off an hour before bed. It is often helpful to remove clocks as repeated checking of how long you have taken to fall asleep generally worsens the anxiety about being able to sleep. Avoid caffeine and alcohol in the evening, rather try chamomile tea or milky drinks.
If this isn’t successful in allowing you to fall asleep within about 30 minutes of going to bed, then get up and do something in another room and return to bed after a period of quiet reading, de-stressing or relaxing exercises, such as yoga.
If these self-help suggestions don’t work, medicines may be required for short periods of time to break the habit of sleeplessness. Talk to your pharmacist or doctor about which medicine will be best, especially if the sleeplessness is caused by mild depression or anxiety. Your doctor may also consider testing for sleep apnoea as this can be an underlying cause of insomnia. Magnesium or St. John's wort may help to relax you or tart cherry supplements can be useful to help getting off to sleep and/or staying asleep. They contain high levels of naturally occurring phytonutrients to help regulate and support a deep, restful sleep.