6 tips to beat insomnia and sleep better

6 June 2014 by
First published: 8 June 2014

Lack of sleep can ruin your health, and affect your social and work life. Follow these 6 tips to beat insomnia and sleep better

An insomniac can count a million sheep, and yet not fall asleep. A lack of sleep not only ruins your health, but also has a negative effect on your work and social life. The Great British Sleep Survey revealed that insomnia is a long-term issue. 42% of people who rely on sleeping pills have taken them on and off, yet continue to battle insomnia for over a decade. But don’t lose hope! There are lots of things you can do to improve your sleep.

1. Sleep hygiene
Sleep hygiene is a collective term for your sleeping habits. Recognise good habits and develop them in order to be able to fall asleep quickly. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even during the weekend. A warm bath about an hour before you hit the sack may help you feel sleepy too, and try to keep your bedroom uncluttered and your sheets clean, too.

2. Sleep in the dark
Catching up on Facebook in bed may seem harmless enough, but the sleep disruption caused by light emitting electronic devices can be significant. Research has demonstrated that exposure to light during night time suppresses the production of melatonin, a hormone that controls your sleep and wake cycle. Skip the night lights, and use amber coloured ones in bathrooms and hallways. Install blackout shades or thick curtains on your windows. Use the bedroom only for sleep and sex, which means no TV.

3. Aim to sleep in one continuous block
Sleep must ideally be in one continuous block. If you find yourself tossing and turning in bed, rather than force yourself to go back to sleep, keep the lights off and sit quietly on the couch till you feel sleepy again. Catch up on your sleep debt by going to bed earlier, than sleeping later. Try not to make up for sleep losses during the day by spending the entire weekend in bed.

4. Exercise and diet
Exercise can contribute to a restful sleep, but avoid it just before bed because it can stimulate you and make it harder to fall asleep. Avoid anything that stimulates the system – such as caffeine, tobacco, alcohol, or chocolate – before bedtime. Keep your dinner light.

5. Wind down before bed
The number one enemy of sleep is your racing mind. Calm your body and mind by gradually winding down. Worrying about your life, work, and what the future holds, will not make for a good night’s kip. Take some time before bed to think about the day, plan for tomorrow, and put your thoughts in their respective slots. Learn relaxation techniques such as mindfulness or meditation if necessary.

6. Herbal teas
Though there is not much scientific evidence on the effectiveness of herbal teas in inducing sleep, millions all over the world swear by their herbal tea to help them sleep well. Chamomile, lavender, and passionflower are the preferred choices.

Finally, don’t try too hard. Adopt a calm and relaxed approach to sleep, not a panicky and neurotic one.