Can’t sleep? You’re not alone. Whether you experience difficulty falling asleep (onset insomnia), or wake several times during the early morning hours (early-morning insomnia), these simple behavioral interventions can assist in developing good nighttime routines.
It can be helpful before you start implementing these interventions, to track information about your sleep as it currently is, for example, your bedtime, your wake up time, the number of hours that you sleep each night, and the number of times you wake.
Develop regular sleep times. Go to bed and get out of bed at the same time, regardless of how tired you are. It’s hard to start with (you might feel like the walking dead especially if you feel like you haven’t slept), but it is important to teach your body this routine.
Use your bed only for sleep and sex. Insomnia can be the result of increased arousal in the hours before bedtime or while lying awake in bed. If you read, talk on the phone, watch TV, or try to solve tomorrow’s problems in bed, the bed becomes associated with arousal. Do these activities in another room.
Have a wind down routine. Some people do challenging tasks (e.g., work) before bed, which again can be difficult to switch off from. Instead, try and leave the half hour before you go to bed engaged in quiet activities, e.g., have a bath, prepare your clothes, tidy up if this won’t irritate you, leave that difficult discussion for tomorrow.
Avoid caffeine. The stimulating effects of caffeine in coffee, energy drinks, teas, and chocolate can take as long as 8 hours to wear off fully. If at all possible stop caffeine by 3-4pm.
Sleep can be interrupted by urinary urgency. Reduce your liquid intake several hours before bedtime to avoid the midnight, 2am, 5am wake up calls. Avoid large meals prior to bed as these can cause indigestion that interferes with sleep.
Remind yourself that it is not a catastrophe if you don’t sleep. Research tells us that we get 80% of the rest we need just by lying there relaxing.
Thoughts that accompany not sleeping are typically similar to “I’ll never get to sleep,” “If I don’t get enough sleep, I won’t be able to function,” “I need to get to sleep immediately,” Which all produce extra anxiety. The most common consequence of not getting enough sleep is that you will feel tired and irritable. Although this is uncomfortable, it usually won’t result in the things you fear.
Do not try to fall asleep—as this will only heighten your frustration. Paradoxically, a very effective way of increasing sleep is to practice giving up trying to fall asleep. Instead concentrate on the warmth of the bed, and the relaxation in your body.
Use diaphragmatic breathing, and or progressive muscle relaxation which will enhance your relaxation.
Visualize a relaxing scene—for example, lying on the beach on a summers day, hearing the waves and knowing you don’t have to do anything.
Finally do not expect immediate results. Like most new skills in life, these techniques take practice and you will need to try them for longer than a few nights.