Researching sleep, sleep problems and insomnia has been one of those equally captivating and frustrating parts of my life for the last 12 years. If you ever looked up helpful articles on how to improve your sleep or even overcome your sleep problems, you know very well that there is no shortage of online resources.
My captivation comes from over a decade of learning about my sleep. I love that the interpretations of various principles and practices that I integrated into my own and my client’s life truly create long term consistently great sleep. I get great joy in showing people what’s possible even after years of sleep problems or insomnia.
My frustration on the other hand comes from often very misleading advice that results in people losing hope of overcoming their sleep problems. The fact is that we don’t often talk about sleep in a truly practical way to encourage people to develop what I call Sleep Skills that don’t have to cost an absolute fortune.
When I struggled with my insomnia over a decade ago, even I found myself almost desperately searching for answers on how I could finally fall asleep quickly and easily, sleep through the night without 2-3 nighttime wakings and tossing and turning in bed. I used to regularly wake up to nighttime nose bleeds that were caused by sleep deprivation and was struggling with other health issues because I was sleeping so poorly.
The true reality of great sleep is that it’s not about quick fixes, secretes, hacks or general tips. It’s actually about developing skill sets around sleep that work with who you are as a human being and your circumstances.
One of the most common issues I see in my sleep coaching practice for adults is the amount of unhelpful knowledge, tips, secrets, advice, gadgets, beliefs, mindsets clients pick up through reading often scary information about lack of sleep online.
Time and time again, I see how clients try and try and try to sort their sleep problems out, but only managing to achieve little or inconsistent results at best. It’s so sad to see that they simply not able to transfer the information that they see online to tangible improvement to their own sleep consistently is causing longer suffering.
Which is why in today’s article we’ll talk about the top 3 general sleep tips that don’t work for long-term sleep problems or insomnia.
But first of all, let’s be diligent about this: please make sure that you don’t simply self diagnose and jump into conclusions about your sleep problems.
A misguided self diagnosis almost always leads to longer struggle. Simply because without having a proper sleep assessment, you’ll likely miss the true root cause of your problems. Unfortunately, I’ve seen so many of these examples over the last 8 years of working with adults with long term sleep problems and insomnia.
Please note that naturally any medical conditions diagnosed or not yet diagnosed can influence your ability to sleep well, which is why I always encourage people to seek an assessment if their sleep problems have been there for a number of weeks or even months.
Sleep tip number 1 – if you don’t fall asleep within 20 or 30 minutes, get out of bed and do something relaxing
I cannot tell you the number of times I heard how this tip alone caused even more sleep issues for clients. Whilst the tip itself is not inappropriate all the time, for most people this alone doesn’t even scratch the surface of the root of their sleep struggles.
The reason most of the time this tip doesn’t seem to work you for long-term insomnia or sleep problems is because you didn’t go to bed fully relaxed physically, emotionally and mentally.
If your mind is racing when you climb into bed and you’re still trying to wrap the day up or you’re thinking about a difficult situation that happened during the day, getting out of bed for a little while isn’t really going be very effective.
Getting out of bed and distracting yourself with something else doesn’t solve the underlying problem of why you couldn’t fall asleep easily to begin with. The moment you stop doing something else, and climb back into bed, your mind starts racing again… often the cycle repeats.
This is a very common dynamic for thinker types, problem solver types, analytical types of personality traits that I see in my practice.
Falling asleep easily in the night is one of those Sleep Skills I help create for clients. It’s about creating a clear boundary between the daytime and the nighttime, truly letting go of the day and knowing how to relax fully physically, emotionally and mentally.
Sleep tip number 2 – create a restful bedroom environment
I really love exploring this one with clients. Of course the tip itself is really very good but our interpretation and practice of this is quite poor. And I’m not judging, I had made several incorrect decisions with my bedroom back in the days that lead to parts of my sleep problems.
The reason this very general tip of ‘relaxing bedroom environment’ is not going to work for you to overcome your long-term sleep problems or insomnia is because there are a lot of struggle you experience in the bedroom already. Most people I worked with were not going to bed relaxed at all, because they were concerned or worried about how they will sleep that night.
If we apply this general tip, from the outside your bedroom looks almost ‘perfect’. But what you carry to bed with you inside your body and your mind matters even more. Perhaps it’s tension and nervousness from the day, emotions that haven’t been able to deal with and perhaps even an idea that you should have done more with your day.
It’s not just about how ‘zen’ your bedroom looks from the outside, but more about how you as an individual are able to really truly relax in the bedroom.
Your bed is for intimacy and sleep only. But if you use your bedroom and your bed for other things and you struggle with sleep problems, you have probably created confusion about what you expect your body and your mind to do in bed and in your bedroom.
Sleep tip number 3 – manage your worries through meditation or listening to something at night
I really embrace the idea of meditation in my life, meditation itself has been proven to have so many great benefits. We have such an easy access to it too now, but unfortunately we often don’t really help people develop a true practice of meditation in its most useful and purest form.
Perhaps you were told that meditation will help you to become more calm, deal with your anxieties or worries, or even turn your mind off of things. What I hear from clients more of the time is that they started meditating because it was supposed to help them sleep better.
The reason I see this tip going wrong is when clients expect that a 15 minute meditation will sort their long-term insomnia or sleep problems out with no other effort whatsoever. This is a quick fix type mindset that is also quite superficial. Simply meditating a few times a week is not a ‘fix’ for everything.
What I see in my practice is that meditation simply becomes a distraction for the mind rather than allowing you to truly deal with what is going on, so naturally the things come back into your mind when you’re free to think again.
The true practice of mediation is about letting go and releasing things. The reality is that we’re not very practiced at these simple skills and meditation is often quite a superficial practice that doesn’t actually create relaxation in the body and the mind.
Now that we’ve gone through these 3 tips that don’t really work to overcome long-term insomnia or sleep problems, take one of these and spend some time looking at how it shows up in your life.
Take stock of how well you sleep, what truly helps and hinders your ability to sleep, and most importantly seek a sleep assessment rather than ‘trying’ tips randomly.
Remember that developing great sleep consistently is way more practical than you think. Sleep Skills takes time, patience and work to develop, but they do last a lifetime.
It’s not about finding the best tip, hack or secret nor it is a magical, overnight quick fix!
Providing there is no medical reason that your body can’t create healthy sleep, it’s completely possible for you put the appropriate practical tools and techniques in place and overcome your long-term insomnia and sleep problems.
As a sleep coach I’ve seen so many examples of what’s possible even when someone almost lost hope that they’ll ever be able to sleep well again. Sleeping well is a lot more practical than people think. Your body and your mind can be retrained, your behaviour, mindset and therefore the outcomes can be improved.
With my best wishes with your sleep skills building
Beatrix is a sleep coach, professional speaker, the author of The Sleep Deep Method® and the creator of the Sleep Skills for Life Programme.
Having struggled with insomnia and burning herself out in her mid-twenties, she spent the last 12 years researching sleep and learning that in order for us to sleep well at night, we need to look much deeper than just how tired we are and the number of hours we sleep.
She provides 1:1 sleep coaching, group sleep coaching services, corporate talks and workshops to support adults overcome their long-term sleep problems.