Common ailments

Insomnia

I’ve recently been having trouble sleeping. I find it difficult to get to sleep and, when I do finally nod off, I wake up at around 4am and can’t get back to sleep. Consequently, I feel tired at work every day and can be quite clumsy.

Sleeping problems, or insomnia, is something most people will experience at some point in their life. The most common symptoms are difficulty falling asleep and waking up during the night. This often leads to irritability and tiredness during the day.

There could be several reasons why you are having trouble sleeping. Stress and anxiety are common causes of insomnia, as are some types of medication.

Insomnia can, however, often be prevented by changing your daytime and bedtime habits and developing a good routine. Aim to get up at the same time every day, whether or not you’ve had enough sleep, and avoid napping during the day. Incorporating some exercise into your daily routine, with a gap of at least two hours before bedtime, will also help you sleep better. You should also avoid caffeine later in the day and heavy meals late at night. Smoking and alcohol before bed can also disrupt sleep. Many of us are obsessed with our electronic devices but these keep our brains stimulated and active and if you are having problems sleeping it is worth avoiding checking those emails before bed.

Equally, try to form a relaxing bedtime routine. Taking a bath, having a warm, milky drink or reading might help you nod off more easily. Also, keeping your bedroom dark and at a cool, but comfortable, temperature will help you sleep better. Importantly however, only go to bed when you are actually feeling tired. If you wake up in the night and cannot get back to sleep then get up and do something quietly in another room, only going back to bed when you’re feeling sleepy again. This trains your mind to associate your bedroom with sleep and not wakefulness.

It is likely you will need to stick to the changes I suggest for several weeks in order to see the benefits. You could keep a sleep diary during this time to help you gain a better understanding of your sleep patterns. If after a few weeks, your symptoms have not improved then you may wish to speak to your GP.

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