Tips for when you can't sleep | Jonny Benjamin's #mentalhealthselfie

Author: Mind, the mental health charity

I’ve experienced problems with sleep ever since I started having mental health issues and, in particular, problems with insomnia. I always used to really beat myself up and I went through these periods and, in particular, I used to really worry about the effect of not having enough sleep. And also, worry, just before going to sleep, about how much sleep I was actually going to get that night. And then, sure enough, I’d wake up just maybe a couple of hours later and I’d just be in a complete state of panic.

My heart would be racing and I’d be pouring with sweat and I’d feel like I was about to have a heart attack. It was just a really terrifying situation and I’d recommend that, at those points, to get up, out of bed. Maybe go and get a glass of water. Particularly if you’re tossing and turning.

Don’t stay in that situation. Maybe just go downstairs for five, ten minutes and then go back to bed. I’d recommend not going on the computer, going on things like Twitter, Facebook. That’s what I always used to do. Same with checking your phone as well.

I always used to constantly check the time, every 20, 30 minutes and now, I’ve actually got into the habit of not checking the time at all, which is really hard. It’s really tempting. You want to know what the time is but if you can, just try and avoid all technology. What’s also really helped me is doing things like relaxation or meditation. Both in the mornings, but also, particularly, before bed. Just 20 minutes, half an hour of maybe something like… I don’t know. Using breathing techniques to calm your breath.

Tips for when you can't sleep | Jonny Benjamin's #mentalhealthselfie

It can be really, really useful. There’s plenty of videos on YouTube where you’ll be able to find instructions and guided relaxation techniques. What’s also helped me is a physical exercise where you tense up every part of your body. Start with your hands, go down your arms, shoulders, neck, then go down your body and you tense up each part of your body for five, ten seconds. Really scrunch it up and then you just release it and you can really feel the tension drain away and I’ve often got a better night’s sleep when I’ve done that exercise. I think it’s good to only use your bed for sleep and nothing else. I always used to lie on my bed to go on the computer or watch TV and it’s helped to go on the computer elsewhere or watch TV downstairs so that I only use my bed when I’m going to sleep. It’s really, really helped to improve my sleep, doing that.

Cutting out caffeine as well, has been… Has made a real difference. I, particularly when I went through periods of insomnia, I used to drink a lot of coffee and then I decided to completely cut caffeine out. And now, I only drink things like peppermint tea, green tea, camomile tea and it’s made a difference to my sleep.

I’d particularly recommend something like camomile tea before bed. Maybe half an hour before bed, just drinking a mug of camomile tea because that’s really quite relaxing and soothing. Having a hot bath, as well, for me, usually lets me have a better night’s sleep. Something else that I’d recommend is keeping a journal and writing in it, just before you go to bed.

So, I always used to lie there and worry about either what I’d done that day, maybe something really small like something I’d said to a person or worrying about what I had to do the next day or coming up in the next few days. And what’s helped me is to keep a journal and write down everything that I’d done that day, any worries that I’ve had from that day. And then also, write a bit about the next day and the coming few days and worries that I’ve got about them. That helped to alleviate some of the anxiety. And if you really are going through an extended period of insomnia, I would recommend talking to someone about it. I always used to feel very afraid about discussing my insomnia with people, particularly at work. I’d go in and maybe only get two, three hours sleep and I’d be scared to tell anyone about that but it’s important to maybe talk to someone you trust about what you’re experiencing because it can be really crippling.

Maybe talk to a friend, family member or even a doctor if it does go on for quite some period of time. There are ways, there are… There is help out there if you do experience long periods of insomnia. So, you’re not alone.

It’s a very common experience, I think but we just don’t tend to talk about it. And remember that it is just hopefully, a phase and that it will pass and that you will once again, have a better night’s sleep.

Tips for when you can't sleep | Jonny Benjamin's #mentalhealthselfie

I’ve experienced problems with sleep ever since I started having mental health issues and, in particular, problems with insomnia. I always used to really beat myself up and I went through…

By: Mind, the mental health charity