The average person spends 26 years of their life sleeping. Surprisingly we also spend 7 years trying to get to sleep, so that’s 33 years spent in bed. So, sleep is pretty special as it boosts our mental and physical well-being, including immunity, weight regulation and even fertility.
Why can’t I sleep?
There are many reasons for not sleeping, which may include distress, physical discomfort, or illness. Our sleep needs may also vary, for example, a baby starts life needing 16 hours or so of sleep, and the time we need for sleep decreases as we get older. An older adult may only need 4-6 hours a night. We might struggle to get off to sleep, perhaps waking up frequently during the night, or wake early in the morning and not be able to get back to sleep. These all result in our feeling that we haven’t slept well or had enough sleep. We may feel tired, tense, and start worrying about not sleeping.
What Can Help me Sleep?
Experts agree that certain techniques can make an important contribution to getting a good night’s sleep. So, incorporating some of these into your “good habits” can be steps in the right direction for getting a better night’s sleep.
- Go to bed and get up at the same time each day (weekends included)
- Avoid lying in
- Establish a bedtime routine – this could be by some relaxation, such as reading a book, or having a bath.
- Make sure your bed and bedding are comfortable.
- Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol in the evening.
- Don’t eat a heavy meal late at night
- Get regular exercise, there is plenty of evidence that regular exercise improves restful sleep.
- Avoid exercise in the evening
- Turn off devices – ban TV and computers from your bedroom.
- Keep your bedroom cool and dark – the ideal bedroom temperature is 18 degrees Celsius.
If you tend to wake up in the night and struggle to get to sleep, after 15-20 minutes, get up and go into another room. Avoid doing anything too involved, like preparing for tomorrow’s meetings, and resist the temptation to turn on your computer/TV. Instead, try reading or listening to the radio. Try going back to bed, 20-30 minutes later and see if you have more luck getting to sleep. Avoid exercise before going to bed and keep the temperature in your bedroom comfortable, and dark enough to facilitate sleep.
Other Sources of Help
If sleep continues to be difficult, you may need to speak to your GP. Your doctor can offer valuable help and input, plus refer you to a specialist if that’s what’s needed. Many clients choose to talk about their sleep problems with their therapist. CBT has good success in helping clients understand and improve their sleep hygiene. Other approaches will also help you to understand and improve this common problem.