Whether you're waking up to use the bathroom, or you can't drop off because your mind simply won’t stop racing, lying awake watching the hours go by can be extremely frustrating, but there are ways to cope with it. Use some of the following sleep strategies to fix your sleep problems.
Figure out what your sleep problem is
You might think it’s obvious that you need more sleep or better sleep but it’s helpful to pinpoint why. Many people get upset that they’re not getting ‘enough’ sleep simply because they’re not sleeping as deeply or as long as they used to when they were younger.
It could be that you find getting up too difficult, or that you find it frustrating to be awake at night when everyone else is asleep. Depending on your problem the solution to fix it will also differ.
Keep a sleep diary to spot the patterns
You might feel as though you’re not getting enough sleep when in fact you’re getting too much. Oversleeping can make you feel sluggish just like lack of sleep.
So make a note of when you go to bed and then, when you start to feel sleepy. Then make a note when you wake up too, and finally jot down how you feel during the day, tired or not. Keep doing this for about three weeks and you may well spot a pattern which is easy to fix.
Work out your own optimal sleep length
Eight, not three, is the magic number when it comes to sleep, or so we’re led to believe. But this figure is simply an average, it’s the number of hours many people need to feel fully rested, but you may well be different.
So how can you tell if you’re getting the right amount? It’s all about how you feel the following day. If you feel good and have enough energy during the day – even if you enjoy a nap at some point – then you’re just fine.
Plan your pre-bed hour
Unfortunately you can’t simply click your fingers and feel sleepy immediately, but what you do in the hour before bedtime can make a huge difference.
Avoid lit screens such as from computers or TV which will stimulate your brain rather than let it wind down. Steer clear of alcohol and caffeine, both of which can give you an energy boost.
Instead, do something relaxing like listening to quiet, slow music or have a bath, or even complete a mundane household task like folding the laundry, for example.
Don’t mess with your sleep routine
If you feel tired, it might seem sensible to go to bed a lot earlier but that can backfire if you struggle with insomnia. The best thing you can do to ensure good regular sleep is getting regular sleep at the same time each night, so avoid going to bed earlier or staying asleep longer in the morning.
Don’t try to sleep when you just can't drop off
This advice may sound like nonsense but it’s not – sometimes it’s better to accept that you can’t sleep and instead simply try to rest.
You know that sleep allows your body to recover from the day’s energy output and that if you don’t sleep you’ll feel tired the next day, and possibly irritable and clumsy too. But if you can’t sleep, trying desperately to nod off can just make things worse.
By resting – lying on the sofa, reading a book or doing something mechanical that doesn’t require too much thinking like simple knitting, for example – your body still has a chance to recuperate and you’re far more likely to fall asleep in this state too.
Try a different room for a better sleep
If you’ve been trying to adjust your sleep times or improve the quality of your sleep but you’re not succeeding, you might like to try sleeping in a different room, if you can.
Sometimes associations with objects in your own bedroom can make it easier to worry, keeping you awake at night; sleeping in the guest room, for example, which is usually more sparse in terms of furnishings and decoration, can be more relaxing.
How change affects sleep quality
On the other hand, sleeping in a new bed or place, being ill, going through hormonal changes, experiencing stress or even looking forward to an exciting event, can disrupt your usual sleep pattern.
Try to be aware of other aspects of your life that might affect your sleep and rather than worry about it, try to address it in a relaxed way.
So, for example, if you’re wakeful at night, simply grab a book or newspaper and read for a while, then go back to bed when you feel sleep again. Reassure yourself that this is just a temporary period in your life, otherwise you might exacerbate the problem.
Get out and about to boost the quality of your sleep
Have you ever noticed how nicely tired you feel after a walk on a beach or a swim at the pool? Full-body exercise such as swimming in the morning or early afternoon is excellent for making you physically relaxed and ready for sleep at the end of the day.
Similarly, a walk at the beach, on uneven terrain and fresh, bracing air, will get your blood circulating. Other activities that will help include high-energy sports such as tennis, squash or badmington, football, dancing, and aerobics.
Discover 10 great reasons to get outdoors
Breathe deep before sleep
Many people find that doing breathing exercises before sleep is a great way to relax both physically and mentally.
Focusing on taking long inhalations for a count of five, holding the breath for a count of two or three, then exhaling for a count of five, will slow your heart rate and while concentrating on your breathing you’ll find your mind is less apt to wander, too.