You’ve been tossing and turning for what feels like forever, trying to fall asleep. You’re not conscious of worrying about anything in particular, yet you still can’t fall asleep? Sound familiar?
Like many things in life, preparation is key. Firstly, there are the more general tips for throughout the day:
Our body’s circadian rhythm regulates the wake-sleep cycle, so consistency in the time you go to bed and the time you wake up is important. After a tiring work week, it might be tempting to party out until late on a Friday night or sleep in on the weekends, but this throws your circadian rhythm out of kilter
Limit your caffeine intake to, at most, four coffees a day (a double shot flat white counts as two). Cease caffeine intake at least six hours before you plan to go to bed. How your body processes caffeine varies individual to individual, so you may need to stop having caffeine more than six hours before going to bed. For example, I’m quite easily affected by caffeine, so I don’t have coffee after lunch
Exercise as vigorously as you can during the day, so that you feel physically tired, but not too late in the evening as the adrenalin from exercise can cause wakefulness
Ideally, use your bedroom for sleep only. If you’re doing things like studying or watching shows in your bedroom, your mind can subconsciously associate your bedroom as a place for activity
An hour before the time you wish to fall asleep, you should be looking at doing the following things:
Stop using electronic devices, including your mobile phone, computers and watching TV. These stimulate your mind and the blue light from these devices tell your brain that it’s daytime
Do something relaxing, like reading a book or listening to an audiobook or doing a sleep meditation exercise. Do this until you feel tired, rather than until a specific time
If you still can’t fall asleep or you wake up again after falling asleep, the worst thing you can do is engage in the frustration or worry of not being asleep. The frustration or worry in itself will prevent you from falling asleep! So stop the struggle. This might mean getting out of bed and going to the lounge to read until you feel tired again.
You might be wondering what happens if you can’t fall asleep at all. Chances are, the effects of not having good sleep for one night probably aren’t as bad as what your mind might make it out to be. Yes, you might not be as alert as you ordinarily are, but does that necessarily mean that you can’t get through any of your day at all? Are perfectionistic tendencies maybe influencing how you perceive the effect of your lack of sleep? If, however, sleep difficulties are an ongoing issue for you, it is best to consult your GP.
Don’t forget that Psychologists are also skilled at helping people overcome sleep issues. If youa re still struggling with sleep, reach out to PHC and we will personalise a sleep strategy for you.