Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night, and can’t get back to sleep? Or do you have difficulty falling asleep? Do you wake up in the morning before work and wonder how you’re going to get through the day? You’re not alone. Hundreds and thousands of people around the world have similar difficulties.

Medication works for many people, but sleeping pills should only be used in the short term.  Long-term use can lead to dependence on them.

Lots of research has been done on how to improve sleep without the need for medication.  Here are five simple tips to help you get a better night’s sleep:

  1. Set a time aside each day, when you are feeling calm, where you can write down your worries, and sort out solutions to them. This way, if you wake up in the night, you can go back to sleep knowing that you’ve already done everything you can to solve your problems.
  2. Have a wind down routine before bed for at least 15 minutes, to allow your body to release the stress of the day. You can do a short breathing exercise (see below), some mindful yoga or just sip some non-caffeinated tea slowly, calmly and mindfully.
  3. Try and go to bed at the same time every night, but don’t beat yourself up if this doesn’t happen. Just start again afresh the next day.
  4. Try and stay off caffeine or nicotine for at least four hours before bed.  These substances get your adrenaline pumping, and keep you wired and awake.  You might fall asleep okay, but they’ll reduce the quality of sleep and cause you to wake up in the night.
  5. Avoid taking naps before bed.  Ask a family member to wake you up if they see you falling asleep in front of the TV, or elsewhere.  This way, you are actually tired when you go to bed.

Let me know how you get on with these simple tips. They really work if you do them regularly!

Here’s a short mindfulness exercise to help with your wind down.

Find a quiet place in your house. Sit in a comfy chair with your feet flat on the floor. Gently place your hands in your lap. Keep your eyes open and gently focus on the carpet or floor in front of you.  Bring your attention to your breath. Notice yourself breathing into your lungs calmly and softly.  As you breathe out, imagine the stress and tension of the day leaving your body.  Do three breaths in this way – breathing in calm, breathing out stress and tension.  As you do this, allow your lips to form a half smile.

Notice any tight or tense spots in your body. Imagine yourself breathing slowly and gently into each spot one by one, breathing in calm, breathing out stress and tension.  Do this for three breaths, or longer if you prefer.  Slowly bring your attention back into the room, and you’re ready to gently head to bed.