Counting sheep: Things to do when you can’t sleep
Whether it’s a cold, allergies or general life getting in the way, not getting enough sleep at night can have a negative effect on your health – including lack of focus, high blood pressure and more.
Avoid these risks and find out what to do when you can’t sleep below.
Adapt your evening routine
Before nodding off at night, you should get into the routine of taking a deep breath, slowing down and freeing yourself from the stresses of everyday life. And there are several ways that you can adapt your wind-down time to help you get to sleep at night:
- Set your alarm to go off at the same time every day and go to sleep at the same time each night. Train your body into a regular routine to make falling asleep at a certain time that little bit easier.
- Give yourself a 30-minute window before finally going to sleep, to do something relaxing to help you doze off – and dim the lights about 30 minutes before that.
- If you’re more susceptible to the effects that caffeine can have on your body and mind, cutting it out in the evening will leave you feeling much more relaxed and ready to sleep when the time comes.
- Turn off your screens. The blue light in your mobile device can affect your ability to sleep so turning it off completely can have a positive effect. But if that’s not entirely possible, turning it onto night mode is still better.
- Before nodding off each night, try out some breathing and relaxation exercises to calm your mind and get it ready for sleep.
Settle down into a book
Instead of scrolling through your phone or watching an episode of your favourite TV series before bed, pick up a book! Reading is a relaxing and enjoyable activity that leaves you in the right mindset for getting to sleep. While you may think that the answer is to read something a little less exciting, a boring book may actually cause your mind to wander – hindering your ability to sleep even further. So why not pick up an old favourite? Like Harry Potter or Pride and Prejudice. Something that you find comforting and that you’ve read before – because that way you won’t be tempted to stay up until the early hours to find out what happens next.
If you’re really struggling to nod off at night, The Nocturnal Journal by Lee Crutchley allows you to explore the reasons behind your inability to sleep – offering peace of mind and a better night’s sleep. Add this book into your bedtime routine and work your way through a series of prompts and questions to help you get to the bottom of your insomnia. Or shop around for an adult colouring book. It’ll give you something to focus on, without the interference of blue light from your mobile phone screen. This way you’ll be able to concentrate more on the activity itself, rather than the stresses and worries that might be keeping you awake at night.
Write it all down
You may find that what’s keeping you awake at night, is yourself. Thoughts and worries can build up, and if you’ve got a lot on your mind, you may struggle to sleep. So why not get them all down on a piece of paper? Free up some mental space and get the thoughts out of your head by writing them down when you’re tired but can’t sleep.
- To-do lists: From small reminders to big tasks you need to get done the following day. By writing them all down, you’re giving your brain permission to stop thinking about them – taking away the stress of forgetting and not getting it done.
- Gratitude: Note down all of the things that you’re grateful for at that very moment. It’ll give you the chance to reflect on all the good, rather than the bad. In turn, any stress you may be feeling can be released and pushed aside to help you fall asleep.
- Worries: Or take the opposite approach and focus on the negatives. You’ll clear your mind of your worries by getting them down on paper and out of your head – allowing you to sleep more soundly. This way, once these worries have passed you can read them back and know that everything turned out okay.
Unwind with a podcast
Choosing a relaxing podcast to help you wind down before nodding off is a great way to de-stress. Some of the bedtime podcasts you may want to try when you can’t get to sleep are:
- The Mindset Mentor: Gives you insight into your life’s vision and purpose, guiding you through the best ways to achieve your goals. This podcast is both motivational and inspirational.
- TED Talks Podcast: Discussions based around a range of subject matters – so you can find one that interests you.
- Get Sleepy: Nod off to a soothing bedtime story, combined with relaxing music and ASMR triggers.
Create a soothing sleeping environment
If your bedroom isn’t a peaceful place to rest and sleep at night, you’re likely to struggle when trying to sleep. The temperature, lighting and noise should be controlled to a level that makes it easy for you to fall, and stay, asleep. Choosing wool bedding will take care of the temperature – with its natural thermos-regulating properties that draw moisture away from the body, keeping you cool when it’s hot and warm when it’s not. As for the lighting and noise, cutting down on screen time before bed and turning the lights off in plenty of time should help with that.
Follow our “can’t sleep?” tips and tricks for a healthier and happier you. Head to our sleep health and advice hub for more guidance on what to do when you can’t sleep, how to keep allergens at bay during the night and more. But if you’re regularly experiencing restless nights and natural remedies aren’t working, head to your local GP for more help.