Waking up at night and struggling to get back to sleep can be stressful and exhausting. According to WebMB, around 20 per cent of people experience this type of insomnia.
Luckily, there are simple habits and lifestyle changes you can make to improve your sleep and avoid those restless nights.
Lying awake at night can feel frustrating, partly because it is both boring and unproductive. It can be tempting to reach for your phone or tablet to check in with the news or do some life admin, but blue light from these screens can wake up your brain, making it even harder to sleep.
To increase the quality of your sleep and the likelihood of you getting a full night’s rest, avoid looking at screens for at least an hour before going to bed.
Don’t check the time
When you wake up at night you might feel tempted to look at your clock. However, knowing what the time is or keeping track of how much sleep you’re failing to get can make you feel more stressed, making it even more difficult to fall asleep. Resist the urge to check the time by keeping your watch in your top drawer or facing your clock towards the wall.
We’ve all heard of counting sheep, and while picturing your favourite woolly friends isn’t everyone’s idea of a peaceful evening, counting backwards from 100 can help to draw your mind away from other concerns, allowing it to wind down.
Move your muscles
Lie on your back with your arms by your sides. Clench each muscle group starting from your toes and move up your body. Clench your toes for five seconds and release. Clench your calves for five seconds, and release. Move up through your legs, arms and torso until you clench and relax your face. This will help to relax your body and make it easier to doze off.
It may sound counterintuitive, but if you’ve been awake for what feels like 20 minutes or more, changing your environment can help prevent you falling into the spiral of sleepless stress. Avoid turning on any bright lights and move to a different room. Try focusing on your breathing, meditating or reading in a soft light to calm down the mind. Just be sure to reach for an encyclopedia, rather than the latest Jack Reacher novel.
If you’re a light sleeper, things like noises and lights can wake you up at night. You can manage these disruptions by closing your curtains, using blackout curtains and wearing ear plugs at night. If you are particularly sensitive to sound, consider playing white or pink noise while you sleep.
How to improve your sleep
Getting a good night’s rest starts well before bedtime. Walking, swimming, gardening or other forms of exercise can help your body to become tired and prepare for sleep. Meditation, yoga or listening to calming music in the evenings can also help to calm and relax your mind.
Reducing the amount of caffeine you consume throughout the day can also help you to get to sleep easier and sleep through the night. This may be by reducing the amount of coffee, energy drinks, caffeinated teas or chocolate you consume in your diet. Avoid consuming any caffeine after 1pm.
Avoiding a ‘night cap’ can actually help you to stay asleep. While drinking a small amount of alcohol before bed can release sleep enabling chemicals in your brain, these soon run out, leaving you more awake that before.
Do you struggle to stay asleep at night? What causes you to wake up? How do you manage your sleeping environment to avoid restless nights?
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