So you have trouble getting to sleep? Would it be reassuring to know that you are not alone and that even those people lucky enough to nod off as soon as their head hits the pillow sometimes encounter problems with entering the land of Nod?

How much sleep do you need?

The amount of sleep needed can vary widely between individuals and is usually less as we get older. A few famous politicians are known to have existed on as little as four hours sleep. Teenagers are renowned for sleeping round the clock. Seven or eight hours are probably about right for most people.

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More effective ways than counting sheep!

Assuming that you don’t have a medical condition that is known to cause sleep problems, you can vastly increase your opportunities to enjoy deep and peaceful sleep by observing a number of quite basic steps. Just telling yourself to sleep when you can’t, simply increases the difficulty. It’s a bit like being told that under no circumstances should you think of the pink elephant. Once you think of the pink elephant it’s difficult to erase it from your mind.

Forethought and planning

These are of paramount importance

If you are serious about getting a good night’s sleep you should be prepared to make a few changes to your routine. If you want to excel in a sport or become really proficient in a particular skill you expect to have to make lifestyle changes so it’s just the same if you want to become a skilled sleeper.

Here come the sleeping tips

1) Establish a regular and unchanging bedtime and waking time

Our bodies are used to following certain natural rhythms. If we go to bed two or three hours later at the weekend and rise two or three hours later in the morning we create a disruptive rhythm. The times should be consistent every day of the week.

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2) Train your mind to associate your bed as the place to sleep

We become conditioned to our environment. If your bed is a place used to watch television, to study, check your phone, email, complete the crossword etc. your mind does not easily also equate the bed as a place to sleep.

If you have been sleeping then wake up and find it difficult to get back to sleep, it’s far more effective to get up and move to another place, preferably another room until you feel sleepy again.

3) Avoid stimulating drinks before bed

Alcohol, coffee, tea etc. are best avoided up to 90 minutes  before bedtime. One alcoholic drink close to bedtime can make it six times more difficult to sleep.  Avoidance of any liquid close to bedtime reduces the likelihood of disturbed sleep  to visit the bathroom .

4) Avoid eating heavy meals up to 90 minutes before bedtime.

An overworked digestive system isn’t conducive to easy sleeping. Also avoid bedtime snacks and particularly grains and sugars which raise the blood sugar level and inhibit sleep.

5) Start to quieten your mind  60 minutes before bedtime

If you watch a violent action on film within once thousandth of a second of viewing, Cortisol Adrenalin and Growth hormones enter the body’s system and will not make sleep come easily.

Stimulating fast tempo music and intense physical activity will also diminish your chances of dropping off easily. Stick to slow tempo music, read poetry or religious texts as bedtime preparation.

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6) Put the concerns and worries of today and tomorrow in storage over night

Imagine emptying the contents of your mind that include the problems of the day and the tasks tomorrow – into a filing cabinet or a strong box and locking it securely so that nothing is lost and will be available during the next waking day to be dealt with, leaving you and your mind free of clutter over night. Have a pad & pen beside the bed for any last minute thoughts. Note them then forget them overnight.

7) Darken your bedroom

If necessary use heavy drapes to block out light. If impractical wear a sleep mask, thought this is a compromise only. Use the lowest level of light possible if arising to visit the bathroom during the night.

8) Lower the room temperature

It should be no higher than around 20°C (standard room temperature).

9) Take a hot bath or shower before bed

When your body temperature is raised in the late evening, it will fall at bedtime and facilitate sleep.

10) Remove your clock from view and keep clock radio’s away from the bedside

If sleep is intermittent then clock watching will only add to your worry. Electric clock radios and other electrical devices should be kept at the least 3 feet away from your body because electromagnetic radiation can inhibit sleep.

11) Avoid regular use of sleeping tablets

They might have a very short-term benefit but they are known to affect muscular coordination and can double the frequency of waking during the night.

12) Don’t “try” to sleep

Relax and trust that when you have made some adjustments to your evening routine and preparation for sleep, it will happen naturally. Expect some blips along the way.

Sweet dreams!

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