You’ve heard it all before: Don’t watch TV or check your emails in bed. Have your last cup of coffee mid-afternoon. Don’t work out too close to bedtime… and yet you’re doing all this but you still can’t sleep!
So what’s going wrong? Here are some other reasons why you still might be struggling with your snoozing.
- What time is it: Constantly clock watching can have a detrimental impact on sleep. This kind of behaviour creates anxiety – you wake at 2am and realise you’ve only five hours left to sleep, you wake at 4am and calculate there’s only three hours left until the alarm goes off. Removing the clock from the bedroom can be a positive step in breaking a clock watching routine. However if having the clock out of the room is likely to make you anxious, why not turn it around or cover it.
- Glass of your favourite tipple before bed: While alcohol may relax you and make you feel sleepy, it is a big culprit in sleep interference. Not only does it act as a diuretic (which means you need the loo more!) but it leads to dehydration. You’ll also find that while you initially fall asleep quickly, your sleep is shallower so you don’t feel as rested when you wake.
- Snoring: Snoring is one of the biggest causes of lack of sleep. If it’s your partner that’s disturbing your sleep with their grunts and snores, try getting them to change sleeping position or elevating their pillow. If it’s a constant problem, people often find separate bedrooms help. If you’re the one snoring, and waking up feeling exhausted, it is worth a visit to the GP. One of the tell-tale signs of sleep apnoea is chronic snoring.
- Feeling overwhelmed: Whether its worries over work, finances, health or family, feeling anxious in bed leads to difficulty in falling asleep and staying asleep. The first step is to write down any worries, or even your to-do list, before you go to bed as it helps to clear the mind. Next practice some deep breathing exercises, meditation or even some gentle yoga to relax the body. Once you’re in bed, if you find you can’t sleep don’t just lie there worrying. Get up and go do something else relaxing (read a book or listen to some soothing music) in a dimly lit room for 10/15 minutes.
- Hunger pangs: While we don’t recommend eating a big meal before bedtime, some people do find a small bedtime snack helpful. If you go to bed hungry, you’re likely to wake up with hunger pangs. A great bedtime snack could be oatcakes and cheese, peanut butter on wholemeal toast or a small bowl of low sugar cereal.
- Light: Street lights, TV standby button, notification light on your smartphone and even digital alarm clocks could all be a factor in keeping you awake. Make sure you’re using blackout blinds or heavy lined curtains to block out outside light. Switch off the TV at the mains and don’t be tempted to charge your mobile phone in the bedroom. Even this small amount of light disrupts your internal body clock and decreases your melatonin production, making you feel less sleepy.
- Your bed is too old/uncomfortable: Did you know that the foundation to a good night’s kip is a comfortable, supportive bed? It’s all very well using lavender, milky drinks and a warm bath to relax before bed, but if you’re hopping onto an old mattress that doesn’t offer much support, creaks and groans and sags in the middle, then chances are you won’t be experiencing the best quality sleep.
- Lazy lie-ins: Trying to make up for lack of sleep with extra time in bed the following morning, or even a few days later, throws off your internal body clock. Where possible try to keep to a regular bed time and wake up time. Our bodies (and minds) thrive on routine.
- Too much to do: Are you finding yourself scrimping on sleep because there’s not enough time in the day to get things done? Think carefully before trying to cut down on your sleep – an on-going battle against your body clock may lead to long term, serious sleep problems. Being properly rested means you’re clear-headed, more focused and more patient. Ultimately you’re actually more productive than if you try to cram more into the working day by forgoing sleep.
- Messy bedroom: A cluttered bedroom makes for a cluttered mind. Don’t use it as a dumping ground for the rest of the house. Put laundry away, move any filing into another room and tidy up. Your bedroom should be a sanctuary, somewhere you can go to turn off and relax. You might find our Perfect Sleep Environment page useful.
Still can’t sleep? Try our 30 day Better Sleep plan. All you need to do is answer questions based on your sleep, health and lifestyle.