How to Beat Insomnia (2023)
Updated: Mar 6
What is Insomnia?
We all struggle to sleep every now and again. However, for some people this problem is a regular occurrence. Insomnia is the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep during the night on a regular basis. It's a common problem, with nearly a quarter of adults in the UK struggling to fall asleep every single night.
The Effects of Insomnia
Insomnia can be hugely debilitating. Regularly missing out on a good night's sleep can result in numerous physical, mental and overall health problems such as:
decreased ability to deal with stress
poor performance at work/school
poor concentration and memory
increased chance of high blood pressure
poor mood/mood changes
The Ultimate Sleep Checklist
Before seeking outside help from professionals such as clinical hypnotherapists, it is important to think carefully about your sleeping habits. Use the checklist below to see if there are any adjustments that you can make.
Get Your Bedroom Geared up for Sleep
Good Quality Mattress
Good Quality Pillows
Go to Bed at The Same Time Every Night
Late Night Snacks
Organise Your Day
Dim the Lights
Getting into Bed
What to Wear
Read a Good Book
Seek Professional Help for Insomnia
Get Your Bedroom Geared up for Sleep
It sounds obvious, but you'd be surprised just how many people I've spoken with who haven't fully considered how their bedroom is set up and how it affects their sleep. Here's a few pointers:
Clocks. Big, bright clocks that shine the time so brightly that you can see them from space. Well not quite, but you get the idea! You don't need to check how long you have until the alarm sounds EVERY time you stir in the middle of the night. Set your alarm to wake up in the morning and then move the clock so that the time is hidden from where you are sleeping. The reason for this - seeing the time will only serve to keep you awake as it engages your conscious mind, even when you're desperate for sleep. And YES, this especially includes devices such as mobile phones, laptops and tablets (please see below).
Room Temperature. Setting the correct room temperature is essential for a good night's sleep. The biggest mistake that most people make is having the room far too warm at the point in which they go to bed. Try and get the room a little on the cool side before bed so that you can fully appreciate that snuggly duvet or weighted blanket when you first lie down. Sheets that are a little on the cool side may be uncomfortable initially, but your body will soon warm them up as you relax into the bed. Most doctors recommend that you try and get the temperature between 15C and 19C to ensure a comfortable night's sleep.
Blackout Curtains. These can be a game changer for some people, particularly shift workers and people who have bright streetlights near their bedroom windows. Human beings have a very basic programme; sleep when it's dark and wake up when it's light. High quality blackout curtains can encourage the brain to sleep even when the sun is shining brightly outside. Obviously there are plenty of styles to consider, but here's two that I think are worth looking at:
Good Quality Mattress. I know that it sounds bizarre, but many people often spend very little time considering which mattress to buy. Wandering around a shop floor and occasionally flopping onto a mattress to see how it feels is not a great way to ensure high quality sleep for the next 8 years! There's an awful lot to consider before venturing out to find your dream mattress.
Firstly, does it really need to be replaced? Most mattresses have a lifespan of around 8 years. Obvious this is an approximate figure and this will change depending on usage and the quality of the mattress. If your mattress dips in the middle or squeaks when you turn over during the night, it may be time to consider a replacement. Also, noticing that you seem to sleep better when you're in a different bed to your own is a good indication that your current mattress is nearing the end of its life.
Before venturing out to buy a new mattress, think about the following:
Do you sleep on your back, your side or your front?
How firm do you like your mattress?
Do you have aches and pains that you need to consider when purchasing a mattress
How big does the mattress need to be?
Researching and detailing the answers to the questions above will help you to make the correct purchase. Having a clear idea of the sort of mattress you require before putting yourself in the hands of a salesperson is a smart thing to do. Quite simply, it's essential when making a significant purchase such as this.
There are many superb mattresses on the market, but here's a couple of reputable companies that specialise in selling high quality mattresses:
Good Quality Pillows. As with the mattress, a good pillow can transform your sleep and selecting the most appropriate one for you is very important. It is essential to do your research. Here are a few points to consider:
If you sleep on your side, you will find that a high pillow gives you the best chance of a good night's sleep. If you sleep on your back or your front, a flat pillow will be the most appropriate one for you to use.
The two companies that I would look at first would be Soak and Sleep and The White Company
Duvets/Sheets/Gravity Blankets. In most cases, people have a preference for either duvets or blankets. However, Gravity Blankets are a relatively new introduction to the market and are definitely worth considering. They have been proven to help relieve anxiety and reduce the impact of insomnia. I wouldn't look any further than Gravity Blankets . Trust me, you won't be disappointed!
Once you have your bedroom set up for sleep, your attention should then turn to your pre-sleep routines. Some people make the mistake of only turning their attention to getting to sleep once they are in bed. There a several things that you can do beforehand to improve your sleep patterns.
