You can find yourself feeling more than a little desperate when you struggle to fall asleep. Your energy, your concentration levels and your memory are all affected when you don’t get enough sleep and more than half a million Australians take sleeping tablets to help them overcome sleepless nights.
An inability to sleep can be caused by many things including some medicines and drugs, chronic pain and other uncomfortable illnesses, stress, depression, anxiety and worry, and even the death of a loved one.
However, new research suggests that genetics has a role to play in the different types of insomnia, and if you suffer sleepless nights on a regular basis it might be worthwhile thinking about who else in your family also suffers.
When counting sheep just doesn’t cut it, the experts have revealed handy ways in which you can fall asleep, stay asleep and wake up refreshed.
First thing’s first, sunlight sets your body clock and that determines when those vital sleep hormones like melatonin trigger and take you towards the Land of Nod. If you get up at the same time every day regardless of the day and the time of year, getting some sunlight in that first hour of waking up is a good step for aiding your ability to sleep at night.
According to the Sleep Health Foundation, if you have a regular sleep routine your body will be better for it. Don’t ignore those heavy eyes and it’s best if you avoid falling asleep on the couch.
The foundation says at least four hours before bedtime you should avoid consuming any caffeine, and that doesn’t just mean coffee or tea; it could be in soft drinks too. Smoking is another thing that makes going to bed more difficult, so if you like to smoke it’s best if you do it away from bedtime and certainly never during the night.
Those who snore or suffer sleep apnoea will find the conditions worsen when there is alcohol involved.
You should also try and rule out activities that stimulate in the evening and this includes sitting on the computer, your mobile phone and/or tablet for at least an hour before hitting the sack. The reason for this is because light-emitting devices suppress your sleep hormones and disrupt your deep sleep.
Good news for those who like to read though, as picking up a printed book are found to fall asleep faster than those who don’t and are more alert the following day.
Things that can help you get a restful night’s sleep include indulging in a warm bath or having a warm milk drink before bedtime. It’s also important you go to the toilet before you go to sleep as this will reduce the need to go during the night, which ultimately disrupts your sleep.
Sleep isn’t something you can force, so if you aren’t dreaming of all things nice within 30 minutes you should get out of bed. Avoid watching television or using your smartphone, eating or evening doing household chores. Instead sit in another darkened room and sit quietly, if you become tired take yourself back to bed.
If you still find yourself waking at 3am talking to your doctor is a good idea. They’ll be able to talk to you about your sleep and might suggest a course of treatment or refer you to a sleep specialist.