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Problems Sleeping and Good Sleep Hygiene

Bad sleeping habits can lead to problems with sleep.

Problems with sleeping are very common.  Most people have times in their lives when they do not sleep well.

Insomnia is the name given to the problem of being unable to sleep or being unable to sleep for as long as desired.

Sleep is important because it is associated with physical and psychological repair.  If sleep is disrupted over long periods of time it can lead to fatigue and problems with memory, thinking and moods.


There are medications that can be used to treat insomnia and other sleep disorders.  These may only be effective in the short term.

In the long term, medication may interfere with development of good sleeping habits.   They may even prolong sleeping problems.  Medication can cause a ‘rebound’ effect.  This means that after prolonged use, getting to sleep without medication is even harder.

Developing good sleep hygiene and habits can be used alongside or instead of medication in many cases.

Nicotine, Alcohol, Caffeine and Other Drugs

Many substances have the potential to interfere with good sleep.

Caffeine is found in many foods and drinks including tea, coffee and some soft drinks. Drinks like cola and energy drinks often contain a lot of caffeine in every can. Foods like chocolate can also contain caffeine.

Nicotine is found in tobacco products.

Many illegal drugs are stimulants. Nicotine and caffeine are also stimulants. They can all interfere with your ability to go to sleep.

Many people believe alcohol relaxes them and helps them to go to sleep. However they do not wake up feeling well rested.  Not only can alcohol interrupt sleeping patterns but it also interferes with quality of sleep.

It is a good idea to avoid nicotine, alcohol and caffeine for at least 4 hours before going to bed.  Some people find it best to avoid these substances for even longer periods of time before bedtime to ensure they sleep well.

Good Habits

Good sleeping habits can help you get to sleep, and to get good quality sleep.

  • Follow a regular routine. Try to go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on weekends.
  • Get up,  then try again.  If you go to bed and cannot sleep, get up after about 15 – 20 minutes and do something calming or boring.
  • Take exercise.  Physical activity encourages good sleep.  Avoid doing strenuous exercise 3 to 4 hours before bedtime. This can keep you awake.
  • Have a hot bath.  Have a bath 1 hour before bedtime.  As you cool down after the bath, you’ll start to feel sleepy.
  • Create sleep rituals. Having a bath or a glass of warm milk every night before bed will signal to the body that it is time to go to sleep.
  • Keep a sleep diary. A sleep diary can be a useful tool.  It helps you understand how much sleep you are getting and what might be causing poor sleep.

Bad Habits

Some habits stop us getting good quality sleep.

  • Beds are only for sleeping and sex. Avoid working, eating, watching TV and reading in bed.
  • Avoid screens, particularly in the bedroom.  Recent research has shown that the light emitted by digital screens alters human circadian clocks. Our circadian clocks control our sleep patterns.  Try to avoid digital screens like computers, tablets and smartphones for 2 hours before bedtime.
  • Don’t watch the clock.  This can trigger negative thoughts. Turn the clock to face away from you if you can’t help looking at it repeatedly.
  • Don’t eat immediate before going to bed.  A heavy meal immediately before bed can interrupt sleep.
  • Not too hot or cool.  A cool room with blankets to keep you warm is often best.  Use an eye mask or ear plugs if it is noisy or too light.

Problems with sleep are common.  By following good sleeping habits you can train your body to sleep well and awake well rested.

You might like to consider professional help. Talk to your GP or to a psychologist about sleep and sleep hygiene.

CB Psychology can help you with good sleep hygiene. We can work with you on a number of techniques to help you get a good night’s rest.  This might include mindfulness and relaxation techniques like progressive muscle relaxation.

Download the sleep problems and sleep hygiene fact sheet