Monday, March 28, 2011

How to get to sleep

Within certain boundaries, we can will ourselves to stay awake, but willing ourselves to go to sleep - in my experience - is largely ineffective. Nothing is more frustrating than not being able to get to sleep at night. We toss and turn. We watch the clock. We know we have to get up in a few hours and cope with the usual hectic schedule. In the end, we may even abandon all hope of nodding off, and go and make a cup of tea.

Here are a few ideas to help you drift off a little bit faster.

1. Simple deep breathing - in and out, through the nose. Inhale to a slow count of three, exhale to a slow count of three. Wait for a slow count of three before repeating. Keep this up for about ten minutes each night. Deep breathing is relaxing. Concentrate on keeping count, that helps clear your mind of all the niggles and irritations of the day.

2. Keep your bedroom clear of hi-fis, computers and TV. If you must have a TV in the room, make sure it is turned off properly, and not sitting with the beady little red standby light glaring at you.

3. Set a bedtime routine. The repeated actions of a routine are soothing. So take a warm bath if you normally bath at night, brush teeth etc, and then read for fifteen minutes - something light, not a text book or the newspaper!

4. Don't eat for the three hours before bed. A heavy or spicy meal can lead to heartburn, which will make falling asleep more difficult. If a meal was 'heavy' it was more than likely too large and too fatty for your general health, not just your sleep.

5. Avoid alcohol and caffeine. Alcohol is a natural diuretic - a full bladder will make sleep difficult. Alcohol also leads to snoring, which reduces airflow to the lungs, which reduces oxygenation of the blood, which is what causes a hangover - or even just a headache. (Snoring disturbs your sleep-partners's sleep, even if you think it doesn't spoil yours!)
Caffeine is a stimulant which stays in your system for several hours - in fact it only kicks in about twenty minutes after consumption. So avoid tea, coffee and chocolate before bed.

6. Remember the old wives tale about cheese giving you nightmares? Well, eating cheese can certainly keep you awake, because it contains a chemical which causes the release of a brain stimulant. But it's not just cheese. Bacon, ham, aubergines, red wine, avocado pears, nuts, raspberries and soy sauce all do the same thing!

Good night. Sleep tight. Don't let the bugs bite.


Roberto said...

Years ago, an 'old' mate of mine said he had the best cure for sleeplessness - put a candle on the foot of the bed, and drink rum until you saw two candles on the end of the bed!
Then, put the rum away - sleep would then come quickly.

I don't know if it worked, or not, but sounded good! It beat counting sheep!

Sphinx said...

I tried this, but in the morning someone had stolen one of the candles AND the second bottle of rum!
Hehe, nice one Bob.