Struggling to sleep? Six tips to help you doze off

Alarm clock in bed

Need a hand nodding off? Night owl Zoe McMillan shares her tips on getting back to sleep

World Sleep Day is on Friday 19 March, but for some people getting to sleep is a nightmare.

If you're among those who regularly experience a lack of sleep, you'll know that it can quickly become a big problem.

Whether you are studying, at work or trying to socialise, your mood will be dampened, your temper quickened and your cognitive abilities dramatically reduced.

This video explains some of the benefits to getting a good night's sleep.

I've struggled with insomnia for more than 10 years, so I've been there and have had plenty of time to get better at nodding off. Here are some of the things that have worked for me.

1. Avoid caffeine at all costs

Personally I don’t drink coffee as (unlike most people) I can’t stand the smell of it. However, I am hopelessly addicted to fizzy drinks and I've noticed that the amount of Coke I drink in a day can massively affect my sleep at night. 

If sleep is proving elusive, start by cutting out any caffeine at all in the six hours before you go to bed. You might want to go even further and avoid caffeine from lunchtime onwards. It takes time for your body to break it down - potentially as much as 14 hours.

2. Make your bed heavenly

I have often found myself tossing and turning at night, finding it completely impossible to get comfortable. 

You might not be able to change your bed (the memory of my bed at uni still haunts me) but it is worth investing in the bits you can change.

Try a mattress topper, for a start. You'll be able to get one of these from supermarkets for around £20 and they can make a huge difference.

Need more comfort? How about a super-soft set of quilted sheets, pillows that are comfy and supportive and a huge squishy duvet?

If you associate your bed with comfort and relaxation, your mind will automatically start to unwind as soon as you lay down. 

3. Routine, routine, routine

Forget about lavender oil and warm bubble baths, routine is the real secret to beating sleeping difficulties. It might seem blindingly obvious, but once I started working a 9-5 my body clock was forced to assume a pattern.

Student life can be tough for keeping to a routine - especially if you're at university where the mixture of late nights and afternoon lectures can lead to lengthy lie-ins.

Set your alarm for the same time every morning and force yourself out of bed. You will thank yourself when you drop off to sleep peacefully that night. 

This video has lots of tips for establishing a good sleep routine.

4. Detox from your day

One of the most common reasons for sleep disorders is stress. Whatever level of study you're at, there are going to be times when you're feelings stressed - whether it's from essay deadlines, relationship conflicts or upcoming assessments.

When you've got tons to do, it might seem productive to work through the night. But you'll be much more effective if you can get some sleep instead.

Try to set aside some time for yourself to wind down before bed and detox from your day.

If you’re feeling worried or stressed, grab a piece of paper and scribble down everything that is on your mind. If it’s on the paper it’s not trapped in your mind. A lot of people worry while they are lying in bed trying to sleep - so keep a notepad handy.

5. Getting stuck into an audiobook

This is a new discovery that was recommended to me by a fellow troubled sleeper and I have found it to be a godsend. My favourite audiobook to listen to in bed is I Partridge: We Need to Talk About Alan which I find perfect for nodding off.

Popping on a podcast is also great: focusing on something in this way can take your mind off any worrying you might otherwise be doing while trying to sleep.

6. Unwind with meditation

When you feel like you've tried everything, I highly recommend YouTube for a bit of beginner’s meditation.

You don’t need to be sitting cross-legged in a temple in Bali for meditation to help you, simply lie down in bed, make yourself comfortable and play the video from your phone.

Absorbing yourself in the process of relaxing all the muscles of your body helps you gradually shut off and fall into a relaxing, natural sleep.

Try this guided meditation for better sleep.

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