Can’t fall asleep or stay asleep

These are common problems for many people, sometimes caused by insomnia or just by day-to-day worries. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help solve and improve the problems.

What to do when you can’t fall asleep

  • Use the bedroom only for sleeping and sex. Don’t watch TV or use your phone or tablet as the artificial light can stimulate your brain. The goal is for your brain to associate the bedroom with sleep alone.
  • Turn off screens an hour before bed. Dim the lights and try to do quiet activities such as reading or listening to soft music.
  • Try to avoid stressful situations before bed. Postpone big discussions till morning and do try to avoid arguing late at night!
  • Move any bedroom clocks out of sight. Nothing makes it harder to go to sleep than watching the minutes tick by and worrying about how tired you’re going to be in the morning.
  • If you really can’t sleep, get out of bed and do something relaxing until you feel sleepy.
  • Try harnessing your body’s relaxation response by using relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga and deep breathing.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol late at night.

What to do when you can’t stay asleep

  • Don’t drink too many liquids late at night as this can lead to you waking up and needing the bathroom through the night.
  • Avoid alcohol late at night as it interferes with your sleep cycle and may cause you to wake up during the night.
  • Avoid heavy, rich foods within two hours of bed as they could cause heartburn and indigestion that could wake you.
  • Hard as it might be, try not to stress over your inability to fall back to sleep. Stress just encourages your body to stay awake. To keep you distracted from this, try practicing breathing exercises and focus on the feelings in your body.
  • Try relaxation techniques such as visualisation or meditation, which can be done without getting out of bed.
  • If you’ve been awake for more than 20 minutes try getting out of bed and doing a quiet activity such as reading a book with a dim light.

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