Can’t get a decent night’s sleep at home?

Despite all the good intentions in the world, the simple realities of modern life can mean that getting a good night’s sleep can be near-impossible for some of us. This can have a catastrophic effect on our lives in the long-run: studies show that lack of sleep over a prolonged period can put us at risk of stroke and heart attacks. It doesn’t just affect our mood, our energy levels and our ability to concentrate, it leads to accidents in the workplace, at home and on the roads. It exacerbates anxiety and depression, reduces testosterone levels in men – therefore reduce sex drive – leads to dry skin, weight gain and diabetes.

So now you have all of that information, you can stay awake all night worrying about the effect that staying awake all night will have on your body. Or, alternatively (and much more preferably), you could take steps to address your sleeplessness in the following ways:

You may have already realised that coffee is not your friend when bedtime is approaching (by the way, you should have a bedtime, and stick to it). Coffee contains caffeine, a stimulant, which keeps us more alert for up to six hours, meaning that if you have a cup of coffee at 5pm, it could be helping to keep you awake until 11pm. What many people don’t realise is that there are a number of other substances which contain caffeine that should also, therefore, be avoided. These include tea, chocolate and cola. Some pain killers also include caffeine so be sure to check the pack.

If you’re a smoker, you have already heard a thousand reasons to stop, but still do it. Perhaps one more might help? Smoking messes with your sleep in a number of ways: Firstly, cigarettes contain nicotine which, like caffeine, is a stimulant and keeps your body alert. In addition to this, smoking provokes acid reflux and sleep apnoea, both of which severely interfere with your sleep, leaving you exhausted when you wake up. If you do wake up in the night, like many smokers you may choose to have a cigarette before you go back to bed. The reason you want to do this, unlike most people who can’t wait to get back to sleep, is that your body is telling you to feed your addiction to nicotine. After you have smoked, the new nicotine in your blood will make it harder for you to fall asleep again. The bottom line is that if you’re a smoker with trouble sleeping, you’re not going to get better until after you quit.

For some people, they are not so much to blame as their sleep environment. Obviously loud noises should be kept to a minimum. If that’s not possible, try using earplugs or drowning out the noise with the white noise of a fan. Don’t use your smartphone or tablet in bed at all and don’t watch TV. Keep the lighting low and if you need to stop your mind from racing, read a book. This will relax you, stop your thoughts from oppressing you and gradually tire your eyes to the point that you can’t resist falling asleep.

Your bed should be comfortable for you. Most people know whether they are suited to a softer or harder bed and you should ensure that your bed feels wonderful. If you suffer from acid reflux, raise your head slightly higher up with an extra pillow (and don’t eat in the hours approaching bedtime). You might want to read through some reviews of memory foam mattresses at Foam Nights. If you haven’t tried it, it could turn out to be the answer to your sleep problems.

Other advice to bear in mind is to stick to your daily schedule always – don’t lie in even if you are exhausted. You can take a nap eight hours before bedtime but not after. You will probably be exhausted all day but that night you will get a great night’s sleep and it could be the first of many if you stick to your schedule.

More generic healthy living advice will also have a positive effect on your sleep cycle – stay hydrated, exercise (early) and eat a healthy, balanced diet. Pretty soon you’ll be sleeping fine and feeling ten times better.

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