What's keeping you awake?
Struggling to sleep isn't unusual - it's thought that a third of people in the UK have at least one bout of insomnia during their lives. But that can be little comfort when you're lying awake at 4am, wondering why you're the only person who can't get a good night's sleep. It's during these wee small hours that our fears and worries start to surface, which could perpetuate a vicious cycle of staying awake and worrying, making it even harder to drift off. But what's keeping you awake?
Eating too soon before bed, or eating the wrong sorts of foods close to bedtime, could seriously hamper your beauty sleep. Choosing high-fat foods as a late-night snack is a no-no. Our bodies take longer to digest foods high in fat, which could mean you're left counting sheep and wondering why you can't drift off, whilst your digestion gets to work. Swap your bag of crisps for some dried fruit or a bowl of yoghurt and fresh berries, for a healthier late-night snack that won't leave you sleepless.
Symptoms of anxiety include sweaty palms, racing heart, headaches - yet all these symptoms could be indicative of other things too. If you're worried you're feeling anxious, you probably are. Racing thoughts can make it hard to switch off at bedtime, whether you're feeling anxious about tomorrow or replaying the events of the day in your head. Anxiety can be crippling, and combined with lack of sleep, it could leave you feeling exhausted, irritable and unable to concentrate, so you may skip school or work or find yourself avoiding socialising. If anxiety is keeping you awake, there are natural remedies which can help. Try Rescue Remedy in a glass of water, sip some chamomile tea before bed or give meditation a go - it can help to rid your brain of unwanted thoughts and leave you feeling more centred and focused. Altogether now, "Zzzzzzzz....."
Worries about the future
Did you know that the majority of worries we have about the future never even happen? If you're worrying you're going to make a fool of yourself during a presentation at work, or stressing you'll fail your exam, just stop. It might sound easier to say than to actually do, but worrying about the future simply spoils the present, and can lead to anxiety and depression. Instead of trying to control everything in your life, recognise that there are some thing you won't ever be able to control - the unknown future. It's this that causes worries and anxiety, but by accepting that you can't control the outcome, even by worrying about it, you should be able to let those worries go. Don't make yourself ill and suffer insomnia by worrying about tomorrow. If you must worry about something, worry about it when the time comes and not before. You'll probably find it goes more smoothly than you expected!
Caffeine, nicotine, energy drinks...what do these three things all have in common? They're all stimulants, which excite our nervous systems and leave us feeling raring to go. Caffeine in particular is the mortal enemy of a good night's sleep. It can make you feel jittery, restless and anxious, so cutting out the caffeine at bedtime is a sensible idea. Remember that some soft drinks and chocolate also contain caffeine, so stick to herbal teas if you can at bedtime - our list of caffeine-free alternatives to tea and coffee should give you some ideas. Smoking in bed isn't a great way to relax - it can also be really dangerous if you fall asleep with a cigarette in your hand! Try to avoid stimulants of any kind for at least a couple of hours before bed, to allow your body and mind to unwind naturally.
Pain can be..well...a pain in the ass! A stiff neck, lower back pain or an aching knee after a run can all hamper your ability to nod off, leaving you feeling groggy in the morning. When we're tired, we feel pain more acutely, which just makes things worse! Try taking some pain relief before bedtime - either natural or tablets. A hot bath with a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil can help to ease aching muscles, or ask someone to give you a massage. If all else fails, a couple of ibuprofen and a hot or cold compress before bed can help you to get a good night's sleep.
Struggling to get to sleep, waking frequently in the night or waking up with aches and pains could be a clue that your bed isn't doing you any favours. Choosing the right mattress, pillow and even bedding can make all the difference when it comes to a sound night of shut-eye, so check out your bedding to see if it measures up. Your body temperature could be causing you to wakeup - if you're too hot or too cold, you won't sleep as soundly. This may mean getting a new thinner, or thicker duvet, or swapping the clothes you wear in bed to keep you warmer or cooler!
Hmmm....if the person you're sharing a bed with has some, shall we say, 'unwanted' habits, perhaps that could be keeping you awake at night? Chronic snoring, stealing the bedcovers, hogging the bed - some of these problems are more serious than others, but all could stop you getting the 8 hours of sleep you need to stay happy and healthy. When it comes to bed-tiquette, it's important to talk about these things. Nobody's saying one of you has to move onto the couch, but finding a happy medium between bed space and duvet sharing is as important for your relationship as it is for your sleep pattern and you could find yourself sleeping in an awkward position if you don't have enough space! Snoring can be treated by seeing your GP, or by picking up snore strips from your local Boots or Superdrug which can help with less chronic cases.
If all else fails, it may be that you simply need to try and relax at bedtime. Our night-time yoga routine can help you to de-stress and get your body ready for sleep, or try a natural sleep aid such as a warm bath and a good book, or lavender oil on your pillow. Sleep is so important for our bodies, so if you want to smash that 5k time, get that promotion or just make it past lunchtime without dozing off at your desk, tackle your sleep problems at the root cause and enjoy a great night's sleep tonight!