Insomnia: What To Do When You Can’t Sleep
By far the most common cause of poor sleeping is worry – which can prevent you from going to sleep or from getting back to sleep after waking during the night. Depression often disturbs sleep, especially through early waking.
You may also be disturbed by your environment- by noise, but also by someone else in the room, by light, heat or cold, or by the unfamiliarity of new surroundings (especially when travelling).
Irregular hours can set off sleep problems-shift-work, travelling, or feeding a baby at night. Some illnesses may make sleep difficult, usually because of pain.
On the other hand you may already be getting as much sleep as your body needs. If you need only five or six hours’ sleep each night, it is fruitless to search for ways of getting eight hours. And remember that sleep tends to become more broken over the age of 55.
Theof sleeping pills Doctors have no certain cures for insomnia. But they may be able to help by treating an illness which is keeping you awake, or by prescribing sleeping pills to get you through a bad period of stress.
But before you start taking sleeping pills on a regular basis, consider the possible consequences:
• Their effect can last for several hours after you wake up – which can be dangerous if you operate machinery or drive a car.
• Your body may get used to the drug so that you have to take more for the same result.
• It may be hard to give up the pills because it can take days or even weeks for normal sleep to return. And during that time you may sleep badly and have nightmares.
• Sleeping pills can react badly with some other drugs, and must never be taken with alcohol. The combination can kill you.
DO’S AND DON’TS FOR POOR SLEEPERS
DO ask your doctor for treatment to relieve pain or depression.
DO try to go to bed at the same time as your partner.
DO wear ear-plugs or install double glazing to deal with noise. Hang thick curtains to keep out light.
DO take steps to be comfortable in bed. This may mean buying a new bed because old ones eventually sag.
DO develop a night-time routine. For example, taking the dog for a walk, locking up the house, cleaning your teeth, reading in bed.
DO try a relaxation technique after turning the light out. For example, think of something pleasant, such as sunbathing on a deserted beach.
DO try relaxation exercises such as yoga or deep breathing.
DO try taking exercise in the afternoon.
DO take a hot bath before going to bed.
DO read in bed if this helps you to relax.
DO try a malted-milk drink (or just warm milk) or chamomile tea when you go to bed.
DO give up shift-work and frequent travel (if possible) and hectic socialising – you may be trying to sleep when your body feels it is the wrong time of the day.
DON’T eat anything that you find indigestible before going to bed.
DON’T take stimulants – coffee, tea, chocolate drinks, cigarettes – in the evening.
DON’T get into an excited state – by watching a horror film, for example, or by tackling work problems – just before going to bed.
DON’T take naps during the day.