What can help you sleep
If you're having problems with sleep, there are some things you can do to help.
Before going to bed
Keep your bed for sleeping
By keeping your bed for sleeping your mind will associate your bed with sleep and you will feel sleepy when you lie on it.
Do this by avoiding watching television, eating or reading in bed during the day. If you wake up at night and know you won't get back to sleep, get up and do something else for a few minutes.
Create the ideal sleeping space
Try to make sure that you'll be comfortable at night so sleeping is easier.
You can do this by:
- Making sure your bedroom is the right temperature. Consider having blankets or a hot water bottle if you get cold during the night or keeping the room cool if you get too hot.
- Making your room as dark as possible if light bothers you. Try using a sleeping mask.
- If you're disrupted by noise, trying earplugs.
- Taking a glass of water to bed in case you get thirsty.
- If you get anxious in the night, having something comforting near you, like a teddy bear or photo of a loved one.
Go to bed when you're tired
Try to only go to bed when you're tired to avoid lying on your bed awake for hours.
Try to avoid napping during the day and try regular exercise to ensure you'll be tired at the end of the day.
Establish a regular sleep cycle
If possible, try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. This way your body can set a regular sleep pattern, which means you should feel sleepy as it approaches your bedtime.
Relax before bed
Winding down before bed can help to prepare us for sleep. For example, you could:
- Avoid looking at screens; instead try reading, taking a hot bath or a hot drink (decaffeinated).
- Avoid watching anything overly stimulating or upsetting.
- Not eat for at least a couple of hours before bed and especially avoid sugar and rich food.
- Try mindfulness, deep breathing exercises, yoga or meditation before bed.
- Burn incense, or use essential oils or a diffuser. Try calming smells like lavender.
Going to sleep
Relax your mind
Try to switch off your mind and ignore thoughts of things you have to do.
Keep a notebook and pen by your bedside so that if a thought enters your head you can write it down. This gets it out of your head and means you've got a note of it so you can come back to it in the morning.
Listening to something can help us relax. Try listening to calming music or nature noises. You could also try listening to an audio book but better to avoid anything too exciting. A story you already know might be good.
Visualisation can also help keep us relaxed. Think of yourself in a relaxing place like lying on a deserted beach listening to the waves or in a sunny meadow listening to birds.
Repetitive thought exercises can help send you to sleep.
If counting sheep doesn't work, imagine drawing a big circle on a white board. Write 99 in the circle then carefully rub it out without damaging the circle. Now write 98 before rubbing it out again. Repeat until you fall asleep.
When you can't sleep
It can be frustrating when we can't fall asleep. Try not to get annoyed at yourself. Instead, get up and do something else for 20 minutes. Try another relaxation technique or read.
If you're struggling with negative thoughts, try to think of something positive as soon as they enter your head. Listening to an audio book could also help focus your thoughts on something more positive.