7 simple and low-cost ways to beat insomnia
On average, a UK adult needs around eight hours of sleep a night. If you struggle to reach that amount, you’re not alone. The NHS suggests that as many as one in three of us suffers from poor sleep. This could refer to quality, quantity, or both.
Neuroscientist Matthew Walker’s international bestseller, Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams offers fascinating insights into the history of sleep, explaining why we need it, and how attitudes towards it have changed.
It also explains how the quality and quantity of sleep we enjoy can impact our health.
Not getting enough sleep can leave you tired, irritable, and unable to focus. It can have more profound consequences too. If poor sleep becomes a habit, it can increase your risk of serious medical conditions such as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. It can also lead to a shortened life expectancy.
Thankfully, there are plenty of straightforward and inexpensive ways you can beat insomnia and improve your chances of enjoying uninterrupted, good-quality sleep. Here are seven of them:
1. Pre-plan your sleep cycle
Sleep won’t always come at the exact moment you want, but you can give yourself the best possible chance by using regular routines to train your circadian rhythms.
This might be easy during the week if you have work or other commitments giving structure to your day. To really make the routine stick though, you’ll need to keep the same sleep patterns at the weekend too.
As you get into a steady routine, so will your body. You should start to find you drift more easily, wake naturally at the correct time, and feel more refreshed.
2. Adopt a relaxing evening routine
Relaxing at the end of the day is the best way to prepare your body for sleep.
A relaxing routine might involve a bath or some non-strenuous activity like yoga. Avoid coffee, alcohol, and nicotine during the four hours before bed. Also, try not to eat too heavily before sleeping.
You’ll also want to keep your screen time to a minimum. Listen to music rather than watching TV and read a book rather than your phone or tablet, even if you have a blue light filter enabled.
3. Make sure your sleeping conditions are right
Ideal sleeping conditions are darkness, silence, and just the right temperature, somewhere between 15C and 19C.
If you have a street lamp outside your window and your home is next to a road, the first two might not be easy to accomplish. What’s more, opening a window to control the heat will only add to the noise.
You can’t underestimate the importance of sleep, so consider blackout curtains, eye masks, and earplugs and do what you can to regulate your bedroom’s temperature. If you have pets, think about where they sleep, and if you have a partner, try to adopt the same routines so that neither party disturbs the other.
4. Try a “SAD” alarm
Body-clock lights, sunrise alarms, or SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) alarm clocks are especially useful in the dark winter months but can be used all year round.
They light up slowly each morning to ease you into the day, allowing you to wake up more naturally than a sudden alarm. This can help support your hard-fought routines as the seasons change.
In the evening, night mode will dim the lights slowly to mimic sunset, easing you into a gentle sleep.
Once you’ve set your alarm clock up, consider turning it away from you so that you aren’t tempted to check the time if sleep won’t come. Watching the clock will only add to your worries, making sleep even harder to come by.
5. Use a morning routine to hit the ground running
Once your body has adapted to its new sleep schedule you should wake up feeling more refreshed. Make the most of this by getting out and active early.
An early morning walk will give you fresh air and a much-needed hit of natural sunlight. Follow this up with a healthy breakfast and then allow yourself a moment to relax before you start the day.
Read the newspaper or catch up on your emails while you mentally prepare yourself for the day ahead.
6. Get some exercise
A healthy lifestyle is the best way to encourage healthy sleep. Exercising during the day will relax you, allowing you to burn off tension as well as preparing your body for rest.
Be careful, though, not to let your workouts interrupt your evening routines. Exercise first thing in the morning or at lunchtime if you can, or straight after work if that’s the time of day that works for you. Vigorous exercise releases endorphins so which could make getting to sleep harder. Be sure you finish exercising at least one to two hours before you intend on going to bed.
7. If sleep won’t come, get up
If sleep won’t come, it doesn’t pay to lie there trying to force it. Get up and find a relaxing way to pass some time before trying again.
Avoid screens if you can. Go back to your book or put some music on, returning to bed only when you feel sleepy. Taking that extra time to relax and wind down might be just what you needed to drift off more quickly.
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