Sleep Disorders

Updated 11 August 2014

Having sleepless nights about insomnia?

Tired of tossing and turning at night, watching the hours tick by and panicking that you will have a rotten day because you haven’t slept at all? Don’t despair, help is at hand.


Tired of tossing and turning at night, watching the hours tick by and panicking that you will have a rotten day, because you haven’t slept at all? Don’t despair, a good night’s sleep might be possible after all.

According to the South African Memory Resource Centre there are a number of things you could do to combat insomnia and improve the quality of sleep:

  • Discontinue unhealthy sleep habits. Do not lie in bed for long periods if you cannot fall asleep. Your brain quickly forms an association with lying in bed and rolling around, and not being able to sleep. Break this habit by getting out of bed if no sleep occurs after about 10 minutes (do not watch the clock but rather estimate the time). Carry out a non-interesting activity such as reading a boring book until drowsiness returns and then go back to bed. Repeat this sequence until sleep takes place.
  • Follow the same routine at night before attempting to sleep. Your mind and body will associate this routine with approaching sleep.
  • Avoid taking any stimulants such as coffee and nicotine before retiring to bed. Avoid taking alcohol before sleeping as it causes inefficient sleep.
  • Don’t have a heavy meal near bedtime.
  • Exercises during the day to promote the onset and quality of sleep.
  • Take a warm bath before bedtime.
  • Keep a notebook next to your bed and write down any worries that you may have before attempting sleep.
  • Avoid having daytime naps.
  • Ensure that you have comfortable sleeping quarters. Make sure that the room is dark when you want to sleep.
  • Wake up the same time each day.

- Ilse Pauw, Health24

(Updated August 2010)


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Dr Alison Bentley is a general practitioner who has consulted in sleep medicine and sleep disorders, in both adults and children of all ages, for almost 30 years. She also researches and publishes on a number of sleep-related topics both in formal research journals and lay publications including as editor of Sleep Matters, an educational newsletter on sleep disorders for doctors.

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