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Barrie asked...

How can I regain a healthy sleep routine?

How can I regain a healthy sleep routine? Currently difficult to drop off, constant waking. Since death of wife two years ago....use medication very rarely (once a month, maybe) and try breathing exercises etc to little effect. Ta

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The answer

Thank you for contacting us with your question, we are very sorry to hear about the loss of your wife two years ago, it is natural and very understandable that your sleep routine altered since this happened to you. There are some self help steps that you may find useful to try in the first instance which are; avoiding caffeine nicotine alcohol of heavy meals prior to going to bed, setting a regular sleep time and waking up time, this can help your body get back to a more normal pattern if the same times are used each night and morning, not watching TV or using the phone- particularly mobile ones, or computer just prior to going to bed, this is because they emit a particular blue light which stops the brains natural brain wave pattern for sleep from commencing, ensuring the bedroom has thick drapes or curtains to block out any unwanted light, some people find using ear plugs and eye masks can also help, taking relaxing warm bath or shower just prior to sleeping and/ or listening to relaxing music and avoid taking naps during the day if you can as this too can disrupt the bodys’ normal rythmn and ability to sleep and rest at night.

If however you find none of the above techniques are helping then you may want to think about having a chat with your Gp. For example it is not uncommon for the shock and emotion associated with a close bereavement to affect not only your mood but also your sleep cycle and if a normal pattern of sleeping does not resume over time then sometimes it can be helpful to have short course of medication which enables your body to restore a more normal pattern of sleeping again. Your Gp will take a history of your sleep problems and will ask you questions such as whether the problem is getting off to sleep, waking in the small hours and not being able to sleep restless and fitful sleep and how refreshed you feel. They will look at your medical history and check that there is nothing underlying that could be contributing to the problem and if it is thought that it is connected to your fairly recent bereavement then you may be offered counselling for example if you feel it might help.

You can also read more about insomnia and its treatments and causes here which we think you may find very informative as well:

Insomnia - NHS

Helpguide - Insomnia treatment

We do hope this information will be helpful for you Barrie, good luck in getting this resolved.

Answered by the Health at Hand nurses