Chronic insomnia can be difficult condition to live with. For our wounded, injured and sick servicemen, women and families, sleep does not always come easily. Sleep is essential for maintaining good health and wellbeing. It protects the physical and psychological health, as well as improving quality of life. Generally, a person needs 8 hours of sleep a night in order to function well during the day.
Rosie Curtis, a qualified occupational therapist for Help for Heroes, works with men and women for whom sleep does not always come easily. Here are her top tips to sleep easy and combat insomnia.
- Re-program your brain. Only use your bedroom to sleep. Try not to watch TV or carry out daytime activities on your bed, as your mind won’t necessarily associate the space with sleep.
- Take a warm bath. The heat will relax your muscles and prepare you for sleep. Lavender oil in the bath water or sprinkled on your pillow may help.
- If you must smoke, avoid smoking as part of your bedtime routine. Leave at least an hour between your last cigarette and bed, that way you’ll avoid the nicotine rush that is likely to keep you awake.
- Establish a bedtime routine. Give your body the chance to fall into a regular sleep pattern. Avoid snatching sleep at other times. Long lie-ins at weekends or a quick catnap in the day won’t help in the long run. Try going to bed and getting up at the same time each day.
- Listen to some calming tunes and relax. That doesn’t mean your favourite heavy metal CD with the volume turned up to the max! Pick up a book and enjoy some light reading instead. Avoid backlit kindles, mobiles and laptops, as the blue light can be a stimulant.
- Don’t stay up talking all night with your friends. Online chat rooms or prolonged use of your mobile will only serve to fuel your brain activity.
- Learn to relax your body. Use muscle-stretching techniques such as yoga to enhance your wellbeing. Give yourself at least 4 hours between invigorating exercise and bed. It can raise your core body temperature and heart rate making sleep less likely in the short term.
- Watch what you drink. Caffeinated drinks stimulate the brain and are likely to keep you from sleep. They’re best avoided at least 6-8 hours before bed. The same can be said for alcohol, which stops you feeling rested and affects the quality of your sleep.
- Only go to bed when you feel ready to sleep. The chance of success is that much higher and it avoids the negative feelings of frustration if you don’t drift off.
- If you can’t sleep, don’t fight it. If you’re still awake after 30 minutes, get up and leave the bedroom. Do something relaxing until you start feeling tired again. That way, bed will not be associated with lack of sleep or frustration.
- Avoid stimulating movies before bed. Horror films or a good thriller may be a great pastime, but are likely to keep you wired for hours. Playing on computer games or surfing online can also cause problems with your sleep pattern. Let your brain switch off.
- Make sure your bedroom is at a comfortable temperature. If the room is too hot or too cold, the quality of your sleep will be affected. If you find yourself in a noisy environment, try wearing earplugs.
- Don’t clock watch. Turn your mobile off or place your watch out of reach, that way you can’t obsessively check it through the night.
- Aim to eat light meals in the early evening. If you’re still hungry, try a glass of hot milk and a biscuit. A three-course meal or a plate of spicy food is best avoided if you want to drift off any time soon.
We hope the tips help you on your mission for a good night’s sleep!