Go to Bed at the Same Time Every Night. I know that this is easier said than done. Shift work, children, socialising all get in the way of trying to go to bed at a regular time. However, it really does have a huge effect on the effectiveness of your bedtime routine. It can really help your brain to know a regular time that you turn off the lights and shut your eyes.
Exercise. There are a huge number of benefits to exercise. However, one of the main benefits is that it can improve your sleep. You don't have to start running marathons to feel the benefit. Even a gentle stroll everyday would help you to drift off. Think about how you can integrate exercise into your daily routine.
Caffeine. We all know that caffeine is a stimulant and can keep you awake. People have different tolerance levels when it comes to caffeine, but as a general rule, you should stop consuming anything containing caffeine by 2pm at the latest. Most people are aware that tea and coffee contain caffeine, but sometimes people fail to look at things like fizzy drinks. Another area that people don't tend to think about is painkillers. Quite often, cold/flu medicines will contain caffeine and so you need to read the packet carefully.
Smoking. There are numerous health risks associated with smoking. Poor sleep patterns can often become a regular part of a smoker's life. As a result, you should do everything you can to give up smoking as soon as possible. If you're having trouble achieving this by yourself, you may wish to seek help to give up smoking.
Late Night Snacks. Consuming food and drink late at night is not conducive to a good night's sleep. Therefore, you should try and finish all food and drink at least two hours before you go to bed. If you feel peckish, try drinking a glass of water instead. It's highly likely that your cravings are as a result of you being dehydrated.
Organise Your Day. This is so simple and highly effective, yet many of us discount it. Before you go to your bedroom, write down a quick list of the things that you've got planned for the following day. In doing this, you'll find that your brain is able to relax much quicker as it no longer has to try and remember what it needs to do in the morning. Writing simple tasks such as 'putting the bins out' can help your brain to drift off.
Dim the Lights. In the build up to bedtime, dim the lights in the area where you spend time. This lets the brain know that it is soon time to sleep and it will act accordingly. If you don't have dimming switches throughout your house, consider purchasing lamps. Lower wattage lightbulbs can be placed in the lamps so that they emit much lower levels of lighting than the main lights. These lamps can then be turned on and the main light switched off in the run-up to bedtime.
Getting into Bed
Once you've geared your bedroom up for sleep and sorted out your pre-sleep routines, you can then turn your attention to what to do when going to bed. Following the guidelines below should help you to get to sleep and stay asleep.
Electronic Devices. This is know a relatively well-known fact, but I am still staggered when people come to me for help with insomnia and tell me about how they take their phone to bed with them. Spending extended periods of time looking at phone/tablet/laptop screens will inhibit sleep. I tell all of my clients to leave their phones/tablets/laptops elsewhere in different rooms. The most common resistance is the explanation of how their alarm is on their phone. There is a simple solution here - get an alarm clock!
What to Wear. Each person is different, but think carefully about what you like to wear to bed. Some people don't like having their arms exposed to cool air. Others prefer to wear no clothes at all. It's all down to personal preference. However, if you're currently not getting a good nights sleep, you may want to have a rethink. Things to consider:
The thickness of clothing (in particular, clothing that makes you too hot can be an issue)
Bed socks. If your feet are prone to getting cold, then it may be as simple as purchasing some bed socks.
Read a Good Book. If I'm going to be honest, even a bad book will help! Reading a book before bedtime is a good way to let your body know that it needs to wind down and relax. Some people find that reading a chapter before turning off the lights is highly effective. Other people (like myself) struggle to finish a single page before nodding off! Please note that I am suggesting reading a book or magazine NOT mindlessly scrolling through messages on your phone. It's also a good idea not to pick up the latest document distributed by your boss.
Pets. Having a pet in your home can be wonderful for improving mental health for all who live in the household. They can help to reduce stress and anxiety as well as providing everyone in the house with unconditional love. As lovely as it may seem to cuddle up in bed with your cat, dog or rabbit (ok maybe not the rabbit), they can actually disrupt your sleep patterns. If you habitually snuggle up to your furry friend, then it may be a good idea to think again.
Seek Professional Help for Insomnia
If you have worked through this checklist and are still finding it difficult to benefit from a high quality sleep, then it may be a good idea to seek professional help. Clinical Hypnotherapy has been proven to help people who are suffering from insomnia. I have had significant success whilst working with people who contact me with sleep problems.
Sometimes, just listening to a relaxation track is enough to enable someone to drift off. Click here to access my FREE hypnosis audio. At other times, people find that accessing online hypnotherapy for insomnia is the best way to deal with their sleep disorder. Hypnotherapy online can be a highly effec