A great deal. The good news about insomnia is that you can cure yourself in your own way, in your own time, and at your own pace. You may wish to enlist the support or help of your doctor, a college nurse or a psychologist, but you may want to try some strategies first. However, keep in mind that you must be prepared to make some changes in your lifestyle in order to sleep better.
Things you can do to help yourself
Change Your Environment
You need a comfortable bed and a room that is quiet, warm and dark enough. Unfortunately, this is not always possible. You might have noisy neighbors, a cold north-facing room, a partner who snores, or uncomfortable furniture. But there are some things you can do which will help.
- Your bed—put a board under the mattress if it sags, or try putting your bed in a different position. Make sure your bedding is clean and that you are warm enough, but not too hot.
- Light—if light troubles you use thicker curtains or put a scarf or a sleep mask over your eyes. If you feel more comfortable with a little light, leave the curtains open a little or use a night-light.
- Noise—a common cause of sleeplessness! Use earplugs if noise is inevitable or change your attitude toward it. Most people can sleep through high levels of noise; it's not so much the level of noise but how you feel about it that keeps you awake. Use relaxation exercises to calm yourself and take your mind off the noise. Take some 'diplomatic action' e.g., talking to noisy neighbors. Keep a radio/tape player by your bed and use it to mask other noise. And if noise from neighbors continues to be a serious problem, speak to college authorities or the local Environmental Health Officer.
Change Your Lifestyle
If you are having difficulty sleeping and are serious about solving the problem, you will have to change some aspects of your lifestyle. For a start, you will need to eliminate or reduce all stimulants. These include: coffee and tea, nicotine, cola drinks, food additives, 'junk food', slimming pills or appetite suppressants.
Here are a number of other suggestions:
- exercise regularly
- stay up until a reasonable bedtime even if you feel sleepy earlier
- go to bed only when you are feeling really tired and sleepy
- if you can't sleep, get up and only go back to bed when you're really sleepy again
- establish a routine that gives you 7-8 hours sleep (though individual needs do vary)
- get up at the same time each day
- if you're a late sleeper, force yourself to get up earlier
- relax mentally and physically for an hour before bedtime
- have a warm bath, do some yoga or take a light walk before turning in
- make a list of the things on your mind then forget about them
- do a security check - but only once!
- replace negative thoughts with positive ones (e.g., "I can sleep/get back to sleep")
Some things to avoid:
- taking stimulants to keep you awake, or sedatives or alcohol to help you sleep
- sleeping during the day no matter how tired you are
- going to bed when you're stressed, wound up or not ready
- having arguments at bedtime or in bed
- using your bed for working, watching TV, eating, telephoning (i.e., waking activities)
- lying in bed awake for more than 30 minutes
- eating, drinking or smoking when you get up during the night
- falling asleep in front of the TV
- drinking alcohol toward the end of the evening
- worrying yourself into not sleeping
- getting angry with yourself or the world if you can't sleep - it only makes it worse!
You won't need to do all of these. Decide which would be most helpful and start with those. If the insomnia does not remit, try other strategies until you are sleeping better. Your aim is to break the cycle of insomnia. You achieve this by establishing a good bedtime/sleep routine and by reinforcing the connection between bed and sleep.