Get up if you can't sleep

Image of Professor Colin Espie
by Professor Colin Espie

Despite the best planning in the world, sometimes sleep just won't come. Or you find yourself suddenly awake in the middle of the night, staring at the ceiling.

At times like this, when you're awake for more than about quarter of an hour, the best thing you can do is get up and out of your bedroom. This way you make sure your bedroom remains a place for sleep, and is more likely to trigger a rapid “sleep response” when you do go to bed.

It can be a daunting task to get out of a warm bed during the night, so make it easier by preparing for these wakings. Leave the heating on, and your favorite book out in case you wake. Prepare a comfy chair in the living room, so that if you wake you can go into autopilot and head straight there.

Take your time to relax doing something you enjoy, and only when you feel sleepy (nodding off, yawning, your eyes starting to itch) should you return to bed. This should mean you're more likely to get to sleep quickly, rather than lying awake, staring at the ceiling and winding yourself up even further.