Sleep is a necessity and although we can go without it for a while, it eventually becomes as important to our health and well-being as food, air and water. If you suffer from insomnia or just have trouble sleeping, some tips may help you to get a good night’s sleep.
What causes insomnia?
A simple description of insomnia is that it happens when the part of the brain used for thinking does not turn off and you can’t fall asleep. It is the body’s way of saying that something isn’t right. Things that may cause insomnia include stress, too much caffeine, depression, financial worries, changes in work shifts and pain from medical problems, such as arthritis.
People who have insomnia may not be able to fall asleep, or they may wake up during the night and not be able to get back to sleep, or they may wake up too early in the morning.
Is insomnia a serious problem?
Insomnia in itself is not a serious health problem, but it can make you feel tired, depressed and irritable. It can also cause a lack of concentration during the day which can lead to serious mistakes and accidents.
Tips for a good night’s sleep
There are many simple steps you can take to help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep. Try the following:
- Minimise noise with earplugs and minimise light with window blinds, heavy curtains, or an eye mask. Do not turn on bright lights if you need to get up at night; use a small night-light instead.
- Avoid large meals within two hours of bedtime. A glass of milk or a light snack is a good choice if you are hungry before bedtime. Milk contains the amino acid L-tryptophan, which is known to help people go to sleep.
- Get aerobic exercise during the day to reduce stress hormones, but avoid anything too strenuous within three hours of bedtime. Regular exercise may promote deeper sleep.
- Go to bed at a regular time and avoid napping late in the afternoon. If you need to, take a brief nap for 10 to 15 minutes about eight hours after you got up.
- Stop working at any task an hour before bedtime to calm mental activity.
- At bedtime, keep your mind off worries or things that upset you; avoid discussing emotional issues in bed.
- Consider having pets stay outside of your sleeping area. Having a pet in bed may cause you to wake up if you have allergies or if the pet moves around.
- Make sure your bedroom is well ventilated and at a comfortable temperature.
- Keep your bedroom for making love and sleeping only. If you can’t sleep or if you wake up in the middle of the night, go into another room and read a book or watch television until you feel sleepy.
- Learn a relaxation technique such as progressive muscle relaxation and practise it in bed.
- Nicotine is a stimulant and should be avoided, particularly near bedtime and upon night awakenings. Stimulants may interfere with sleep.
- Caffeine should be discontinued at least four to six hours before bedtime. Caffeine is a stimulant that is present in coffee, coke, tea, chocolate and various over-the-counter medications. Consider gradually reducing the amount of caffeine you consume to avoid withdrawal symptoms such as headaches.
- Alcohol is a depressant and may help you fall asleep, but the subsequent metabolism that clears it from your body when you are sleeping causes a withdrawal syndrome. This withdrawal causes one to wake up and is often associated with nightmares and sweats.
If you are still having trouble sleeping after trying some of these suggestions, tell your doctor about it. There may be an underlying medical condition that is causing your sleep problem.
Our Employee Wellbeing Programme (EWP) is available 24 hours a day if you want to know more about insomnia. Call us on our EWP number or email us at
var prefix = 'ma' + 'il' + 'to';
var path = 'hr' + 'ef' + '=';
var addy52858 = 'help' + '@';
addy52858 = addy52858 + 'lifeassist' + '.' + 'co' + '.' + 'za';