An NHS insomnia specialist has busted popular myths about how to get a good night’s sleep.
Kathryn Pinkham, 38, from Buckinghamshire, founder of The Insomnia Clinic, explained following advice like giving up caffeine or switching off screens could actually be making your insomnia worse.
She said: ‘When we’re really struggling with sleep, the first thing we do is to look at tips such as giving up caffeine or wearing eye masks to help improve it, but surprisingly, these can become part of the problem.’
Kathryn Pinkham, 38, from Buckinghamshire, is a NHS insomnia specialist and founder of The Insomnia Clinic. Speaking from experience she has revealed that the likes of cutting out coffee and turning off electrical devices may not be what you need to cure your insomnia
In order to see why caffeine is not what’s keeping you awake, the insomnia specialist has revealed you need to first understand how poor sleep develops so that then you can see how fixing it doesn’t need to mean giving up everything you enjoy.
‘Firstly, something triggers an episode of insomnia,’ she said. ‘This could be a period of emotional stress, such as losing a loved one, or it could be as simple as a common cold which disrupts your sleep pattern.’
‘As a result of poor sleep, we then make changes which we feel will combat the effects of sleep loss.
‘For example, going to bed too early, worrying about sleep loss, wearing eye masks and insisting on silence, even stopping socialising in case it stimulates our minds and causes us to stay awake.’
Kathryn’s top tips for getting a good night sleep include don’t spend too long in bed, stop clock watching and set a wake up time and stick to it
Kathryn explained that as a result, we then spend more time in bed in the hope of getting more sleep, but we simply end up laying awake staring at the ceiling.
‘This is where the problem really begins,’ she continued. ‘Not only have we started to associate bed with being awake, leading to further poor sleep, we’ve also given up lots of things we enjoy.’
Here, she reveals steps you can take to actually help you sleep better…
Don’t spend too long in bed
Reduce the amount of time you spend in bed by going to bed later and getting up earlier.
It sounds counter-intuitive, but this will encourage the natural sleep drive of your body to kick in, meaning you will crave more sleep, fall asleep faster and find the quality of shut-eye improving.
Kathryn Pinkham (above) is a NHS insomnia specialist and founder of The Insomnia Clinic, and has offered her top tips on getting some much-needed shut-eye
Set a wake time and stick to it, regardless of how badly you’ve slept
Getting up early will train your body to associate mornings with being awake. Dozing in bed only results in grogginess and low mood, so get up, have a cuppa and get some fresh air or exercise rather than trying to catch up on lost sleep.
If you’re waking in the night then it’s very tempting to look at the clock, monitoring how little sleep you’re getting.
However, this increases pressure to fall back to sleep and therefore makes it less likely. Set your alarm for the morning and then avoid looking at the time again.
Don’t lie in bed awake
If you wake in the night and can’t get back to sleep, get out of bed. The longer we lie in bed trying to fall back to sleep, the more frustrated we get, and in turn we begin to relate bed to stress and wakefulness rather than sleep.
This can lead to a negative pattern, so leave your bed, do something relaxing like reading a book, and then return to bed once you’re tired.
Worrying is the worst thing you can do and is worse than not sleeping. Not sleeping just makes you tired, but worrying about sleep makes you stressed, anxious and low.
Realise that sleep is not the only thing you can do to feel better. Try to leave a bad night behind you and focus on the day ahead.