Thursday, 12 October 2017

Insomnia: How to Get Back to Sleep

There are different types of insomnia. Some people can't get to sleep at all, and lie awake for hours counting the minutes until the alarm goes off, where as some people sleep for a little while, then wake up and can't get back to sleep. I usually fall into the second category and I have found that there isn't a huge amount of advice available for getting back to sleep, once you've woken up. I've written before about the thoughts that keep me awake at night, and I even wrote a poem about insomnia, with help from my son, but I thought it was time I shared some of the ideas that have worked for me.

In association with Cash Lady

Firstly, the obvious stuff. If you find it difficult to get back to sleep, it's really important that you do your utmost not to wake up in the first place. So;

Check your mattress. Is it comfortable? Too hard, soft, lumpy? Sometimes, we can become so familiar with something, that we fail to notice the unevenness, the saggy middle, or the spring sticking out. If it's making you uncomfortable, though, it could be a reason you're awake in the first place. Even if it doesn't need replacing, turning it and giving it a good clean can really freshen things up, making a more comfortable sleeping environment.

Talking of sleeping environments, how clean is your room? It's very easy (ask me how I know) for your bedroom to turn into a storage facility for everything that you need to deal with. Washing that needs putting away, things for the charity shop, bits for the loft, etc, and it quickly becomes the most neglected room in the house. A clean, calm sleeping space is much more conducive to a good night's sleep, though, so it's time to clear that clutter, throw open the windows and reclaim your room!

A wooden table, with flowers, beside a white made bed
Photo by Logan Nolin on Unsplash

Are there any noise disturbances that can be minimised? My personal noise disturbance is an angry magpie and, as I'm against violence, there's not a lot I can do about it, but there are some noises which benefit from a bit of attention. If  extra glazing is out of the budget, you could consider shutters as a way to further insulate the inside from the out. I also found these noise reducing curtains on Amazon when I was researching this post, I haven't tried them, so I don't know how effective they are, but it would be a much cheaper way of softening the impact of outside interference. Another option, although a bit more drastic, is to swap rooms with a heavy sleeper. If you find noise disturbance comes from one side of the house, and you have heavy sleeping offspring, it could be worth a change of room occupancy to help everyone sleep better.

Think about what you eat or drink in the evening. This can be different for different people, so it sometimes helps to keep a diary of what you eat and drink and how well you slept that night. Some people can guzzle the wine, and scoff the cheese and biscuits until they roll into bed, like the purple one from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, then snore the night away, entirely unaffected. Sadly, that's not always the case. It's not a good idea to eat late in the evening, but if you really need to, avoid spicy or carb-heavy foods, or anything salty or sugary, which could make you thirsty.  Equally, try to drink regularly throughout the day, so that you don't find yourself needing a lot in the evening, thus resulting in the call of the porcelain throne in the early hours.

Lady asleep under a duvet
Photo by elizabeth lies on Unsplash

If you still wake up though, what to do then? It's not always easy to just turn over and go back to sleep, and the more you think about it, the worse it gets.

If you're a worrier, it's a weird fact that nighttime is when all those little niggles like to find their way to the surface. You may not even realise something is bothering you, until you find yourself turning it over and over in your head at 3am. This is a tricky one, because there isn't much you can actually do at that time of night. But sometimes it helps to hatch a plan. Take a pen and a notebook and write down some steps you can start to take to improve the situation. Even if it's just 'find a CV writing website', 'look up courses for new career ideas' or 'investigate options for short term loans'. Just knowing you've made a start can really help you put it to bed. Sorry for the pun.

Here's another strange thing that happens to me at night; even if I don't have a specific worry, I will start thinking, planning, cogitating. It could be anything; redecorating, or refurnishing, a room, future life plans, my son's homework, even this blog post! For this reason, I always have a notebook nearby, otherwise I lie awake worrying that I will forget my brilliant plan by the morning. If this is you, I can really recommend off-loading your brain onto paper. It works.

A hand holding a small clock
Photo by Lukas Blazek on Unsplash

Are you a clock watcher? Don't be, it is the worst thing you can do if you can't get back to sleep. We recently rearranged our bedroom and I didn't get around to plugging the clock radio back in for ages. Eventually I realised it was probably the best thing I could have done for my insomnia, because looking at the time just makes it worse as you count the rapidly shortening hours until you have to get up again. Now, if I want to know the time, I have to pick up my phone and turn the screen on, which is much easier to resist than having glowing digits hovering in front of my eyes. Try it, tell yourself it doesn't matter what time it is, you will get as much sleep as you get. When you're not willing yourself to beat the clock, dropping off will seem much more natural.

One suggestion that is often recommended  by professionals, when it comes to insomnia, is not to lie awake in bed for too long. It is said that you shouldn't lie there for more than twenty minutes if you haven't managed to get back to sleep, because you need to reset your brain. It needs to associate your bed with going to sleep, not lying awake for hours. This is actually true, and is something I always do if I wake from a bad dream, because I have to fully wake up and shake it off, before I can go back to sleep. However... sometimes it's cold, or you might not want to disturb others, so something else I often do, to try to convince myself I've just got into bed, and haven't been flapping around for ages, is turn the pillow over to the cold side and rearrange the duvet as much as possible (if you get left any!). It feels like you are getting into a fresh bed, not one you've been tossing and turning in for ages.

One last idea, which has saved me from hours of ceiling-contemplating a few times, is a breathing technique. I would love to credit whoever came up with it, but I've been using it for so long, I can't remember where I first found out about it. All you do, is close your eyes, breathe in for a count of four, hold the breath for a count of seven and breathe out slowly for a count of eight. It's so relaxing and gives you something to focus on, so you are not thinking about whether or not you will ever get back to sleep!

If you struggle to sleep, I really hope these ideas help. Sweet dreams!

Koala image by Cris Saur on Unsplash



  1. Great tips. I've never really had insomnia but my three year old really struggles with her sleeping. I think we'll get her a new bed and see if that helps any. X

  2. I've had insomnia since my early teens and have yet to find a cure for it other than sleeping pills which aren't good long term! I envy anyone who sleeps!

  3. I am a self declared insomniac and pin pointed what keeps me awake, Financial, post grad assignments, my blog and then just having too many too do lite in my mind.

  4. I'm sure this will be helpful for any insomniacs. The only time I have experienced this luckily is when pregnant

  5. I am terrible for running worries or blogpost ideas through my mind so I cannot get back to sleep. I tend to get up as I don';t want to wake anyone else up then

  6. I really feel sorry for people who cannot sleep as it’s never been an issue for me but I bet it’s so frustrating for people who cannot sleep

  7. I struggled to get decent sleep in the past. I changed my mattress protector and I sleep better now.

  8. The worst habit I have is when I know I need a good sleep. I spend so long telling myself that I need to sleep that I can't sleep. Drives me nuts!

  9. Luckily this is something I don't tend to struggle with! TOUCH WOOD x

  10. I have real problems with getting back to sleep so thank you for the tips!

  11. When I'm struggling to sleep, I like to listen to relaxing music. I find it helps the brain stop ticking over. There's some tips here I hadn't thought of though


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