We’ve spent most of this month talking about how important sleep is, but that information isn’t particularly helpful on a night when you just can’t sleep, no matter how hard you try! Some will try counting sheep, others binge Netflix or just lay in bed getting more and more frustrated. But are any of these popular choices actually going to help you get any shut-eye before your 9am meeting? Here are 7 of the worst things people do when they can’t sleep, and what you should try instead…
Read Something Thrilling
Picking up your favourite thriller or anything with a gripping plotline is not going to help you drift off anytime soon! And definitely, do not read anything on a backlit kindle or tablet!
Instead: pick up something that you’ve read a hundred times before, or pick something up that you keep losing interest in. Alternatively, plug in an audiobook with a soothing voice. Ironically, “Why We Sleep” by Matthew Walker always seems to send us straight to sleep!
Stay in Bed
If, after 20 minutes, you haven’t been able to calm your mind enough to fall asleep, don’t stay in bed – you’ll only drive yourself mad.
Instead: stay in bed for the first 20 minutes or so and attempt to calm your mind. After that, get out of bed and do something calming, like reading, drawing or a mundane, repetitive task (but not in bright light... more on this later). When you feel sleepy, only then is it time to return to bed.
It’s easier said than done but worrying about sleep will only keep you awake for longer. Don't add any more stress or anxiety to your plate - it's likely that this is what had you tossing and turning in the first place!
Instead: try to accept the fact that everyone has a bad night’s sleep every so often. Distract your mind by thinking about the steps of a mundane task, or get up and do a relaxing activity.
Turn the Lights on
Light reduces the amount of melatonin you produce, which is the hormone that regulates your sleep/wake cycle. In basic terms, it tells your brain that it’s time to wake up... not what you want when you’re already feeling restless!
Instead: If you want to get up and do something, pop on a night light (we love using our Lumie alarm clock for this), otherwise use a dimmer light on a low setting or even just light a couple of candles.
The blue light that is emitted from phones, laptops, tv’s and other devices, also has a drastic effect on the melatonin your body produces. Not to mention how all those notifications and overload of information will fire up your brain! Even if you manage to fall asleep, it’s likely that your sleep quality will be poor.
Instead: try something more relaxing, like meditating, reading or listening to gentle music.
Eat Something Heavy
Tossing and turning all night can be hungry work! When you’re up until the early hours, this is when the midnight munchies are likely to kick in… but it takes time and energy to digest food and this is likely to disturb your sleep.
Instead: if you can’t sleep from hunger, don’t let this make you suffer through the night. Try something light, such as a handful of nuts, a protein shake or a mug of hot milk!
Watch the Clock
Watching the clock and doing the mental maths of how much sleep you “could” get will only cause you more stress and derail your efforts to snooze.
Instead: turn around the clock so you can’t see it and avoid checking the time. Instead, simply go back to sleep whenever you feel tired, not when you think you "need" to.