Coping with sleep problems

Sleep is normal, something we take for granted but sometimes for a  variety of reasons we cannot sleep and this, although very common, can be  distressing. When we are under stress, such as at exam time, we need more sleep  but sometimes the anxiety we are feeling can disturb our sleep pattern.  
Other things which can disturb our sleep are:

  • Too much noise
  • uncomfortable temperature of bed
  • irregular routines
  • too little exercise
  • eating too much makes it difficult to get off to sleep
  • eating too little can lead to early waking
  • cigarettes, alcohol, drinks containing caffeine such as tea and coffee will  also disturb sleep

We all need a different amount of sleep, traditionally eight hours a night  for an adult, decreasing as we get older. Some people can function very well on  a little sleep. If you wake up feeling aware, refreshed and energised you are  getting the right amount of sleep for you. Some people can work best during the  night, others need to stop early. You need to become aware of what suits you and  try to prevent working beyond your productive limits.

If you know it is your anxiety keeping you up and your concentration,  understanding and retention are down, then STOP!

  • Try not to worry about how much sleep you are getting.
  • Leave yourself plenty of time to relax before bed. Develop a bedtime  routine: a warm bath or shower; a hot milky drink or herbal tea such as camomile  or lemon verbena; a period of quietness can all help you to relax.
  • Eat light meals in the evening and try not to eat for two hours before going  to bed.
  • Cut down of caffeine, nicotine and alcohol.
  • Exercise regularly but not immediately before going to bed.
  • Try to go to bed and get up at the same time each day.
  • Don't go to bed if you aren't tired.
  • Make sure your bed and bedroom are warm and quiet.
  • If you've had a bad night resist the temptation to sleep the next day - it  will make it harder to sleep the following night.
  • If something is troubling you and there is nothing you can do there and then  try writing it down before you go to bed and tell yourself you will deal with it  tomorrow. Try and find someone you can trust to talk over your worries during  the day.
  • If you can't sleep get up, read, watch TV or listen to quiet music  until you feel tired. Everyone has their own way of clearing their minds of  worries prior to sleep.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Mind clearing - imagining a black velvet theatre curtain coming doen and  blocking busy thoughts.
  • Mentally write out your worries on a blackboard and then slowly and  deliberately wipe them off.
  • Lie on your back and count backwards from 100, visualising each number
  • Recall the day moment to moment but in reverse: the last thing you did to  getting up.