Why can't I sleep? Challenges & solutions part 2


Continuing our series of sleep challenges and what to do about them, we look at issues 5-9:


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


5) What you drink

Whether it be coffees, teas, water, juices, alcohol, energy drinks or sports drinks; the liquids we consume can impact on our sleep. Too much sugar or too much caffeine in our drinks will over stimulate the system, and drinking liquids close to bedtime can stop you sleeping or wake you up in the night to go to the loo.


Alcohol may help you drop off but can also compromise the quality of your sleep by limiting your ability to get into the deeper stages of sleep.


What can you do?

  • Stay hydrated but spread your water intake over the entire day

  • Aim for a maximum of 2 caffeinated drinks per day whether this is coffee, tea or fizzy drinks

  • Drink alcohol with food rather than on its own and experiment with the alcohol intake that helps you relax without disrupting your sleep. This could be 1 or 2 drinks in the evening with at least 2 or 3 evenings without alcohol per week. Many people report better sleep by avoiding alcohol

  • Don’t drink anything, not even herbal teas of cocoa, too close to bedtime or you will risk being woken up by your bladder

6) How much you move

Getting active should tire you out and help you sleep but it pays to be selective about the activities you choose and when you take part in these activities.


What can you do?

Read the information sheet on ‘Sleep & Exercise’ and plan your weekly activities carefully to boost your energy when you need it and to help you relax and sleep well when appropriate.


7) I can’t fall asleep

If you can’t fall asleep it’s likely that your mind is still in a state more suited to daytime functioning than it is for a relaxing night of rest. It’s not possible to relax and fall asleep at the same pace as you run your daily routine so you must find ways to make the transition from awake and busy to calm and relaxed.


What can you do?

Make sure there is a clear process to move you from your daily state of readiness to your nighttime state of relaxation. Practice and refine your optimum pre-sleep routine. It’ll look something like this. Working backwards from your chosen sleep time:

  • Set aside time to read / listen to music / relax. Think about what you read / 
listen to. Don’t pick anything too stimulating 


  • Turn technology / TV off 


  • Eat your last meal / snack of the day 


  • Complete your final exercise / activity for the day 


  • Close down your personal / family routine for the day 


  • Set time aside for evening tasks – calls, email, socialising, research, 
domestic chores, fun stuff 


  • Close down your work routine for the day 


Make sure that you:

  • Allocate guideline times for each part of your pre-sleep routine that suit
your circumstances

  • Take your ideal pre-sleep routine with you wherever you travel, whether this be for work or for pleasure. What works at home will, for the most part, work elsewhere. The reason people struggle to sleep in hotels or strange beds has as much to do with the disruption of their pre-sleep routine as it is with the change in environment. You may need to adapt your slightly for each environment you travel to but avoid adopting a completely different approach when away from home. Consistency is key to maintaining a balanced sleep routine in the long term.

  • Be realistic and take account of others. Knowing your ideal pre-sleep routine is one thing, putting it into practice is another. If circumstances or people around you dictate that you can’t run your pre-sleep routine in its entirety, don’t let this affect you negatively – getting frustrated is the thing that’s most likely to keep you awake – but instead follow the elements of your routine that you can control and chances are you’ll get to sleep just fine. 



8) Room temperature

Individuals experience temperature in different ways. Ideal room temperature for sleeping is between 18-22 degrees celcius. That’s all very well in theory but you only need to share a room with someone with a different take on the ideal temperature to you once or twice to realise how disruptive the wrong temperature can be. You’ll also have experienced hot summer nights or hotel rooms where the temperature seems to be everything but what you want it to be so you know that getting the right temperature to sleep can be a minefield.


What can you do?

Getting warmer in bed is relatively straightforward – pyjamas, bedsocks, extra blankets and a hot water bottle should do the trick. Cooling things down can be more tricky. You can try avoiding hot snacks and drinks too close to bedtime and also


observe a clear wind-down process before you fall asleep to ensure you’re relaxed and your body temperature is as low as it can be.


Avoid exercising and getting hot this way too close to bedtime. If you share a bed with someone who disagrees with you dramatically on temperature you may need to consider separate mattresses and bed linen.


9) Keeping things tidy

Physical clutter can prevent you from clearing your head and falling asleep effectively. If your sleep area is untidy you may find it more difficult to sleep well.


What can you do?

Put your clothes away – in the drawers or wardrobe and avoiding the ‘floordrobe’. Straighten up furniture, clear away clutter, arrange paperwork in an organised pile, ideally outside of your bedroom. Step outside the room and come back in. If something messy catches your eye, tidy it up straight away.


Read part 3 here.

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