If you have difficulty falling asleep, a regular bedtime routine will help you wind down and prepare for bed.
Few people manage to stick to strict bedtime routines. This is not much of a problem for most people, but for people with insomnia, irregular sleeping hours are unhelpful.
Your routine depends on what works for you, but the most important thing is working out a routine and sticking to it.
Sleep at regular times
First of all, keep regular sleeping hours. This programmes the brain and internal body clock to get used to a set routine.
Most adults need between 6 and 9 hours of sleep every night. By working out what time you need to wake up, you can set a regular bedtime schedule.
It is also important to try and wake up at the same time every day. While it may seem like a good idea to try to catch up on sleep after a bad night, doing so on a regular basis can also disrupt your sleep routine.
Make sure you wind down
Winding down is a critical stage in preparing for bed. There are lots of ways to relax:
- a warm bath (not hot) will help your body reach a temperature that's ideal for rest
- writing "to do" lists for the next day can organise your thoughts and clear your mind of any distractions
- relaxation exercises, such as light yoga stretches, help to relax the muscles. Do not exercise vigorously, as it will have the opposite effect
- relaxation CDs work by using a carefully narrated script, gentle hypnotic music and sound effects to relax you
- reading a book or listening to the radio relaxes the mind by distracting it
- there are a number of apps designed to help with sleep. See the NHS Apps Library
- avoid using smartphones, tablets or other electronic devices for an hour or so before you go to bed as the light from the screen on these devices may have a negative effect on sleep
If you need more ideas, you can get help and advice from a GP.
The sleepstation website also provides a range of useful articles and resources designed to aid sleep.
You should also contact your GP if you have insomnia that lasts for more than 4 weeks.