Help me sleep

Image of Dr Simon Kyle
By Dr Simon Kyle

You're not alone in looking for help to sleep. In fact, 1 in 3 of us will experience sleep problems at some point in our lives. These may be temporary sleep disturbance associated with stress, but for some poor sleep becomes an established pattern, night on night for years or even decades. You might start to think you have lost the knack of sleeping well but you might just need a little help to get your sleep and wakefulness cycles back on track.

Many poor sleepers have an unpredictable sleeping pattern, meaning that they live in a state of uncertainty about the night ahead. The good news is that sleep, as a natural bodily process, can be effectively improved using both cognitive (mental) and behavioral techniques, or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

Here is our quick guide to helping yourself sleep well:

Don't think about not sleeping
The majority of advice on improving your sleep will tell you not to focus on the fact that you're awake when you should be sleeping and, whilst this may be correct, many people struggle to put this into practice.

It is likely that not being able to 'shut down' or 'turn off' your mind once in bed will be a familiar experience to most of us. In fact, respondents to the Great British Sleep Survey revealed the so-called 'racing mind' to be that most frequent cause of their sleeplessness.

Whether you find yourself thinking about past or future events, or even trivial things that hold little importance, you may find getting up and out of bed does more for your sleep than lying in bed, staring at the ceiling. Sometimes, giving up on trying to sleep, as contradictory as it sounds, can be more productive and far less frustrating.

Shift your thoughts away from not sleeping and create a plan which you will follow if you cannot sleep, or you wake during the night.

Relax the body and mind
There are different types of relaxation, but broadly, each aims to reduce both muscle tension and/or mental arousal.

There is the relaxation that we get from active pursuits: 'high energy' relaxation, if you like, where we burn up physical and mental stress. Then there is more passive relaxation, which is like 'letting go' rather than burning up. To be a good 'all-rounder' at relaxing it's good to have skills in all aspects!

People with sleep problems often have difficulty with the passive approach to relaxation, the letting-go bit. It's so important with sleep that we learn to let it happen and not try to force it.

Invest in your bedroom
Your bedroom should be somewhere you look forward to being each night so it is important that you spend time making it a restful, comfortable place to be.

A bed and bedding may not be things you consider worthy of investment but they can have a huge impact on the quality of your sleep. Of course, personal preference will play a large part in what bedding is right for you, so the key is in experimentation!

Filed under: Sleep Tips