As soon as your head hits the pillow does it decide that now is the time to start thinking about everything that has happened, will happen and could happen? Don’t worry, insomnia is a common thing amongst us – especially women over 60 and those going through the menopause.
But just because there are lots of people suffering the same bedtime fate, doesn’t make it any less frustrating.
Generally, unless certain medical conditions or medications are the cause, the most common culprit for sleeplessness is anxiety. Feeling anxious or worried makes it hard to relax and fall asleep. And not sleeping well can cause more anxiety, making it more and more difficult to sleep.
The good news is, there are some methods which can be used to help – before you reach for the prescription.
Get out of bed and do something for 10 minutes
So, you fell asleep but have woken and now can’t get back to sleep? If this happens and it takes you more than 15 minutes to fall back into the land of nod, get up and do an activity for 15 mins or so. It should be one that requires your head and your hands, so a colouring book or jigsaw puzzle. Make sure your activity doesn’t involve any screen time, as this is proven to suppress the sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin.
Keep your feet warm
A Swiss study published in the journal ‘Nature’ found that warm feet promote the rapid onset of sleep”. They found that the participants who placed a hot water bottle at their feet were able to fall asleep faster.
Stop clock watching
Hiding your clock can help to reduce the stress and anxiety around not falling asleep. Constantly checking the clock just increases the stress and therefore makes it even harder to fall asleep. As you’re constantly worrying about the fact that you aren’t falling asleep and it’s been 15 mins….30 mins….45 mins….1 hour and so you go on.
Shower before bed
Enjoying a nice hot shower before bed will warm your body up. Then stepping into the cooler air will cause your body temp to drop rapidly, therefore decreasing your metabolism and preparing your body for sleep. So, your body will be completely ready.
Sleep in a cool, dark room
Darkness cues the brain to make melatonin which is the hormone that cools your internal body temperature. So, sleeping in a room which is cools and dark will give you the most sleep-friendly conditions.
Change your mattress
If you are constantly waking up feeling unrested or have to lie on a particular place on your mattress to fall asleep, chances are you need a new one. Even if your mattress is relatively new, the wrong kind can prevent you from sleeping.
Use the “4-7-8” breathing technique
This is a simple and powerful breathing technique used to promote calmness and relaxation. It can be practiced anytime you feel anxious or stressed.
The “4-7-8” technique is a breathing pattern that relaxes the nervous system, making it easier for you to fall asleep.
- Place the tip of your tongue behind your top front teeth.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
- Close your mouth and inhale through your nose whilst counting to four in your head.
- Hold your breath and count to seven in your head.
- Open your mouth and exhale completely whilst making a whoosh sounds and counting to eight in your head.
- Repeat this whole thing at least three more times.
Each cycle is designed to relax you and therefore should help you to fall asleep quickly.