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Useful Tips For Getting A Good Night's Sleep

Aug 4, 2008
Most of us experience the occasional difficulty falling asleep.

Stress at work, aches and pains, or a neighbour's noisy party can all contribute to a restless night. Regular sleep deprivation, however, can have a serious impact on your health and quality of life.

If you find it hard to get off to sleep, wake frequently during the night, or if you've counted endless sheep and nothing has worked, here are some ideas to try.

Sleep and your bedroom

*It's important that your bedroom's environment is conducive to sleep. Keep your room cool and well ventilated, as overheated rooms are a common cause of sleep problems, especially for children. If you're worried about getting cold in the night, leave extra blankets within reach.

*Make sure your bed is large enough for you and your partner, and that the mattress is firm and comfortable. If you're tossing and turning on an old, saggy mattress, it's time to invest in a new one for the sake of your health.

*Noise from outside frequently interferes with sleep and can be extremely frustrating. Take whatever action you can to resolve your noise problem. If it's beyond your control, for example, if you live near a busy road or airport, wear earplugs to block out the sound.

*Too much light in your room can also affect the quality of your sleep. Block out light from outside with dark curtains or wear a sleeping mask and don't place an illuminated alarm clock near your bed.

Your sleep routine

*Try to go to bed and get up at the same time every day to get your body into a regular sleep routine. Lying in bed late at the weekends disrupts your routine and can cause sleep problems the following night.

*Get into the habit of relaxing before bedtime. Indulge in a hot bath and listen to some soothing music. Keep the conversation light; this is not the time for a heavy discussion or argument with your partner.

*If possible, don't work or study in your bedroom. You'll find it harder to switch off and relax if your computer, files or notebooks are still in view. It's best to avoid watching TV in bed too, as the bright images can over-stimulate your mind. Some people find that reading a book before bed helps them to relax, but if you have a vivid imagination avoid anything disturbing.

*Regular exercise is essential for a healthy lifestyle and being physically tired can help you to sleep. However, strenuous exercise should be avoided for at least four hours before going to bed as it causes your body to produce adrenaline, which can keep you awake.

*Essential oils such as lavender or chamomile are known for their calming and relaxing properties. Sprinkle a few drops of lavender oil on your pillow or in your bath, or use an oil burner to release the vapour into your room. You can also buy pillows stuffed with dried lavender.

*If after 20 minutes you still can't sleep, don't lie awake worrying. Get up and do something else, such as reading or a crossword. If you have a lot on your mind, it may help to write about your problems or feelings in a journal.

Food, drink and sleep

*Don't try to sleep if you feel hungry. If you get hungry in the evening, have a light snack. However don't eat a heavy meal too close to bedtime.

*Avoid drinking alcohol before going to bed. Alcohol causes drowsiness, but in fact makes you sleep more lightly, meaning you'll wake up less refreshed.

*Coffee and other drinks containing caffeine should be avoided from mid-afternoon onwards if you have trouble sleeping.

*Dairy products contain a chemical called tryptophan, which is believed to induce sleep. This is why a glass of warm milk is traditionally recommended before bedtime.

*Herbal teas such as chamomile can also aid relaxation.

Other sleep tips

*If you suffer from anxiety and stress, it's worth trying relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation. There are many books available, or you could join a class in your area. Talking your problems through with a friend or counsellor can also help.

*Herbal remedies such as valerian are often used to treat insomnia. Always check the label carefully as they can have an effect on other medicines you may be taking.

*People vary as to what works best for them, so you may need to experiment with these methods until you find the combination that guarantees a peaceful night for you.

*Keeping a sleep diary can help you to track your progress and to assess the effectiveness of each technique.

Finally, if you've tried everything and your insomnia persists, make an appointment with your doctor to discuss the problem. Insomnia can be a symptom of an underlying medical condition.
About the Author
Leigh A. Matelas is a freelance writer living in the UK. She regularly contributes articles for Taurus Beds, a leading supplier of pine beds in London.
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