Seven Tips for Overcoming Sleep Problems

Seven Tips for Overcoming Sleep Problems

#1 Set yourself an electronic curfew at least one hour before you go to bed. Phones and computers produce blue light which disrupts your circadian rhythm (your body’s biological clock). Light of any kind is the enemy of sleep, but in a Harvard University study blue light in particular was found to be twice as disruptive to the sleep-wake cycle. Plus, all that texting and surfing the web keeps your brain fired up right at the time you are trying to wind down.

#2 Catch the sleep-wave! Towards the end of the day we feel an urge to sleep every 60-90 minutes (this is because our sleep cycles are approximately 90 minutes long). The trouble with the sleep wave is that it tends to wash over us quite quickly and then before we know it, it’s gone. The sleep wave is that feeling you get when you are watching an intriguing television program and you say to yourself “just one more ad and then I’ll go to bed”. You get up to go to bed and suddenly you feel wide- awake again. If you have trouble falling asleep and you feel the sleep wave coming on, drop everything and jump on-board!

#3 Stay away from caffeine (coffee, tea and cola based drinks) and nicotine 4-6 hours before bed. Caffeine and nicotine are both stimulants and stimulation is the last thing our mind and body needs if we have sleep problems.

#4 Resist the urge to nanna nap! When you’ve had a rough sleep the night before it can sometimes feel like your couch or office floor is calling out for you mid way through the day. Try to resist the urge to follow through with napping because you will end up disrupting your sleep-wake cycle. This will mean you are more likely to experience disturbed sleep the next night and before you know it your sleep-wake cycle will be completely out of whack. If you really can’t resist the urge to nap, experts claim that 10-minute naps pack the most punch..

#5 Develop a regular sleeping routine. Go to bed and get up at roughly the same time regardless of how well you slept the night before. If you get up at the same time each day your brain and body get tired at approximately the same time each evening. The tough part about this particularly tip is that studies suggest that we should even get up around the same time on weekends or days off (give or take an hour)! Dragging yourself out of bed at the same time each day can be a real challenge if you have laid awake worrying or if you are someone who wakes in the early hours of the morning, perhaps as a symptom of depression.

#6 Limit your alcohol intake before bed. Although alcohol might help some people to fall asleep, it can have a negative impact on the quality of your sleep. Alcohol inhibits REM sleep which is the deep restorative sleep our minds and bodies need.

#7 Create a bedtime ritual for yourself (just like parents do for children!). In addition to regular behaviours like brushing your teeth and setting your alarm, consider doing things like turning off extra lighting, playing relaxing music, drinking herbal tea (instead of caffeine or alcohol), having a bath (boosting your body temperature will help you to feel sleepy sooner) or meditating. After you’ve repeated the pattern a few times your brain will start to associate your ritual with feeling sleepy and before you know it you’ll be nodding off mid way through your herbal tea!

If you are experiencing ongoing sleep problems consider visiting your General Practitioner. Sleep problems can sometimes be a symptom of anxiety, burnout and/or depression. To make an appointment to discuss solutions for your sleep difficulties contact us at Inner Melbourne Clinical Psychology on (03) 9376 1958 or



About the Author:

Dr Jacqueline Baulch is a clinical psychologist and the director of Inner Melbourne Clinical Psychology.