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Most of us have the occasional bad night but for some people a poor night’s sleep is a regular occurrence. There is very little worse than feeling wide awake at night, watching the hours tick by and knowing that we have to go to work in the morning. So, is there anything we can do to sleep better? There are some things we can try.

Unresolved Problems Very few of us don’t have any problems and going to bed thinking about them it can cause wakefulness and disturb our sleep. If possible it’s best to try to resolve issues before going to bed; if not we can agree with ourselves to shelve them until tomorrow. Some problems don’t have immediate or easy solutions but simply deciding on a course of action or devising a plan can help to put the problem aside just for the night.

Being Busy Most people lead busy lives these days and one thing that can disturb sleep is the feeling that life is out of control. Many people find it helps to make a ‘to do’ list of the most urgent matters so that they can then stop worrying about forgetting to do something. All the worrying in the world isn’t going to create more time but a good night’s sleep helps us feel able to cope better.

Anger Arguments are common causes for staying awake. If at all possible it’s best to try to resolve any differences before bedtime so that we don’t go to bed feeling angry. If that’s not possible it may be helpful to decide to try to put things right the next day. Then the matter can be put aside so that sleep will come more easily. Some people find writing about their anger helpful to get it off their chest; then the writing can be destroyed to symbolise putting the anger aside for the night. Harbouring anger and bitterness, and deciding to be unforgiving, is unhealthy no matter how outraged we feel. Being forgiving isn’t always easy but it can set us free.

Snoring Snoring is another common cause of not being able to sleep well. A snoring partner can keep us awake or can wake us in the night. One possible step to consider is asking him/her to see a GP as there is sometimes a medical solution. Some people find it helpful to wear earplugs. Others occasionally catch up on sleep by moving into a separate room for the night, as a last resort, but it’s worth exploring other options first.

Falling Asleep Before Bedtime It’s possible to get into a vicious cycle of falling asleep in the evening only to find that we don’t feel sleepy at night. It can be helpful to change routine and get active in the evenings, so as not to fall asleep, just until a good pattern of sleep is restored.

Late Night TV and Electronic Devices Bright TV screens, mobile phones and tablets are among the devices that can delay sleep. If used in bed these devices can cause sleep difficulties for partners too. It’s best to put electronic devices away about an hour before going to sleep.

Chronic Pain Some people are unfortunate enough to suffer from chronic pain that disturbs their sleep. Discussing pain relief with a GP can be helpful as there are a number of options and they don’t all involve medication; for example, acupuncture, osteopathy or physiotherapy is sometimes available. CBT can be helpful for people who become depressed as a result of suffering from chronic pain. Some people advocate alternate ice and heat. Sometimes getting out of bed for a short time can relieve stiffness and make going back to sleep easier, especially if combined with some form of pain relief.

Alcohol and Caffeine Alcohol and caffeine are stimulants that can make sleeping well unlikely. Alcohol may make people feel sleepy initially but the sleepiness often wears off and then becomes a stimulant. It’s what we do on a regular basis that counts; most of us enjoy a few drinks now and then.

Turning Down the Lights Believe it or not turning down the lights about an hour before bedtime can fool our bodies into believing it’s time to go to sleep. This is a good time to turn off the TV and put devices away. Instead a relaxing bath, listening to calming music, meditation and relaxation techniques are good for promoting sleep. Exercise is another activity that produces a feeling of wellbeing and promotes sleep.

Room Temperature Feeling too hot or too cold can delay or disturb sleep so room temperature and bedding are factors to be considered. A comfortable, supportive mattress and the kind of pillows we use can also make a difference.

This is by no means a comprehensive list but I hope some of you will find this blog helpful and informative. Some of the above may seem obvious but it’s important to give ourselves the optimum chance of getting good quality sleep. Feedback is always helpful and ideas for future blogs are always welcome.

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