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Why can't I sleep? Challenges & solutions part 1

Not being able to sleep properly can be frustrating but it’s even worse if you’re not sure why it’s happening.

If you have trouble getting to sleep, if you experience poor quality sleep, or you don’t feel fully rested in the morning, there are a number of things you can investigate that could help the situation.

To help you narrow down the areas where you might be able to take action and ‘fix’, we’ve highlighted 14 common barriers to good sleep, along with some suggested solutions.

Use this checklist to identify what may be robbing you of sleep and then take decisive action to remedy the situation as soon as possible.

Identify the issues:

1. Family / partner / children

2. Relationships

3. You have a busy, stressful day. Most days.

4. What you eat

5. What you drink

6. How much you move

7. I can’t fall asleep

8. Room temperature

9. Keeping things tidy

10. Technology

11. Noise

12. Light

13. Coping strategies

14. A growing family

Read on to find out what action you can take…

1) Family / partner / children

The behavior of other people is one of the greatest barriers to good sleep. The issue might be that your partner has a slightly (or dramatically) different body clock to you, or that your children do. Maybe you disagree about bedtime routines, or have different requirements when it comes to sleeping environment and preparation for good sleep.

In an ideal world, your sleep area will be clear and quiet and your state of mind will be calm and relaxed, all of which might seem like a bit of a challenge when there’s more than just you and your own needs to take account of!

What can you do?

It’s unlikely that your partner or your children will have exactly the same relationship with sleep as you. The clearer you are on what you require, the easier it will be to communicate this to others. Work with them to establish what they need to help them achieve a great night’s rest, and then you can all put together a routine that suits everyone involved. It might not be perfect for everyone every single night, but if you can balance it so that all of your needs are met over the course of each few days or each week, your household will become a happier place all round.

Make good sleep a family priority

It’s likely that there are elements of all of the areas below that will affect other family members and have a knock on effect on you and your sleep. So, as you read through, don’t just think about what you can change in your routine, think also about the specific changes others can make that will improve their sleep patterns and benefit the entire household.

2) Relationships

Beyond the family, your wider relationships and daily social interactions can have a dramatic effect on your sleep routines. Challenging conversations, unfinished debates and unresolved disagreements can all distract your thoughts and prevent you sleeping well.

What can you do?

Take control of when you interact with certain characters, as well as how you deal with them. Plan conversations with a clear purpose in mind and get familiar with what it is about specific relationships that disrupts your day and can affect your sleep. It might be that some people don’t share your view on how to get things done. Some people are too talkative, others hard to get anything out of. Sometimes people just don’t see eye to eye.

You must accept that you won’t get on like a house on fire with everyone you have professional or even social relationships with and, in reality, you don’t need to. But you also don’t want relationships that you view as tricky or demanding to take over your day and negatively affect your sleep.

The key is to be proactive with all relationships. Manage your expectations and be clear on the desired outcome of every interaction knowing that you want to step away from all contact with others safe in the knowledge that nothing has happened that will upset your mood of the moment or that will need revisiting later.

Finally, include something in your evening routine or pre-sleep routine that helps distract you from any thoughts of other people – work or social relationships – that you suspect might keep you awake.

3) You have a busy, stressful day. Most days

Most people like to be busy, as long as the busyness remains within acceptable limits. The same goes for stress levels – a little bit of pressure can help us get the best out of ourselves but that doesn’t necessarily mean that more pressure is better.

These days we all have situations when things get a little pressured leading to moments where stress hormones begin flying around your body and your mind is whizzing. Experiencing this stress response is fine occasionally but if it happens too often, or you don’t know how to ‘come down’ from this heightened state of readiness for action, it can result in difficulty relaxing, unwinding and falling asleep.

What can you do?

Firstly, don’t let stress build up. It pays to deal with things that happen during the day as they happen. Take regular short breaks to think about what’s going on and to process your actions and reactions.

Avoid sprinting from one thing to the next without giving yourself any breathing space between activities or there’s a danger that you’ll end up trying to process everything that’s happened throughout the whole day right at the last minute when your mind should actually be relaxing and preparing for sleep.

Keeping up with the day only takes moments here and there but it can make all the difference to your ability to sleep for the entire night. It won’t happen by accident though – you need to make a proactive plan for moments of down time each day.

Don’t be alarmed by this thought – some people are terrified by the idea of taking breaks in the day – instead be reassured that a few moments of concerted thinking each day will provide you with hours of more focused time over the course of the week.

4) What you eat

Many of the food products that we come across each day either stimulate our system more than we need, or they create a heavy workload for our body to process them fully. Either situation can cause physical disruption and stress for the body when we consume them, and difficulty sleeping at night as our body tries to re-establish a stable environment. For most people it’s a combination of the two issues that can really cause problems.

What can you do?

There are three factors to consider with your food routine in relation to sleep: what you eat, when you eat it and how much you consume for any specific meal or snack and over the course of the day.

In order for you to establish which particular elements of your daily routine you might wish to change, we suggest you keep a food diary for a few days to monitor exactly what’s going on, paying particular attention to how you feel before and after you eat each meal or snack, and how you sleep over the course of the week.

Read part 2 here.



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