Picture this: you’re lying in bed, completely exhausted, having turned out the lights two hours ago, yet still somehow wide awake.
For a lot of people, it’s not something you need to work all that hard to imagine. Up to 50% of people suffer from at least mild insomnia, and even if it’s not something you’re dealing with frequently, lying awake for no apparent reason is something almost all of us experience at some point. Not being able to sleep when you want to, particularly if you have to get up early the next day, is really frustrating, leading to you feeling even more awake, and so the cycle goes on.
But you don’t have to just lie there in an increasing state of annoyance at your brain for not shutting off. There are some things you can try to get a better night’s sleep:
1) Invest in some thicker curtains or blackout blinds. Light from street lamps and passing traffic can really disturb your sleep, and we’ve shifted towards lighter bedroom decor and sheer curtains that offer privacy but do nothing to block out the light, which doesn’t help either. According to a study conducted by Oxford University, a very light bedroom can even affect your weight!
2) Head to your local pharmacy or supermarket and pick up some earplugs. Foam plugs muffle sound and wax ones will block out pretty much everything, but make sure you don’t sleep right through your alarm!
3) Other factors in your sleeping environment that may be bothering you are the temperature, or the mattress you’re sleeping on. If you sleep with a partner who likes the room at a different temperature to you, extra bedding for the person who prefers a warmer room may help.
4) If you’re awake due to anxiety, keep a notepad by your bed and write down the things that are worrying you. This will help you clear your head before you try to sleep.
5) Take a hot bath before bed with lots of relaxing bubble bath or bath salts to help you wind down.
6) Listen to soothing music or sounds. You may have something you particularly like; otherwise you can try out a phone app such as Relax Melodies, or even invest in a white noise machine.
7) If you can’t sleep, get up and go into another room. You can read a book, do some tidying, listen to some music… just don’t think about the fact that you can’t sleep, and don’t try going back to bed until you actually feel sleepy again. That way, you won’t be lying in bed fretting about not being able to rest and you may even end up being productive!
8) Whatever you do, though, don’t surf the net or put the TV on if you can’t sleep! But perhaps you could use the time you can’t sleep to move your computer and TV out of your room, as the blue light that comes from screens will only make you feel more wide awake, and you shouldn't use them in bed.
9) Don’t check the time. Tempting as it can be to look at your phone or alarm clock, being able to calculate exactly how long you’ve been lying awake and exactly how long you’ll be able to sleep if you drift off right now will only make you feel more frustrated. (And going back to tip 8, your alarm clock shouldn’t have glowing numbers anyway.)
10) Focus on relaxing each part of your body individually, starting at your toes and working up. Even if it doesn’t help to physically relax you, it will stop you thinking about the other things that may be occupying your mind and stopping you sleep.