Insomnia and not getting a good night’s sleep means more than just feeling groggy and grumpy the next day. A lack of sleep can have long-term effects on your health, including slower reflexes, poor brain function and even heart failure. If you find yourself lying awake at night too often, try these techniques to fall asleep ASAP:
The sweet smell of sleep Studies show that the scent of lavender has been linked to a better night’s sleep. Buy a bottle of the essential oil and dot a few drops onto your pillowcase near where you rest your head. The smell is calming and should get you nodding off in no time.
Tire yourself out You might be struggling to fall asleep because your body isn’t exhausted enough. Think about those days where you actually have managed to drag yourself to gym and how well you slept that night. You should be aiming to do at least two and a half hours of light to medium exercise a week (that’s only 30 minutes a day with a lie-in on the weekend, easy). Don’t be put off by the idea of having to slave on the boring treadmill every day – yoga counts too.
Wake up It’s normal to wake up in the middle of the night but lying awake for more than 20 minutes is not. Instead of anxiously working out how little sleep you are getting, get out of bed. Do something that won’t stimulate you, like reading a book or trying some yoga poses to encourage sleep – and avoid looking at screens. You should start to feel sleepy again shortly, and it’s better than tossing and turning in bed/reading 3am tweets (nothing good is tweeted in those hours, anyway).
You are getting very sleepy… Hypnosis isn’t just for tricking people into eating onions whole on stage for laughs – it can be used for good, too! If you’re scared of being hypnotised, remember that it’s just a state of consciousness and you are still *you* so wouldn’t do anything you didn’t want to do. There are a lot of sleep-hypnosis tracks on YouTube to fall asleep to, sleep-hypnosis podcasts and sleep-hypnosis apps. Everyone’s experience is different but it goes something like this: you lie in bed listening to someone’s ultra-relaxing voice telling you to relax, you feel a subtle but sudden shift like you’re in a really relaxing bubble but could pop out of it whenever you wanted to, then you fall asleep. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.
Try segmenting your sleep Some people question whether getting a solid eight hours of sleep is actually the best way to rest our mind and body. Our ancestors used to sleep for four hours, wake up to pray, work or have sex, then go back to sleep for another three to four hours. If you are desperate in your insomnia, segmenting your sleep might be the big step to try out. Sleep until 2am, do something until 4am, then go back to sleep until 7am (or later if you’re lucky). Try to avoid screens and use the time to do chores or do a bit of work (some say this is the time of day where our brains are actually their most productive).
Go to a professional If your insomnia persists and is having a negative effect on your life, you need to speak to someone about it. Don’t feel silly or embarrassed – remember how important sleep is for the human body to function. Chat to your doctor to discover if the reasons are medical and potentially get a prescription for sleeping pills to get you back on track. If it’s anxiety-related, do yourself a favour and see a therapist. Your mental health and physical health go hand-in-hand, so treat your troubled brain with the same urgency as you would a festering wound.
Recondition your brain Beds are supposed to be for sleeping (and sex), but a lot of us use it as a place to do other things like watch TV, scroll through the Internet and lie awake in when we’re struggling to sleep. Recondition your brain into associating your bed with sleep and only sleep by not doing any activities that don’t involve you being asleep in it (besides sex, obviously). If you find yourself unable to sleep, get out of bed and only return when you’re feeling very sleepy.
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