1. Routine. Decide what time you need or want to wake up each morning – if it’s 8.00 for example then to get 8 hours sleep you will need to be asleep by midnight. So you might want to go to bed at 11.30 – every night, including weekends and set your alarm too.
This trains your brain to expect to go to sleep at that time and to get up at that time, it will get easier.
No napping during the day. With a regular routine your brain will learn when to expect to switch off.
2. Relax Before Sleep. Decide on a pre-bedtime wind-down routine – for example 2 hours before bedtime no physically or emotionally arousing activities – that means social media, worrying, arguing, exercising.
Do something relaxing – a bath, listen to calming music, engage in a hobby or something creative, practice meditation or 7:11 breathing, read or watch TV for a while.
3. Wrap up those worries. Worry is probably the most common reason for insomnia.
Worry seriously interferes with sleep quality by causing an increase in REM sleep (dream sleep) at the cost of less slow wave sleep (restorative, recuperative, restful sleep).
If you are worrying a lot you need to put those worries to bed too at bed time or before. Try writing down the worries, then what action you can take regarding each one (if there is genuinely nothing in your power that can be done, then acknowledge that and let the worry go).
What can you do tomorrow re each of the worries, note it down and THAT’S ENOUGH. No more worry thoughts …focus instead on how good it will feel to have done that thing that you need to do, the relief from passive worrying to taking a step toward resolution.
4. Food and Drink. Be aware of alcohol’s effect on sleep.
A drink at bedtime might help you get to off to sleep more quickly but alcohol can affect the quality of your sleep, disturbing the sleep cycle leading to tiredness in the mornings. It tends to disrupt sleep – waking up in the night, trips to the bathroom, and dehydration.
Avoid caffeine in the evenings – a hot milky drink is warming, comforting and gentle on the stomach.
Think about the timing of your evening meal. An empty stomach will keep you awake as will indigestion or heartburn.
5. The Sleeping Environment. Avoid creating an association between lying in bed and sleeplessness.
If you find you can’t sleep, get up, do something else (preferably something dull and boring so you won’t want to stay up all night) and then go to bed again when you feel sleepy.
If you spend weeks or months fighting insomnia in the same space your brain will have learnt to associate this space with lying awake unable to sleep. You need to break this association.
You might want to try sleeping somewhere else for a few nights if possible. Or you could rearrange your bedroom furniture around or change the décor.
Keep your bedroom for sleeping – not for work or TV or studying or workouts.
Is your bedroom a relaxing space? Your bedroom should be cosy, comfortable, soft light, soft colours. The temperature should be not too warm and not too cold.
Production of melatonin (a natural hormone released by the brain) is stimulated by darkness – so keeping the bedroom dark during sleep time is important. No screens – the blue light emitted from screens reduces melatonin production, so prolonging wakefulness.
There are numerous apps available that will play your choice of soothing sounds – designed to aid restful sleep, which some people find very helpful.