There is nothing better than getting into a nice warm bed and settling in for the night. You pull the blanket up to your chin, stretch out and wait for the dreams to wash over you. But what happens if, like me, you find your mind wandering and overplaying every bad thing that’s ever happened until 2 hours later you’re still wide awake and worrying. We’ve all been there, I used to end up pacing around trying to tire myself out, or watching endless late-night episodes of The Jeremy Kyle Show. It’s only recently that I’ve discovered there are much better ways to try and get yourself to sleep at night, or back to sleep once you wake up.
First of all, if you do wake up in the middle of the night, do not be tempted to get out of bed and watch TV. As fascinating as Jeremy can be, the artificial light intake will also disrupt your sleep so much more. Natural light during the day helps your body produce a hormone called “melatonin”, which helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle, and the artificial light in the middle of the night can confuse this so much more.
You should avoid watching TV, using anything with a bright artificial light source, especially backlit devices such as electronic readers, in the hour before bedtime as well. Instead, try reading by lamplight or take up a relaxing hobby, such as sewing or crosswords.
The key is trying to relax your body and mind in the hours before bedtime. Leave a few hours between dinner and bedtime so that your body has enough time to digest and doesn’t make you uncomfortable while you’re trying to get to sleep.
I sometimes find tidying relaxing. Not heavy housework, but pottering around, folding laundry, organizing the surfaces, and that sort of thing. I try and do it in the bedroom before sleep as it’s much easier to relax in a space that is clutter-free and clean and does not add to the extra stresses you may be feeling.
Soothing music is really great too. Whale sounds, or nature, or classical music are suggested and can help distract your brain from ticking over. I prefer something with lyrics and try and concentrate on those, singing along in my head so that my mind stops wandering to stressful places.
Never underestimate the effect of a good solid bed, a comfortable mattress, and a strong headboard. These can improve your feeling of comfort as well as security. If a bed is sturdy it is less likely to creak or move in the night then it won’t disrupt your sleep.
If you continue having severe sleep problems, then your best bet may be going to see a doctor see what they suggest, these are just tips to cope with the issue, but there may be an underlying cause that needs to be dealt with. If you’re not sleeping because you’re stressed, then try and pinpoint the source of the stress and maybe find a way of tackling that to relieve the stress, and help you get a much needed good night’s sleep.