What can I do to get better sleep?

I haven’t been getting much sleep lately. It takes ages to fall asleep and often I’m awake till about 4 am. I’m so tired in the morning that I can’t get out of bed and I often sleep in late. It’s making it hard to study and go to work, especially in the mornings. What can I do to get better sleep?

Most of us experience problems with sleep from time to time, but some of us will experience insomnia, a more chronic form of sleep problem characterised by a period of more than a month of difficulty falling or staying asleep. Common causes of sleep problems include stressful life events, anxiety, caffeine, smoking, persistent worry, shift work, and habits such as daytime napping.

The first step to improve your sleep is to ensure good sleep habits.

These include:
• Go to bed and get out of bed at around the same time every day (even on weekends!). Regular bedtime hours trains your body and brain to know when it is time to fall asleep and wake up, as does letting early morning sunlight directly into your eyes.
• Get regular exercise, but avoid strenuous exercise immediately before bed.
• Avoid stimulants, including caffeine and nicotine, in the evening.
• Remove all non-sleep devices from your room (e.g., TV, laptop, phone).
• Ensure your room and bed are comfortable and not too warm or cold.
• Don’t take naps during the day.
• Don’t lie there for more than 40mins if you can’t fall to sleep. Worrying about NOT getting to sleep will only keep you awake. If after a little while you’re tossing and turning, get up, get a warm drink, read some light material (nothing too stimulating), and then go back to bed and try again.
• Establish a relaxing nightly routine. Many students make the mistake of studying, working, getting on the Net, or playing games right up until going to bed. How does our brain know to switch off if we’re asking it to be active and alert right up until sleep time? So, take time to unwind before bed: this signals to your brain that it’s time to start the process of falling asleep. (Try setting a reminder on your phone about an hour before bedtime to remember to stop any stimulating activity and do something calm, such as having a bath/shower, turning down the lights and music, have a cup of non-caffeinated tea, or read a book).

Try not to get too stressed about sleep difficulties. Worrying about not sleeping can lead to a vicious cycle of not being able to get off to sleep. Try some of our relaxation strategies to be found on our website, you will not only rest deeply, you may even fall off to sleep whilst practicing them! Check out our workshops page as we often run webinars on better sleep, and if you wish to come in and talk to someone at Counselling and Psychological Services, we have plenty of experience in this area.

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