Can’t sleep? You’re not alone.
In Australians, somewhere between 13% and 33% of people suffer from insomnia. Insomnia is a chronic problem and the reasons for it and potential ‘cures’ may be complex.
Sometimes not being able to fall asleep can be a temporary problem. Travel or stress can play havoc with our sleep patterns. Once the stressful situation goes away and we adjust to our new schedule, we sleep better.
For most people, a few simple things can help you fall asleep faster:
1. Create the right ‘sleep’ atmosphere
Get back to basics and ensure the stage is set for a good night’s sleep.
- Block out the light – draw the curtains and blinds. You could also try wearing an eye-mask. This signals to your brain that it’s time to snooze.
- Keep things quiet – earplugs are handy if there are noises outside the house. Or you might try playing soothing music.
- Keep it cool – we tend to sleep better in a cooler, well-ventilated room.
- Remove the devices – that’s no TV, radio, tablet or smartphone.
- Essential oils to the rescue – lavender oil isn’t a magic cure-all for sleeplessness, but it has a proven calming effect. Place a few drops in an oil-burner or sprinkle some on your pillow.
2. Have your pre-sleep routine down pat
Prepare for a good night’s sleep by doing things that help you relax.
- Have a warm bath or shower.
- Read a book (a real one!) - or an audio book can work for some people, especially if the person reading has a soft, soothing voice.
- Listen to (the right kind of) music – you know the sort – heavy metal won’t do!
- Try mindfulness exercises – this can take a bit of practice, but mindfulness is a good way to calm the mind and help you sink into sleep. There are some great apps around if you need some help.
- Try a herbal tea – most of us know we should avoid caffeinated drinks before bedtime (that’s coffee and colas).
3. Sleep when you’re tired
I know this sounds a little obvious, but tossing and turning and constantly looking at the clock will not help you fall asleep. Perhaps your body is simply ‘not ready’. Try some of the suggestions above and don’t stress.
Or, if you have things on your mind, write them down. You’ll probably fall asleep when your body and mind is tired enough.
4. Things to avoid if you want to sleep sooner
- Exercise earlier in the day – a regular exercise routine helps you sleep – but avoid hitting the gym too close to bedtime (at least 3 hours prior).
- Take it easy on the liquids (alcohol and non-alcoholic) – of course, drinking alcohol can make you snoozy. Unfortunately, it interferes with your body’s circadian rhythms and leads to a lighter, more restless sleep. It might also mean you wake up thirsty – and then have trouble getting back to sleep. All the experts say alcohol is best avoided if you’re after good quality sleep.
- Avoid heavy meals close to bedtime – there are all sorts of reasons for eating your heavier meals earlier in the day (weight gain and increased risk of heart disease and diabetes). It can also cause indigestion which can make it difficult to go to sleep and stay that way.
If our ‘quick fix’ methods don’t work, it’s always a good idea to speak to your doctor and seek professional advice.