Sufferers of insomnia may experience difficulty falling asleep, or waking up very early or finding that you don't feel refreshed in the morning. You may be waking up several times in the night and having problems getting back to sleep. You may work shifts and find it difficult to get the sleep you need during the day.

All sorts of things can affect sleep. It could be the environment (uncomfortable or noisy), you may be stressed, worried or anxious, or it could be physical such as being in pain.  

It is always a good idea to go see your GP to rule out any physical or mental health issues that could be affecting your sleeping patterns. Your GP will advise you on what to do next if that is the case.

There are also practical things you can do to help improve your sleep prospects.

  • Try to relax before going to bed. Switching off from daily tasks and worries and stopping stimulating activities like browsing your mobile phone or computer.  If it's hard to do that, make a list of everything that's on your mind and date it at the top for the following day to help train your mind that it's now time to switch off until the morning.
  • Make your sleeping area a welcoming, tranquil place. Keep it uncluttered. Use a room spray to keep it fresh. In hot weather use a fan to cool the room.  Create a cocoon that will help you feel safe and rested.  If you have noisy neighbours and can't change that, consider buying some earplugs or having soothing music or sounds playing softly in the background.  If your curtains let in the light, try an eye mask to enjoy the nighttime longer.
  • Have bedding that's comfortable - try a mattress topper for extra comfort and check that your pillow supports your neck and is the right height - some people like two or more pillows, others just one - figure out what's right for you.
  • If you find yourself waking, don't fret, instead, if you can't fall back to sleep, read or take a stroll around the room, maybe sit in a chair.  Try not to ruminate on not sleeping, instead just do something restful.  If you have a mediation app or know how to meditate, use that to help relax your mind and body, even if you can't entirely switch off.  If that doesn't help and you feel agitated about being awake, write about it, start to keep a nighttime journal to note your thoughts, insights and ideas that come to you during nocturnal times.
  • Try not to eat at least two hours before bedtime to give your body a chance to digest food and your system to settle down.  Drinking alcohol before bedtime can interrupt sleep as you will be processing it through the night so your body doesn't have a chance to shut down.

Some of all of these practical ideas are known to help achieve a better night's sleep.  

A great book about sleep is Matthew Walker's 'Why We Sleep' - he also cites the National Library of Medicine (US)  Twelve Tips for Getting a Good Night's Sleep.

If you would like to share what works for you, please email us your comments and suggestions at [email protected]