Nearly everyone has problems sleeping at some point in their life, and it is thought that a third of people in the UK have bouts of insomnia. Insomnia appears to be more common in women and more likely to occur with age
OK, firstly, are you getting enough sleep?
Ask yourself these questions and if you answer yes to them you need to think about increasing the amount of hours you sleep (obviously in school/work time this isn’t possible).
- Do you need to set an alarm clock in order to wake up in the morning?
- If so, do you usually press the snooze button?
- Do you feel like you need a nap during the day?
- Do you fall asleep while watching TV?
- Does reading a book make you feel sleepy?
Causes of Insomnia
- Psychological: Stress; anxiety about not being able to sleep, relationship problems etc.etc.
- Psychiatric: depression; dementia.
- Physiological: noise, light, snoring, jet lag, etc.
- Pharmacological: alcohol, antidepressants, decongestants (eg. piriton).
So, I’ve compiled a list of helpful tips you can do to improve your sleep. These come from various sources, most of which have been approved by a doctor.
- Establish a regular sleep schedule. This involves setting a regular bedtime and wake-up time and making every attempt to stick to it, including on the weekends. This will help to set the body’s clock in a way that will make nighttime sleep deeper and more consistent.
- Avoid taking naps, especially in the afternoon.
- I’d suggest waiting at least half an hour before going to be if you’ve just been reading or watching television. Our minds are still being stimulated. And an overstimulated mind, along with anxiety and stress, is what keeps us awake. It’s all those thoughts in our head we have to get rid of before we can get to sleep. The last thing we need is more input into our heads from television or books.
- Take a short walk before bed, presuming you live in a perfectly safe area. Light exercise aids sleep.
- Exercise regularly during the day. This needn’t be a marathon every day, just walking the dog to get fresh air will be sufficient.
- Use the bed only for sleep and sex, not reading or watching television. This is largely so you don’t associate your bed with anything else other than sleeping.
- If you do not fall asleep fairly quickly, get out of bed. Do not return until you are feeling drowsy. Again, this is for similar reasons as above.
- Do not over-focus on falling asleep by watching the clock.
- Set up a regular bedtime routine that revolves around an activity that helps you unwind.
- Avoid caffeine, and other stimulants, especially late in the day.
- Avoid alcohol. Even if it helps you fall asleep quicker, it actually worsens insomnia by causing shallow, unrefreshing sleep.
- Don’t eat a big meal or spicy foods just before bedtime.
- A small snack that contains tryptophan (a natural sleep-promoting amino acid) may help, such as turkey, banana and fish.
- A warm drink of milk before bedtime may help too.
- Make sure you have a comfortable mattress, a pillow you like, and adequate bed covers for the time of year e.g. quilt for winter.
If these don’t work, or you think you need some medicine, then sleeping tablets may be considered:
- if your symptoms are particularly severe;
- to ease short-term insomnia, or
- if the non-drug treatments mentioned above have failed to have an effect.
If you experience long-term insomnia, sleeping tablets are unlikely to help and your doctor may consider referring you to a clinical psychologist to discuss other approaches to treatment.
If a doctor feels it’s necessary to prescribe you something, the drug is likely to be short-acting benzodiazepines or the newer hypnotic ‘Z medicines’ which are the current preferred medicines for insomnia and are only available on prescription.
There are various over the counter drugs you can buy which you may feel might help if you don’t want to go to the doctor because you don’t feel it’s particularly bad, such as Nightol or Sominex etc.
There you have it. I hope this has been helpful. However this is not everything by a long stretch, so there are some links below which contain lots of this information, but also go into depth about what drugs are available and further treatment that can be done.