Sleeping Problems

Sleeping Problems

Most people experience sleep disturbance from time to time. The following are normal forms of sleep disturbance:

  • Waking early
  • Difficulty in getting to sleep for a period of time
  • Prolonged, disturbed and light sleep
  • Sleep which is interrupted by shock and fear on sudden waking (night terror)
  • Sleep which is interrupted by nightmares
  • Small amounts of sleep with cat napping at other times.
  • Occasional complete absence of sleep

When you feel you are not getting enough sleep, or that your sleep is disturbed, it can be worrying, and leave you feeling tired and unable to cope with the daily demands of your life effectively.
But for most people it is usually a temporary state, and there are things that you can do to improve the quality and pattern of your sleep.

General Points for Better Sleep

  • Try to eat foods that provide you with the chemistry which encourages sleep. Foods containing melatonin may be helpful.    Oats, sweet corn, rice, ginger, tomatoes, bananas and barley all contain melatonin. Oats contain most, barley least. Also carbohydrates broadly speaking affect the production of tryptophan.  This is a chemical in your body which affects the levels of serotonin in the brain, and encourages a sense of wellbeing and restful sleep.
  • Keep sleep to limits; don’t oversleep. Try to re-establish a pattern of sleep by going to bed each night and getting up in the morning at around the same time, even if you haven’t slept well. It may take a few days for your body to respond to this pattern, but it should help once the pattern is established.
  • Avoid long daytime napping - if you sleep for an hour or more during the day or in the evening you can normally expect to take longer to go to sleep, or to sleep less at night.
  • Don’t magnify your sleepless state, or alarm yourself over it, as this may make it worse. You may go to bed feeling really stressed about whether or not you’ll sleep. It may help instead to see the wakeful hours as a time to relax in a warm and comfortable place.
  • Alternatively, don’t toss and turn for hours in bed. Rather than lie there getting more upset because you cannot sleep, it can help to get up and/or read, or listen to the radio or do light, fairly mindless, things until you feel drowsy again.

Pay attention to your Night-time  Routine
By establishing a routine before you go to bed, you are helping your mind to switch off from the day’s activity and prepare for sleep.  The following suggestions are ones which may be helpful:

  • Reduce mental activity two hours before sleep; try to avoid studying and then going straight to bed, because your brain will take a while to ‘switch off’.
  • Reduce light levels two hours before sleep: use a lamp rather than a bright overhead light.
  • Create a sleeping environment which is free from work and disturbance. Put books and papers away, even if just on a neat pile on your desk.
  • Some people find that having a bath or a shower before they get into bed helps them to relax and switch off from the day.
  • Consciously stop yourself worrying at night.  Write concerns down so you can put them out of your head and plan to deal with them in the morning. Making a list just before you settle down to sleep of what you want to remember for the next day means that you don’t have to have these things going round and round in your mind.
  • Don’t go to bed hungry - some people find that something light, like a banana or a biscuit and/or a warm drink helps just before going to bed.
  • Avoid caffeine and  alcohol  before sleep  They are both stimulants.
  • Avoid respiratory stimulants before sleep (cigarettes - nicotine is a stimulant)
  • Avoid exercise before bedtime (increases stress response chemistry in many people)
  • Go to the toilet before getting into bed to avoid being woken by a full bladder. Don’t drink a lot late at night.
  • If you are a person who needs absolute quiet to go to sleep, ear plugs might be helpful; some people find that a constant low background noise,  like music or the radio, helps.
  • Have a range of distractions available for use in the event of being awake for a while: some light reading, a notebook and pencil to jot down things that you want  to remember in the morning, a radio.
  • Make your bed as comfortable as possible, and try to get the temperature comfortable for you. Sometimes a hot water bottle helps if you feel cold in bed, or wearing socks in bed to stop your feet getting cold.  Or maybe a lighter cover if you feel hot.

If there are issues which are stopping you sleeping because you are worrying about them, it may be helpful to talk with a counsellor about them, or about your sleep pattern.