Beating insomnia to make you brainier!


If you need to get a good night’s sleep, the guaranteed way to scupper your chances is to get worried about it. It’s a familiar story; we set the alarm to get to work early for a big meeting – and then lie awake for hours through a mounting misery of insomnia. When sleeplessness strikes before an exam or a long drive, it can feel a complete disaster. Research shows that a poor night of shut eye can reduce your IQ by up to a point the day after.

In the UK, the NHS has a yearly sleeping pill budget of over £50 million, a huge sum of money for something that should come naturally. Our lifestyles, cramming as much as possible into our day and often squeezing work or entertainment into the late hours, makes it far harder to relax. Knowing we have to achieve tasks the day after which depend on being well rested, adds to the very real problem many people suffer with long term insomnia.

Sleep advice services recommend winding down properly a good two hours before bed time, cutting out gadgets, strenuous activity and work to allow the mind to relax. Reducing caffeine or heavy foods will also help, although light carbohydrates, which encourage the body to produce serotonin, can help. Make sure your bed is comfortable – a lumpy mattress or the wrong sort of pillow can make discomfort become so familiar you don’t notice that it is disturbing your slumber.

If you find your mind is racing with tasks for tomorrow, try these simple tricks:-

  • Have a notepad by your bed. Whether it helps you remember tomorrow’s tasks or that great idea for a novel, committing them to paper allows your brain to let go of them.
  • Got worries? Try a blog or diary. If you are the type of person to stew over stressful arguments or knotty problems, try writing them down and getting it off your chest. It’s surprising how successful it can be.
  • Experiment with relaxation apps, CDs and self-hypnosis. Mindfulness is becoming increasingly popular and a routine that includes any of these techniques can help you drift off to sleep.
  • If you are lying awake in the night and nothing is working, trying breaking the cycle. Get up, have a snack and drink, go to the loo and read a real paper book for a while snuggled in a blanket or onesie.

Insomnia can have a devastating impact on life and productivity, never mind happiness. Beating the anxiety that it produces can be a key to overcoming the problem.

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