Sleep. Or Lack of It.

Are you one of those who lies awake for hours just wishing you could get to sleep? Or do you get to sleep as soon as your head hits the pillow only to wake at 2 or 3 in the morning and drop off just as the alarm clock goes off? We all suffer from lack of sleep during some time in our lives and you don’t need me to tell you how it makes you feel. Sometimes though, lack of sleep can become a real problem and you need to do something about it. Below are some things to try if you can’t sleep:

Make Sure you are Comfortable. Is your bed old and sagging? Perhaps its time to buy a new one. If you can’t afford a new one, put a board under your mattress to give you more support. Throw out those old, lumpy pillows and treat yourself to some nice, new hypo-allergenic ones.

Sleep in a Well-Ventilated Room. Fresh air and a temperature of about 60 – 65o F give the best sleeping conditions. Any warmer and you’ll be tossing and turning and throwing those covers off.

Is your bedroom dark and quiet enough? Do you wake at the same time every night? It may be because of some external noise like a train or lorry going by. Eliminate these unwanted interferences by investing in an eye mask and ear plugs. Eye maks are particularly useful during summer when it gets light very early.

Avoid Illuminated Bedroom Clocks. Mainly to make sure your bedroom is dark enough but also to stop you peeking at the clock every few minutes and sighing will frustration at not getting to sleep.

Avoid Caffeine, Alcohol and Tobacco. Don’t forget that caffeine is not only present in coffee – it’s in tea, cola, chocolate and many other food and
drinks. People take caffeine to keep awake. Alcohol, although it might relax you initially, will cause to wake later in the night. Tobacco can cause breathing problems which can also wake you.

Drink Warm Milk. A glass of warm milk about 15 minutes before bed time will help detgangle your nerves and help you relax.

Drink Herb Tea. If you don’t like milk – or are avoiding dairy products – try a cup of hot chamomile, catnip, anise or fennel tea. All contain natural ingredients which will help you sleep. Most health food stores will also have special blends of herb tea designed to soothe you and help you get to sleep.

Eat a Bedtime Snack. Studies indicate that foods with large amounts of the amino acid L-tryptophan help us sleep better. These include warm or hot milk (but not cold
milk), eggs, cottage cheese, chicken, turkey and cashews. Bananas are said to induce sleep because of their magnesium and copper content. The British Sleep Council recommends a “sleep sandwich” of bananas, marmite and lettuce (after you!). Don’t eat a large amount too close to bedtime though or else it may have the opposite effect.

Try a Herbal and Other Remedies. Valerian, passion flower and chamomile are supposed to be good for for calming nerves and inducing sleep.
Antihistamines (eg Nytol) can work for mild insomnia but might leave you feeling a bit dozy in the morning (all right, so what’s new I hear you

Take a Warm Bath. Put some aromatherapy oils in and burn some candles too. Lavender is a favourite to help gently relax you.

Have a Massage. Again use some aromatherapy oils such as lavender or neroli can aid sleep when used externally. Just the massage alone often works wonders too! Buy your partner a book on massage techniques.

Listen to Music or Soothing Sounds. Play some soft soothing music to lull you to sleep. There are many CDs and tapes specifically produced to induce relaxation but make sure your CD or tape player switches itself off automatically. Having to get up to switch the player off at the end tends to ruin the effect.

Have Some Physical Exercise During the Day. This is especially important if you have a “mental” job. Your ability to sleep will benefit from a minimum of 15 minutes of cardiovascular exercise per day .

Keep to a Regular Bedtime Routine. And stick to it! Bodies like routines and soon your body will “expect” to go to sleep.

Get Up Earlier in the Morning. At least try this while you are setting up your new routine. Although you might hate getting up that little bit earlier, you may start to feel tired earlier which will help you get to sleep.

Don’t Lie In. For much the same reasons as in the suggestion above.

Avoid Naps. Again, for much the same reason as above. The less sleep you have during the day the more sleep you are likely to get at night.

Keep Your Bed as a Place for Sleep. Well, mainly. Do not work, read, watch TV etc. Let your body associate your bed with sleep.

If You Can’t Sleep, Get Up. If you haven’t fallen asleep after 30 minutes, get up and do something non stimulating and go back to bed when you feel tired.

Take your Mind off Sleep. Worrying about not being able to sleep only makes things worse. Give yourself a simple mental task: go through the alphabet and try and think of
an animal/flower/pop group/whatever beginning with each letter. Or imagine yourself relaxing in your favourite place – a Caribbean beach pehaps.
Better still – have a Stargazer Ceiling painted on your ceiling and learn to recognise all the constellations.

See a Doctor. If none of these ideas work and lack of sleep is adversely affecting your life then perhaps its time to book an appointment with your GP.

If all else fails then I guess you could try counting sheep!! zzzzzzz