Not sleeping isn’t much fun. You spend all day feeling weary and longing for that moment when your head hits the pillow and then suddenly – POW! – you’re wide awake and your mind is running over all those pointless thoughts you could have been having hours earlier.
As part of our Need to Sleep campaign, we’ve been thinking about ways to cope with sleep problems.
There’s lots of advice available on the internet to help you get to sleep but much of it is either common sense or based on questionable research. After trawling through dozens of articles full of sleep tips (which might be a way to help induce sleep in itself!) I’ve put together a list of five of the most practical steps you can take to improve your sleep.
1. Try meditation to get you ready for sleep
Many people will associate meditation with a group of hippies, sat on beanbags in a circle chanting along to whale song. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but meditation doesn’t have to be done that way.
Rather than a tie-dyed kaftan and a mung-bean salad, all you really need is a smart phone to get yourself started. No, really. I downloaded an app called Calm (available on Android and iOS) which is free and includes some lovely relaxing sounds and also recordings of a lady that talks you through some relaxation techniques.
You can set a timer for how long you’d like the relaxation session to last and by the end you should be feeling more relaxed and find sleep a little bit easier to come by.
2. Don’t try to force sleep
Trying really hard is usually a good way to get what we want, but not when it comes to falling asleep. The harder you try the more likely it is that you’ll struggle to nod off. So if you’ve been trying to get to sleep for 20 minutes or longer then it might be useful to get out of bed, leave the room and distract yourself for a little while.
Occupy yourself with an activity that doesn’t require a lot of concentration which you find calming and you should find within 15 to 20 minutes you’ll feel sleepy again and can have another attempt at getting off to sleep. Reading a book is an obvious example.
3. Cut out screens close to bedtime – respect your circadian rhythm
Your circadian rhythm is basically a fancy expression scientists use to describe your body clock. It’s the 24-hour cycle that our bodies go through which makes us feel sleepy about bed time and want to get up in the morning.
This system worked well in our distant past. We’d be outside in the sun during the day time and feeling alert, then would head inside at night and had no electric light so would be mostly sat in the gloom, which gave our bodies the signal that it was nearly time for bed.
Skip forward a few hundred years and your evenings are potentially spent with electric lights on, a TV blasting light at you, a laptop or tablet a few feet from your face and a mobile screen not far away either. All these sources of “blue light” have been proven to mess up our sleep patterns.
All this light is tricking our bodies into thinking it’s not night time and can result in it being trickier to get off to sleep. By keeping the lights dimmed and avoiding light emitting screens near bedtime you’ll give yourself a better chance of getting to sleep.
4. Give yourself a caffeine curfew
Most people know that caffeine close to going to bed is a bad idea but it might surprise you how long lasting the effects of caffeine are. Recent research has shown that drinking a strong coffee in the early afternoon can disrupt your sleep.
The effects of caffeine can still be kicking around your system six hours after you’ve taken it in. That’s why setting a caffeine curfew will really help you. If your usual bedtime is ten at night then three in the afternoon is probably a good time to switch to drinks that don’t contain caffeine.
5. Get help with your debts
35% of the UK population have been kept awake at night worrying about finances. We believe that getting free and impartial advice about debts is a good way to relieve some of this stress.
Our Debt Remedy advice tool is available all day, every day. It will help you create a realistic budget and then recommend practical steps to take to deal with debts and any other money worries you might have. Alternatively you could call our debt advice helpline and speak to an advisor.
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