Insomnia busters 1260x542

Insomnia busters

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Rosie Brogan looks at how to best prepare your mind for sleep.

According to a study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, an estimated 30 per cent of people have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.

This isn’t new: lack of sleep eats away at your mental and physical health.

And should you need anymore more convincing, here’s a sad fact – the study cites that if you’re an insomniac, you’re between 2.5 and 4.5 more likely to have an accident than a non-insomniac is.

How to prep your mind for sleep
Dr Lawrence Epstein, instructor in medicine at Harvard University, and sleep specialist Dr Stephanie Silberman share this advice via psychology research news portal, Psych Central:

Have a regular sleep schedule
For a good night’s sleep it’s important to get up and go to bed at the same time each day. As Dr. Epstein says “the greatest promoter of being able to sleep is being in sync with your internal clock or your circadian rhythms.”

Create a pre-sleep routine
Winding down before sleep and creating a pre-sleep routine establishes a clear association between sleep and the rest of our waking day. It’s important as “your body craves routine and likes to know what’s coming,” says Dr. Epstein, also co-author of The Harvard Medical School Guide to a Good Night’s Sleep. Setting aside 30 minutes or an hour before sleeping will allow your body time to relax and prepare it for sleep.

Here are some pre-sleep routine ideas:

  • Reading before heading to bed so  your body knows that reading at night signals sleep time
  • Taking a warm bath before bed every night helps your body recognise that it’s time to slow down and relax

Write down your worries early in the day
By writing down what’s on your mind early in the day can help you deal with your worries at a time when you’re not trying to get to sleep.

Silberman, who’s also author of The Insomnia Workbook: A Comprehensive Guide to Getting the Sleep You Need, recommends sitting down each day for 10-15 minutes and writing down all the things that are on your mind and what you’re going to do about them. To get the ball rolling, she suggests simply asking yourself, “What are the things that come to my mind when I’m lying in bed at night?”

This way when a worrying thought pops up when you’re trying to get to sleep, you can either say to yourself “I’ve dealt with that,” or “I’m dealing with it,” she says. This can help to create a sense of relief.

Focus on the positive
Try to focus on happy events and good memories rather than negative thoughts and worries. When you notice you’re thinking negatively, gently change your direction of your thoughts to more positive ones.

Participate in physical activities
Exercising regularly not only helps with sleep but also reduces anxiety according to
Dr. Epstein. But it’s important to exercise a few hours before bedtime as physical activity can be stimulating.

Think about what’s stealing your sleep and boosting your anxiety
Ask yourself ”do I have habits that interfere with my sleep or make me feel more anxious?”. According to Dr. Epstein, the biggest sleep saboteurs and anxiety boosters are caffeine and alcohol.

He says that people tend to forget that the effect of caffeine can last 4-7 hours AND that tea and chocolate contain caffeine too.


Is this the world’s most relaxing song?
Weightless’, a collaboration between Manchester outfit Marconi Union and the British Academy of Sound Therapy was created to deliver a continuous rhythm of 60 BPM – thought to be the ideal beat to synch with your heart beat and brainwaves. As Lyz Cooper from the British Academy of Sound Therapy explains to website Apartment Therapy:

"While listening, your heart rate gradually comes to match that beat. It is important that the song is eight minutes long because it takes about five minutes for this process, known as entrainment, to occur. The fall in heart rate also leads to a fall in blood pressure.”


References available on request

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Hello Ted, chronic insomnia is very debilitating and I am sorry to hear it has affected you for a long time. Although it looks like the underlying causes behind insomnia may be different for you and your wife, you may both benefit from taking some common supplements. Magnesium is a great muscle relaxant and can promote a better quality sleep when taken at dinner time or before going to sleep. It can also be taken if waking up in the middle of the night. As a herbal medicine support, there are quite a few natural herbs you can try: passionflower, chamomile, lavender, oats, hops, and valerian may all be helpful in promoting relaxation and relieving restlessness. Sour cherry is another natural herb naturally high in melatonin; it improves sleep duration, efficiency and quality of sleep. In your case, it would also be appropriate to address the source of your chronic pain. There are quite a few natural anti-inflammatory remedies available for different types of pain. Seeing a naturopath in a private practice would be recommended so as to get the most appropriate advice. From a lifestyle perspective, it is important to avoid stimulants and stimulating environments in the hour just prior to bedtime. Stimulants may be physical, such as coffee, tea, chocolate, and sugar, or may be environmental, such as electronic media. Alcohol reduce the quality of your sleep, suppressing REM sleep so you don't wake up refreshed. Studies have shown that people who drink alcohol just before bed actually have poorer sleep and are far more restless. Relaxation techniques such as breathing, stretching or meditation, may be beneficial to calm the mind and release tension from muscles. I hope this information will be useful to you and your wife, Ted. Please contact Blackmores naturopathic Advisory service on 1800 803 760, if you wish to talk to one of our naturopaths. Kind regards, Rosaria (Blackmores naturopath)
Rosaria 14 Mar 2014
I have chronic pain which causes sleep maintenance insomnia. My wife has insomia since she was pregnant with our third child in 1979. She has trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. Good sleep is vbery important to our physical, mental and emotional health.
Anonymous 14 Mar 2014
Thanks for sharing, Karen. Yes, this tip really works for me, too. I've also started keeping two lists: one 'personal' to-dos, and one work 'to-dos'. I update it almost daily and that ensures I'm not having to try and remember things I need to address... it's all written down. 'Busy mind' is a major sleep inhibitor, I find. Pleased to hear you're being kind to yourself.
Anonymous 15 Nov 2013
I do agree with writing things down and find that doing this does allow me to not ponder on it when I go to bed ...
Also being nice to myself helps as well...
Anonymous 14 Nov 2013