14 steps to better sleep

Trying but failing to sleep when you need to is frustrating. Here's how to combat insomnia.

23 March 2015
by Francois Gallet

If age-related insomnia is having a debilitating impact on your life, you’re better off seeking the help of a professional than navigating the territory alone. However, adopting good “sleep hygiene” can go a long way to help. Experts recommend the following habits.

1. Stick to a regular sleep schedule.

Go to bed and wake up at about the same time each night and morning.

2. Sleep when you’re tired.

Make sure that your bedtime is a time when you feel sleepy. If you go to bed too soon, you may have trouble falling asleep.

3. Don’t nap.

It can disrupt your normal sleep cycles.

4. Avoid alcohol before bedtime. 

Although alcohol can induce sleep, it actually disturbs sleep significantly the rest of the night, even in young adults.

5. Avoid stimulants.

Caffeine, nicotine and medications such as steroids and some asthma treatments – six hours before bedtime (but always check this with your doctor first).

6. Get some sunlight exposure in the latter part of the day.

7. Don’t eat before sleep. 

Avoid going to sleep on either a very full or empty stomach.

8. Get your heart pumping. 

Regular moderate exercise can be helpful but avoid vigorous exercise before bedtime.

9. Make your bedroom a “quiet room”. 

Don’t watch TV in your bedroom, use it for quiet reading and sleeping.

10. Turn off the blue lights.

There is a correlation between the use of smartphones or tablets in the evening and higher sleep disruptions. The blue-enriched light emitted has been shown to increase alertness and decrease sleepiness, cautions Dr Karine Scheuermaier, head of the Wits Sleep Laboratory.

11. Get into the mood.

Establish relaxing before-bed routines, like taking a bath followedby some light reading.

12. Avoid troubling stimulation before bedtime. 

Violence in the newspapers or on television can be disturbing.

13. Try relaxation techniques. 

Deep breathing or meditation before bed can help.

14. Come to terms with it.

Accepting that your sleep patterns have changed and working with the change, rather than worrying about it, can also help, suggests Dr Alison Bentley. Some elderly people go to bed earlier and sleep for a few hours then wake up and stay up for a few.

Speak to your Clicks Pharmacist for assistance with insomnia.