The reasons for poor sleep are likely to be multifaceted and underlying difficulties such as stress, worry or depression may be contributing. However, developing a healthy sleep routine can be beneficial for many people.
Try to have a regular bed time
This can be very difficult when you work irregular shift patterns or have a baby or child who struggles with their sleep. However, wherever possible it is good to have a regular pattern of a time for going to sleep and waking up.
Having a wind down routine
What works for others may not work for you, so it is all about trial and error: taking a warm bath, reading a book, breathing or mindfulness exercises, a few yoga stretches – there are many different options worth trying. It is about book ending the day and gently quietening your mind.
Avoid screen time before bed and try not to have your phone in the bedroom
The light in your phone can have an impact on your ability to switch off, but having it so close to hand throughout the night can mean that the temptation to check things may be too great to resist.
Make your bedroom a place just for sleep
This means no gadgets or televisions or other things that can disturb your association with rest. Maintaining a temperature around 18-24C and minimising light and noise as much as possible is likely to help.
Cutting down on caffeine
We all know what the effect of caffeine is, but it is easy to forget that it is in more than just tea and coffee – chocolate, fizzy drinks and some medications can all contain high levels of caffeine to be aware of.
Taking regular exercise can really help with your sleep
Walking and getting fresh air is a really good way to get some physical activity into your life even if you can’t commit to more vigorous exercise. However, try to avoid high impact activities just before you go to bed as this is likely to energise you.
Avoid using substances
Nicotine (which is a stimulant) and alcohol (which although a depressant, can disturb your sleep). Whilst they may feel like a short-term solution, in the longer term these are not helpful strategies.
Some people find it helpful to write lists of things that they need to do or things that are worrying them to try and get them out of their head. This can help to put some tasks into perspective and stop them from ruminating through the night.
Try not to get caught in a cycle of worrying
It is very common to lie in bed thinking ‘if I get to sleep now, I will only get x hours sleep’ or ‘I am never going to be able to sleep’. Often these thoughts can prevent us from getting back to sleep. Some people find it beneficial to get up and engage in another activity until they feel sleepy again rather than lying there and worrying.
However, if you notice that your sleep is significantly disrupted and you are struggling to get back on track, there are therapies that can help you.