Can't Sleep? Tips to Help Manage Insomnia

See also: Stress and Stress Management

Almost 66% of the UK population (and especially women) suffer from insomnia at some point. One in every three people in the UK are unable to sleep or have irregular sleep patterns. Unfortunately insomnia can have very disruptive impact on a person’s life, both physically and psychologically.

Insomnia is the most common among all sleep disorders. You have insomnia if you are unable to sleep or face sleeplessness nights. Most people with insomnia find it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep, and they may have a poor quality of sleep or wake up during the night.

Usually, 7-9 hours of sleep is sufficient for adults and 9-15 hours for children. Insomnia can occur at any age; even children suffer from it. Women are more likely to become the victim both at the start of menstruation and menopause. Pregnant woman also find it more difficult to sleep.  If your symptoms last for one night to few weeks, it is more likely to be acute insomnia. However, if your symptoms are long-term and happen at least three nights a week for three months, you might have chronic insomnia.

If you require expert advice on a condition you might have, you can always consult your GP or a health care expert to learn more about insomnia and its available treatments.

Health Conditions Associated with Insomnia

Insomnia can be divided into two types: primary insomnia is insomnia with no medical reason, and secondary insomnia is linked to certain health issues.

Disturbed or irregular sleep patterns are sometimes caused by environmental factors or life events that are difficult to cope with, for instance:

  • Life stressors
  • Some traumatic event
  • Death of a loved one
  • Divorce/breakup/separation
  • Job loss
  • Jet lag
  • Working in shifts
  • Noise, light, or temperature of a room
  • Sexual dissatisfaction or frustration

The health conditions associated with insomnia may be psychological, physiological, or neurological such as:

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Sleep disorders like apnea
  • High blood pressure
  • Asthma
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Medication for cold and allergies
  • Substance  use or stimulant intakes like caffeine, tobacco, or alcohol

Risk factors for Insomnia

Insomnia affects the quality of your life. It can affect you both physically and mentally. Sleeplessness or poor sleep patterns make it difficult for a person to cope with everyday life activities. If a person is unable to get a sufficient amount of sleep, they will wake up tired and won’t feel like doing their scheduled tasks.

Insomnia may have a significant impact on work performance as well. If you suffer from insomnia, you may find that nothing appeals to you and this state of mind may eventually result in a loss of interest in things or people around you. Your interpersonal relationships are at risk as well.

Possible symptoms may include:

  • Irritability
  • Frequent mood swings
  • Fatigue
  • Low motivation
  • Poor concentration
  • Short term memory loss
  • Cognitive issues
  • Emotional instability
  • Immune dysfunction
  • Suicide
  • Increased risk of accidents

If you are worried you might be suffering from insomnia, you can use the Epworth Sleepiness Scale to measure your level of daytime sleepiness.

Managing Insomnia

Sleep is a gift that beautifies and regulates your life, and an essential factor for maintaining physical health and emotional wellbeing. Inadequate sleep or poor sleep quality makes it difficult even for a healthy person to work, study or socialise. The most important aspects like medical conditions, emotional state, and social environment all need to be improved. Insomnia affects a person both physically and mentally. Counselling and therapies, lifestyle modifications and medication may all help.

The first step in managing insomnia is sleep hygiene and lifestyle changes. Sleep hygiene covers all the attitudes, habits, and behaviours that contribute to promoting the quality of your sleep. The following are some lifestyle adjustments that may help you to get better sleep:

1. Consistent sleep patterns

Design your sleep schedule and follow it. It is vital to maintain a stable sleep pattern. A person should sleep and wake up at the same time each day, including weekends. Early to bed and early to rise is an ideal approach. Go to bed only when feeling sleepy. Please don’t make it a habit to lay in bed idle and awake.

2. Comfortable sleeping environment

A noise and light-free room with a comfortable temperature (neither too hot nor too cold) is a must. Make sure your bedroom is dark or use an eye mask, and use blackout curtains or blinds if bright light keeps you awake. Sleep on a clean and comfortable bed: the mattress should be neither too soft nor too hard.

3. Exercise regularly

Exercise helps in maintaining both mental and physical fitness. Plan a fitness regime, follow it, and try to retain it. You can join a gym, walk, jog, or do yoga. Exercise helps regulate your blood circulation and hence results in a good sound sleep. Exercise daily at least six hours before bedtime.

4. Stay active

Try to stay physically energetic and spend an active day, exerting yourself both physically and mentally. Physical exertion helps in inducing good sleep. If not working, plan a party, go shopping, or simply hang out with friends. Don’t spend time doing nothing. An idle mind often leads to depression.

5. Balanced diet

Eat healthy and balanced food, one which contains all the nutrients required by your body, in correct proportions. A protein and fibre rich meal with little fat or sugar is ideal. Try to exercise portion control and eat lighter meal at night. Eat your dinner at least two hours before going to bed.

6. Relaxation techniques

Relaxation eases your body. Not only the body needs relaxation, but the mind needs to relax as well after a long hectic day. Try to relax for at least one hour before going to bed. Practice certain relaxation techniques such as:

  • Reading a book
  • Listening to soothing music
  • Deep breathing
  • Yoga


Aromatherapy, also called essential oil therapy, is a healing treatment of the mind and body that uses natural plant extracts. Essential oils are strong aromatic liquids extracted from a variety of plants, flowers, and trees. Essential oils are either inhaled or massaged on the body to induce sleep.

Sleep inducing natural oils include:

  • Cedarwood
  • Lavender
  • Sandalwood
  • Neroli
  • Roman chamomile


Meditation or focused concentration is a natural and easy way to reduce anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders. Meditation helps achieve an emotionally calm and mentally stable state of mind that eventually helps induce sound sleep.

Limit naps

To get a better night’s sleep, do not nap during the day. Try and avoid a nap even if you feel sleepy. Busy your mind towards the tasks you love to do, such as gardening, reading, or spending time with your pet.

Reduce substance use

It is better not to smoke or drink alcohol before going to bed. Likewise, if you drink tea or coffee before bedtime, your body will be stimulated by the caffeine they contain. Stop consuming stimulants like nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol at night.

Stop using the internet

“People can’t sleep because they have insomnia, but I can’t sleep because I have internet”. The internet and smartphones are one of the major causes of mental exhaustion and sleeplessness. To achieve mental relaxation and a night of good quality sleep, stop using the internet and switch off your mobile phone once you are in bed.

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About the Author

Alex Kalos is a blogger who writes on various topics such as SEO and content creation. He also runs an agency that focusses on improving business visibility on the web.