Get a better night's sleep

A good night's sleep is essential to our health and wellbeing but unfortunately insomnia is a real problem for many. If you have trouble dropping off or staying asleep, here are some tips to help you break the cycle and get a better night's rest...

Woman awake in bed insomnia

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Wind down routine
If you have trouble dropping off, try introducing a bedtime routine. Go to bed at the same time each night and introduce some sleep triggers - for instance, try having a warm milky drink, meditate, listen to relaxing music, have a warm bath or read before turning the lights off.

Regular exercise will help combat stress and tire you out ready for bed. While gentle stretching exercises are fine at night, avoid doing vigorous exercise within four hours of going to sleep.

Drinking alcohol may knock you out initially but will adversely affect the quality of your sleep and cause you to wake up feeling tired. If you find yourself tossing and turning, try going without your evening glass of wine or beer - you might be surprised at the difference it makes.

Eat for sleep
Avoid eating heavy meals late in the evening - your digestive system will have to work harder, which will result in a restless night. Spicy and fatty foods are especially likely to give you a poor night's sleep. If you're hungry before bed, have a small turkey sandwich on wholemeal bread. Turkey (and milk) contains the chemical tryptophan, which is said to encourage drowsiness.

Make sure your room is dark, quiet and a comfortable temperature. If you're a light sleeper, bright early morning rays of sunshine will wake you early, so invest in a black-out blind or heavy, dark curtains. If unexpected noise or excess light is a problem (particularly for those who work nights and need to sleep in the day), consider wearing an eye mask and earplugs.

Ban electronics
Watching TV, playing computer games, using telephones and computers will all stimulate your brain and prevent you from relaxing ready for sleep. Don't do work or anything taxing before bed and ban laptops from the bedroom.

White noise
Some people find that this helps them to relax and drift off. Also, the frequency of white noise is such that is can drown out other noises such as talking. You can use machines like a fan to create white noise although the effect is not as good as using a white noise CD.

You should avoid smoking before sleeping because, despite what many smokers say, nicotine does not relax you: it is a stimulant and it will keep you up. Also, smokers tend to wake up early suffering from withdrawal symptoms.

An obvious one really, but watch how much coffee or caffeinated drinks (such as cola) you're consuming in the day - and definitely don't drink coffee near bedtime. If you love coffee, try switching to a caffeine-free variety instead. Alternatively, try a hot malty drink or a herbal tea instead.

Daytime naps
Although they can be nice, day time naps may prevent you from sleeping through the night. However, napping during the day was found to be beneficial for older people - experts say getting enough sleep overall is more important to our health as we age than the time of day (or night) we get it.