How to sleep right

While many people experience a bad night’s sleep from time to time, a sleeping problem may become an issue for you if it continues for several nights or weeks.  Thankfully, there are several techniques that can help you to sleep better — sleeping pills aren’t the only solution.


What is insomnia?

An unsuitable environment can affect sleep

Having trouble falling or staying asleep is common. It can leave you feeling sleepy and lacking energy during the day.

Getting a good night’s sleep is not about the number of hours of sleep you get — this is different for everyone and can change over time. What matters most is the quality of sleep.

If you have difficulty falling or staying asleep, or if you wake up too early in the morning, it could suggest that the quality of your sleep is not as good as it could be. Insomnia is the medical term for this type of sleeping problem.

What can cause insomnia?

There are many of reasons why someone might be having trouble sleeping. These can be very individual, however some common reasons can include:

  • Personal issues, such as grief or stress
  • A noisy or disruptive environment
  • Some medical conditions such as chronic pain or arthritis
  • Psychiatric disorders
  • Use of alcohol, caffeine or nicotine
  • Some medicines 

Ways to sleep better 

Good sleep habits can help

Behavioural therapies such as progressive muscle relaxation, breathing exercises, meditation, counselling support and advice (eg, cognitive therapy) and good sleep habits are the best ways to manage sleep problems in the long term.

These non-medicine therapies can take a few weeks to start working, but unlike sleeping pills they:

  • often focus on fixing what has been causing the sleep problems
  • let your body sleep as deeply as it needs to so you feel rested the next day
  • don't cause the side effects, dependence and other possible harms of sleeping pills.

Tips for natural sleep

Talk with your health professional about non-medicine therapies that might be best for your situation and where you can get further information and help. Some tips are listed below:

Regulate your sleep

  • Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same times each day.
  • Avoid naps during the day. If you do nap, keep it to 20 minutes.
  • Avoid oversleeping.
  • Avoid bright light in the evening.
  • Seek out some bright light when you wake up each morning.
  • Don't stay in bed worrying. If you're awake for more than 20 minutes — go to another room and do something that relaxes you, such as reading a book, listening to music or meditating.

Create a sleep-friendly environment

  • Be as active as possible during the day, exercise and spend some time outdoors.
  • Don't eat, work, watch television, read or discuss problems in bed.
  • Avoid working on a computer, tablet or smartphone late in the evening.
  • Reduce the amount of caffeine you have each day and avoid caffeinated drinks after lunchtime.
  • Try to keep caffeine-containing drinks to a minimum in the evening .
  • Avoid heavy meals and vigorous exercise within 3 hours of going to bed.
  • Avoid smoking and drinking alcohol in the evening.
  • Keep your pets, the TV, and brightly lit digital clocks out of the bedroom.

Prepare yourself for sleep

  • Relax for 30 minutes before going to bed (eg, have a warm bath).
  • Make sure your bedroom is not too hot or cold.
  • Ensure you are comfortable and your bedroom is quiet and as dark as possible.

Treatment options

Treatment for sleep problems can get you back on track

If you have tried our tips and are still having problems with sleep, ask your healthcare professional about other treatment options. They will be able to help find what will work for you and may also refer you to a sleep specialist or a sleep clinic, or suggest you keep a sleep diary.

Your doctor or specialist may recommend one or more of the following treatments:

  • Cognitive therapy helps people who are excessively worried about their sleep and any consequences.
  • Stimulus control helps people who associate the bed or bedroom with frustration and worry.
  • Sleep restriction helps people who have difficulty staying asleep.
  • Relaxation training helps people who cannot 'wind down' and sleep due to physical tension, an overactive mind or worry.

Play it safe with sleeping pills

Talk with your doctor or other health professional if you're thinking about starting sleeping pills or they've been recommended to you by family or friends.

In the long term, sleeping tablets are unlikely to help your insomnia and, in some cases, may do more harm than good.

If you're worried you may have had a side effect related to a sleeping pill or any other medicine, seek medical advice.

To report possible side effects call the Adverse Medicine Events (AME) Line on 1300 134 237 from anywhere in Australia (Monday–Friday, 9 am–5 pm AEST).

People with questions about their medicines or seeking general information about side effects can call NPS Medicines Line on 1300 633 424 (Monday–Friday, 9 am–5 pm AEST).

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