Sometimes it’s really hard impossible to get a good nights sleep.

You do all the right things; you wind down before you go to bed, you read something that’s not stressful, you practice good habits like turning off all screens, including television, at least an hour before you go to bed, you  have a warm shower and you listen to relaxing music or read a good book, etcetera.

You might fall asleep all right then you find yourself awake in the wee small hours and that’s the worst thing. You think its not morning – why am I awake. So what’s the thing to do?

What we know is that worrying about it makes the problem worse.

So here are a few tips that sometimes help and the thing that I know is that depending on why you’re awake the solutions can be different.

The chronic sleep deprivation that you get with a new baby is one thing and you know in due course it’ll pass. It seems like forever but it does pass. Bereavement and major crises can contribute to sleep loss as well.

Sometimes if it’s the result of illness or pain then that’s a long time problem that requires a long-term solution. I’m not dealing with that just at the moment, although practicing good sleep hygiene can certainly help with some of those issues. A good health psychologist might be the solution for difficult and chronic problems.

The thing that really bothers people is that they lose their efficiency at work and the next day is going to be might be unpleasant but it’s not earth shattering.

If your sleeplessness is the result of a problem that’s keeping you awake then what I suggest is having a notebook beside your bed and when you’re awake right down a few points; maybe you have a good idea, maybe they’re just constant things that are rattling around in your head so just write them down and in the morning you can have a look at those notes and decide what you can do something about.

Some people find that practicing some relaxation exercises like progressive relaxation works. Start the top of your head and tighten then relax every body part in turn until you get down to your toes. Some people find that focusing on their breathing, consciously breathing in then out slowly, also slows the heart rate that can give you the headspace you need to get yourself back to sleep. Personally, I’m a reader. Reading something recreational relaxes me fairly quickly, gets me out of my head, and then I’m back to sleep. Just visiting the bathroom and having a glass of water can be enough to break the cycle.  Sometimes I try a combination of any or all of these things.

Here are a few ideas for coping with that overtired feeling the next day:

1. Coffee early in the day can give you a kickstart. We all know about this one. some of us practice it more than others but after a heavy night it can be just the thing to get you started. Don’t have any more after early afternoon though, or you’ll have another bad night.

2. Get some really vigorous exercise especially in the morning, and if possible in the sunlight. An Interesting paradox about exercise is that even though it uses a lot of energy it also gives you energy, and helps to ensure that your next night is better. Even a 10-minute jog or brisk walk around the block can help.

3. Avoid foods heavily laden with carbohydrates. Even though it might seem like the most convenient option avoid high carb takeaways. A tasty salad sandwich and some fruit and yogurt or nuts is a better choice. Make sure it has some protein because it will give you energy without weighing you down.

4. Break up your tasks through the day a little bit more than you usually would so that you’re alternating interesting stimulating tasks with more serious demanding ones.

5. If you really have some important work to be done then try some music, through headphones if you share workspace.

6. Try setting a timer so that you break you you task into small bites and you give yourself a time limit. Pomodoro is a great strategy that helps in times of stress, and also anytime you have difficulty concentrating.

7. There are plenty of apps for that, some free, some not, but the principle is that you set a time limit and then race against the clock, say 15 to 20 minute bites. Officially Pomodoro  uses 25-minute bites with a five-minute break in between but you can adjust that according to your own needs. Have a breathing space and a stretch and then get going again.

8. Remember there is no rule that says that eight hours of sleep has to be all in one go. As many mothers of newborns know, you get it when you can, in their case when baby sleeps. Some countries, like Spain and some South American countries take an extended siesta break in the middle of the day. Depending how much autonomy you have and the length of your lunch break you might be able to shut yourself away for a while.

9. There is a lot to be said in favour of lunchtime naps. Even 20 minutes can help. An app called Powernap can be set to wake you after a 20-minute power nap, a 45-minute recovery nap, both before you get into deep sleep, or after one complete sleep cycle of 60-90 minutes. Smart phones these days can determine how deeply you are sleeping and can wake you when appropriate.

10. Be honest with yourself about the cause of your sleep loss. Recognising what’s going wrong for you means you can take steps to address it sooner rather than later.

11. A few isolated restless nights are not going to do you any great harm, just make you feel a bit tired. If you can be philosophical about it and accept it as part of the tapestry of life it will have much less impact on you than if you feel upset and stressed.

There you are, 11 ideas to help you cope with a disturbed night’s sleep. Try one or two and see how you go. I would be interested to know what works for you.

If you have developed some bad sleep habits, unrelated to health or crisis issues, that you would like some help to address then coaching could be the answer. You can contact me here.


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