Keith is upset because he was woken up by the nightclubbers (Photo: Blend Images) All you want is a good night’s sleep. Eight hours of kip, uninterrupted and peaceful. But it’s 3am and you’re awake.
It happens to pretty much all of us. Whether it’s a delivery truck, loud sex noises, or a rampant fox knocking over your rubbish bins, you probably wake up in the night. And chances are, you struggle to switch off again.
There are a couple of simple things you can do to help your body drift back off. Or, actually, two things you should very much avoid.
Dr. Michael Breus, sleep specialist and author of ‘The Power of When’, told Business Insider about two simple things you should prevent yourself from doing if you want to reduce the amount of time you’re awake after rousing.
The first is simple: don’t look at the time
Dr Breus explains that most people have an irrational fear of not getting enough sleep in order to function. So, when people wake up in the early hours, often their first instinct is to check the time to see how long they’ve got until their alarm sounds.
Basically, just avoid doing this. It’s only going to stress you out – and the key is to relax. Once you get agitated and anxious, you’re not going to do any favours. Try to clear your mind of thoughts of time, and sleep will come.
Don’t go to the bathroom unless you really need to
Obviously, if you really need to go, you’re not going to get back to sleep if you ignore it. But if you can avoid getting up, it’s best to do so, Dr Breus says.
Breus says that you raise your heart rate even by simply sitting up, and that’s bad for rest. You’ve got to be calm, with a low heartbeat, you sleep well. By getting out of bed and tip-toeing along the floor, you’re messing with the relaxed state.
20 ways to sleep well every night
How to get a good night’s rest
Everyone has trouble sleeping now and then. If insomnia or night waking is a problem for you, read on for 20 tried and tested ways to ensure you get a good night’s rest. Set your alarm for 7am. Don’t be tempted to lie in, even if you had a late night. Getting up at the same time each day (and going to bed at roughly the same time each night), helps programme your body to sleep better.
Ban screens from the bedroom
Artificial blue light from screens affects the body’s internal clock and acts as a stimulant. Switch off the TV and don’t use laptops, smartphone or tablet computers an hour before bed.
Have a milky drink
The calcium in milk helps your body to process tryptophan, an amino acid that manufactures sleep-triggering melatonin, while the routine of actually making the drink lets your brain know it’s time for sleep.
Workout early evening
Exercise (enough to get sweaty) helps relieve stress and releases feel-good chemicals. The best time to workout is 4pm-7pm. Any later and your body temperature and adrenaline levels will be too high. In order to feel sleepy, your body temperature needs to be dropping.
Hide your alarm clock
Knowing that you have to get up in a few hours will make you feel anxious, and less able to relax. Don’t watch the minutes go by – hide the alarm clock and you’re more likely to nod off.
Take a bath
Enjoy a long, hot soak in the tub an hour or so before bedtime. The warm water will help to relax you. Add lavender or lilac-scented bath oil to reduce stress and promote relaxation.
Check the temperature
Your bedroom should be comfortably cool, around 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees Celsius). If you feel hot, switch to a lighter duvet or sleep with the window open. It it’s too cold, your body won’t be able to relax as it has to work hard to protect its core temperature.
Block out the noise
If you have problems dropping off but tend to sleep well once you do, try wearing ear plugs. Research shows that unfamiliar sounds during the first and last two hours of sleep can suppress immune system function, even if you don’t wake up.
Change your mattress
It’s hard to enjoy a good night’s sleep on a mattress that’s too soft or too hard. Experts at The Sleep Council in the UK recommend buying a new mattress after seven years – which equates to more than 20,000 hours of use.
Cut back on caffeine
Don’t drink tea or coffee after 2pm. Both are stimulants which interfere with the process of falling asleep. Six hours after your last cup of coffee, half the caffeine will still be in your system. Remember that cola and energy drinks contain caffeine too.
Don’t drink alcohol
Alcohol makes it easier to fall asleep initially but results in poorer quality sleep. Studies suggest that having a drink before bed will cause you to wake up every 90 minutes or so throughout the night.
Research shows that smokers take longer to fall asleep and have more disrupted sleep once they do.
Before you resort to sleeping tablets, try a herbal remedy. Valerian is widely used for insomnia and most effective if taken over a few weeks.
Supplements to try
Hop extract acts as a mild sedative and may help those with busy lives who find it hard to “switch off” at night. You might also like to try magnesium. Known as nature’s tranquillizer, it has a calming effect on the body and may help if you suffer from cramps at night.
Learn to relax
If thoughts of the day make it hard to drop off, try listening to relaxing music, meditating or doing some gentle yoga before bed.
Write down your worries
If you’re going through a difficult time or are busy at work, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Try writing down your worries or making a list of things you need to do. Once you’ve written the list, put it away. Keep going over things won’t help.
Don’t lie awake worrying
If you’ve been awake for a while it’s better to get up and do something rather than lie there worrying that you can’t sleep. Go to another room or read a book (nothing work related) until you feel sleepy again.
Dim the lights
Bright light will wake you up. Dim the lights 30 minutes before bed and don’t switch on the main light (use a low-level night light) if you need to go the toilet during the night.
Try relaxing each body part in turn. Lie on your back, then tense and relax your toes, saying ‘goodnight’ to them, then your calves, legs and so on. Once you get to your head, visualise going into your ‘control room’ and flicking off switches to various parts of your body.
Eat a banana
Bananas contain tryptophan which stimulates the production of melatonin and serotonin in the brain. They also contain magnesium, a natural muscle relaxant