I suffered quite a bit from insomnia during the summer of 2019. It was horrible! At my worst, I went 3 days with no sleep. I know what triggers mine, it’s a mix of anxiety and pain. Unfortunately it becomes a vicious cycle that’s really hard to break. I go to bed worrying I won’t sleep and then funnily enough… I don’t! I went to a pain management seminar this week and one of the sections was how to get a better night’s sleep. I found it really useful so I thought I’d share some of the tips.
Having chronic pain can really interrupt sleep. I know from my personal experience that I have a worse night when my pain levels are higher. Because my pain is a constant thing I now take medication which does help. I’m on a low dose of an antidepressant called Amitriptylin which is also used to treat pain. It makes you very drowsy hence why you take it at night. I can still have sleepless nights though. I’m not saying these tips will cure insomnia but they might help you have a more restful night. If they don’t, get to your GP and try and work out the underlying issue.
Step One for how to get a better night’s sleep:
Make sure you are ready for bed. It sounds obvious but how many people go to bed just because it’s bedtime? Even if you aren’t tired. I know I’ve done it before and it’s not great because your body isn’t actually ready. At the seminar they called it “Sleepy Head”. You should be tired when you decide it’s bedtime. This will make it a lot easier to drop off when you get to bed.
Step two for getting a better night’s sleep:
Have a bedtime routine. Children have a routine so why don’t adults? Have a warm drink (preferably a herbal tea as caffeine disrupts sleep), have a bath/shower, get into your pyjamas and get yourself ready for bed. It let’s your body know that it’s almost time for sleep and it starts getting ready too. It’s also a way of relaxing and gives you chance to fit in a little self care too! (You can find some other ideas for self care here).
Step three on how to get a better night’s sleep is:
Check your surroundings. Your bedroom should be a place of relaxation and calm. Try to keep the room tidy and uncluttered so it makes you feel calmer. I don’t do very well at keeping mine uncluttered, it’s probably the messiest room in the house to be honest! But it is always calm in there. By calm, I mean that we only use that room to go to bed. TV’s have made their way into most people’s bedrooms (ours included) and most people will lay in bed watching TV for an hour or so before bed. This doesn’t help your routine.
We don’t often use our TV in our room. It mostly goes on in the morning to entertain the child while I’m getting ready. Try not watching TV in bed then your body will know it’s there to sleep and not to just relax.
Harsh lights are also not very relaxing so try using lamps instead. Outside lights can also be a distraction so get some good curtains or blinds that actually block out the light from outside.
The temperature of the room can also make a huge difference to sleep so find what’s comfortable to you. We always turn our heating off completely at night as we find a cooler room helps aid sleep.
Step four on how to get a better night’s sleep:
Timings! It’s advised that you don’t go to bed before 8pm (unless you work odd hours obviously). You will find that after a while your body will naturally fall into routine of when it wants to sleep and wake up. You should try to take note of this and go to bed and get up at the same time every day.
When you go to bed, you should realistically fall asleep within 20 minutes. If you don’t fall asleep in that time then get back up and do something until you feel sleepy again. Timing this can be hard though. One of the worst things you can have next to the bed is a clock. How often have you spent the night counting down the hours? “I’ve got 5 hours to get some sleep”. “Now I’ve got 4..” etc. etc. Clock watching doesn’t help you relax so get rid of it or turn it around so you can’t see it.
If you want to try and time the 20 minutes then use an egg timer or something that doesn’t make a noise or give off light.
Phones/tablets are also really unhelpful in the bedroom. They give off a blue light which our eyes register as daylight. You should try not to use them for 2 hours before bed. If you must though, most phones have a comfort or night mode that you can switch on. These lower the amount of blue light that is emitted.
Step five for getting a better night’s sleep:
Don’t nap. I actually can’t do this but I know many people who can. My OH being one of them and is actually napping as I write this! I’ve never been able to sleep during the day, I think it’s the light.
By napping you’re not actually catching up on sleep, you’re stealing it from the night. Your body is rested so it’s quite likely that you won’t sleep that night. It throws your body’s routine out and just messes it up. If you do have to nap then make it 20 minutes maximum. That way you feel a bit better but you’re not taking too much time from the night.
Other considerations you might want to consider is food and drink. I’ve already mentioned caffeine for one. Tea, coffee and even hot chocolate can affect people’s sleep. Caffeine wakes you up so try decaf or fruit teas. Alcohol is also another no no. It may seem to make you sleepier but it actually doesn’t. It can give you a night of more unbroken sleep. Food can also be another trigger for a bad night’s sleep. Try not to eat a large meal within 3 hours before bedtime. A digesting tummy will keep you up at night.
I really hope these suggestions help. There’s nothing worse than not being able to sleep when you should. If you still can’t manage it then do speak to your GP. I’ve definitely found medication helps me and there’s nothing wrong with asking for help. Even if it’s just while your body gets back into routine.