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If you have difficulty falling asleep in the evening, there are lots of things you can try. Here are some tips on how to fall asleep more easily and get a good night's sleep.
It's wonderful to have a good rest, and a proper night's sleep works wonders for our physical and mental well-being. The body and the brain get a chance to recover and process the events of the day. Adults sleep six to ten hours per day. Unfortunately, sleep problems are one of the most common health issues.
It's not such a big problem if you only have trouble sleeping every now and then. You may feel tired the next day, but soon you'll catch up on your sleep and feel more rested again. However, if you don't sleep much night after night and find it difficult to concentrate and cope with your daily tasks at work, start falling asleep at meetings or feel emotionally unbalanced, it could mean that you're not getting enough sleep.
A good bedtime routine starts during the day. The body and brain sometimes need a little help sticking to the circadian rhythm - the biological clock controlled by hormones, light and darkness. So take advantage of the sunlight during the day. Plan a walk during your lunch break, or to and from work, so that you make sure you're outside for a while when it's light.
Regular physical activity helps you sleep better and reduces the time you need to fall asleep in the evening, according to research.
Many people look forward to drinking coffee every day but caffeine really bites back for some people when it comes to sleeping at night. According to recent recommendations, we should avoid drinking caffeine six hours before bedtime as it takes between three and five hours for the body to break down the caffeine. That's why it's best to drink coffee in the morning and before lunch, and try decaffeinated alternatives in the afternoon, and especially in the evening if you want to fall asleep more easily. Good alternatives include herbal teas like chamomile, mint or ginger. Red tea (rooibos) is also caffeine free.
If you have difficulty falling asleep at night, it might be a good idea to speak to your doctor about prescription medicines containing melatonin. Melatonin is a naturally-occurring hormone found in the body. It's produced in the pineal gland, or epiphysis, which is located in the brain.
Melatonin helps you regulate your circadian rhythm and is the hormone that makes you sleepy. The secretion of melatonin is controlled by light and darkness and is disturbed by changes in summer and winter time or by jet lag. When it's light outside the production of melatonin ceases. When darkness falls it increases again, making you feel sleepy and the body understands that it's time to sleep. Medication with melatonin is available on prescription only. It comes in slow-release tablets and a liquid.
To have a healthy evening routine is to be kind to oneself. Follow a clear routine because the brain likes structure. Regular times for food and sleep will help you deal with stress. This creates security and predictability for adults with sleep difficulties and children who take a long time to unwind in the evenings.
For young children, it pays to stick to a strict sleep schedule where mealtimes, bedtimes and playtimes are planned. This way the child gets used to the fact that bedtime is always at the same time.
You will sleep worse and wake more often if you drink alcohol before bedtime. This is because the alcohol in your blood increases your pulse, which makes the body feel stressed and disrupts your sleep. High alcohol consumption is a common cause of sleeplessness. Alcohol also makes you wake up early.
Many sleep problems are caused by stress. A warm bath can be calming and relaxing.
Read a book instead of surfing on your phone. If you really find it hard to fall asleep, make sure the book is boring, and not the latest gripping crime novel that will keep you awake late into the night.
If you often lie awake worrying about the next day, write everything down on a piece of paper. It's often easier to let go of your worries this way.
An exception to the phone ban in the bedroom is if you use a meditation app or sleep app to relax. There's a large selection available with guided meditations, mindfulness exercises, calm music or bedtime stories for adults. The calmer and more boring the better.
Skip night lights, mobile phones and tablets in the bedroom. Make sure you have blackout curtains and that it's as quiet as possible. Lower the temperature in your bedroom, or sleep with the window open.
A weighted duvet is a duvet with sewn-in weights that creates a light and comfortable pressure against the body. When the body is exposed to this type of pressure, it causes feel-good hormones to be released and stress levels to drop. You feel calm and secure, which makes it easier to fall asleep and sleep well.
Many people sleep best on their side. This keeps the airways open and you avoid snoring, which makes it easier for both you and the person you're sleeping with. However, experts recommend sleeping on the back, since the body weight is balanced more naturally that way. It's important to ensure that the spine can rest naturally and that the back has enough support. If you find it hard to get in a comfortable sleeping position, you can use a pillow as a support.
You might need to adjust your sleeping position if you're pregnant or have pain in any part of your body.
As we get older, it becomes more likely that we will wake up during the night. We sleep more lightly, but that's nothing to worry about- the body just needs less sleep as you get older.
Snoring is one reason that many people wake up during the night. People who snore a lot often have breathing difficulties which can cause tiredness during the day. If you snore and are overweight, it can be a good idea to try to lose weight. This often results in less snoring. If you have any concerns, contact your healthcare provider.
Everyone suffers from nightmares at some point. They occur more often during periods of stress or emotional strain and the most common nightmares mimic situations where we feel threatened. Children and young people often have nightmares and suffer from night terrors, because young children are developing so much all the time and their lives are so eventful. If you find it hard to fall asleep after a nightmare, it can be soothing to listen to a meditation or bedtime story, if you used to listen to one to fall asleep. Try to keep the room dark and calm and let yourself be lulled back to sleep.
If your thoughts are still racing, try doing a simple relaxation exercise in bed.
If your child suffers from nightmares and night terrors, talk calmly to them, hug them and show them that you're there for them.
Sleep can be split up into four stages: falling asleep, base sleep, deep sleep and dream sleep (or REM sleep). Deep sleep is important for recovery, as the body's immune system is activated and the risk of getting sick is reduced.
However, even if you sleep seven or eight hours during the night, you can sometimes wake up feeling tired. This can happen if you are woken up during the deep sleep stage. Nowadays, there are apps, such as Sleep Cycle, that keep track of how you sleep and wake you up during the phase when your sleep is lightest and it's easier to wake up.
Let in some natural daylight, as that helps your brain realise it's time to wake up. The production of the sleep hormone melatonin decreases as the night draws to a close.
Give yourself time to stretch in bed and wake up slowly. Tell yourself something nice. It's time for a new day!