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Having trouble sleeping?

Helpful hints and tips for a better night’s sleep

Sleep

Experiencing problems getting a good night’s sleep seem to be on the rise, and as anyone who has suffered from insomnia knows, the impact of sleep deprivation can be devastatingly debilitating.  Our thought processes become impaired, our mood and self-esteem declines, we see ourselves looking tired and we may compound the situation by berating ourselves for failing to do what babies do effortlessly.

While the causes are many and varied, and counselling can help identify and resolve them, prolonged sleeplessness inevitably becomes THE problem.  You may find yourself dreading going to bed in anticipation of a night of lying in bed tensely waiting for sleep to somehow happen.  Sounds that were normally no problem become amplified and even the merest chink of light is disturbing.

An irony of being sleep deprived is that we often self-sabotage and in so doing, prevent sleep from coming to us. We may go to bed too late (sometimes trying to claim an evening after a long day) and then panic at the few hours remaining before the alarm; we may go to bed too early, before our bodies are truly ready.  We may drink too much alcohol or caffeine, making sleep difficult and impairing its quality; we may eat too late, watch too much stimulating TV, read bad news, check emails too late, play computer games, surf the net.

If medical conditions have been eliminated as the reason for poor sleep, it is a good idea to work to break the bad cycle of insomnia irrespective of the cause.  You may already have recognised some bad habits that have contributed to the cycle, so do look at these and try to eliminate them or seek help if appropriate.  You will need to find what works for you, but here are some ideas. 

 

  • Try to get up at the same time every day, even at weekends.  Your sleep rhythm has been compromised, and catching up at the weekend will not help.  Don’t fear feeling tired as you are already coping on too little sleep. Acknowledge that you can cope on less sleep than you thought

 

  • If reading in bed helps, choose light, undemanding books and read until your eyelids are aching to close. If you remain awake, get up and undertake boring chores (e.g. floor washing), until your eyes feel heavy again

 

  • Try eating lighter, healthier and earlier in the evening

 

  • Have technology breaks, ban mobiles and laptops from the bedroom, buy an alarm clock

 

  • Don’t answer the phone or emails after, say, 9.00pm.  People who expect an instant response will get used to – and survive – the new regime 

 

  • Step up physical exercise despite your tiredness - preferably something you enjoy

 

  • Finally, you need to be relaxed for sleep.  Develop a wind-down routine (bath with candles, warm caffeine-free drink). Consider mindfulness (or meditation, yoga, pilates) in order to access your “off switch”. Mindfulness-based Stress reduction courses are available in Cambridge, but also online, and there are many excellent APPS such as Headspace.  If Mindfulness is unfamiliar, give it some time, it really can be transformational and it does not need to be time-consuming