(August 2011) by Dr Warwick Palmer

Difficulty with sleep is a very common problem with at least 30% of us suffering from insomnia at some stage. While medication may help in the short term, it can worsen the problem if used over an extended period.

Some practical suggestions:

  • Develop a “pre-sleep” routine to help the body relax. Not too much TV, avoid computer work from one hour before bedtime, a warm bath, quiet reading and a warm milk drink can help. Restrict bedroom activities to sleep and sex only, not for study, work or intense discussion.
  • Get up at the same time each morning – don’t sleep in to catch up on a bad nights sleep – it will only shift your sleep cycle forward. Don’t sleep during the day.
  • Develop a regular physical exercise routine and stick to it but don’t exercise within two hours of bedtime.
  • Try to stop worrying – two things most affected by worry are sleep and sex. Try to become less focused on sleep and more on relaxing.
  • Limit stimulating substances, especially in the evening – alcohol, coffee, tea. Quit smoking.
  • Practice a physical relaxation routine after going to bed. Tighten every muscle group to the slow count of five, then relax to the slow count of five. Work your way through every muscle you can move – toes, feet, legs, hips, buttocks, stomach, chest, back, shoulders, arms, hands, neck, jaw, eyes, forehead. After you have reached the top of your head lie still and relaxed, form an image in your mind of a calm, peaceful scene – a palm lined beach at sunset, a yacht on a calm sea, anything relaxing, and DO NOT let your attention wander from that image. If other “thoughts” come into your mind dismiss them rapidly and refocus on your image.
  • Happy, relaxing and refreshing sleeping.