“Finding you’re not falling asleep can trigger anxieties about how you’ll perform the next day – and one of the worst things you can do in this situation is try to go to sleep,” says Professor Kevin Morgan, director of Clinical Sleep Research at Loughborough University.
“The reason is that sleep is an ‘automatic’ behaviour and we do it most efficiently when we let the automatic parts look after themselves. We can’t will it to happen.”
The problem is something known as “cognitive arousal” – a racing mind. This blocks the automatic processes that usually initiate sleep. “The solution is not to try to sleep; let sleep come naturally, and don’t worry about the next day,” says Kevin.
“Go to bed only when you are really sleepy and don’t take problems with you. Set aside time earlier to go through things that are on your mind. If you really can’t get to sleep, get up and do something or read until you feel sleepy.”