Having suffered from the dreaded stress inducing mind-mess that is Insomnia since about the age of 15, I have tried many potential cures, from the mild mannered Lavender oil on your pillow, to the full-on zombifier sleeping tablet. I have found them all to be successful to a degree, but have discovered that my body and or mind seems to suss out what is happening after a while and develops a degree of immunity to whatever "cure" is being applied on a nightly basis.

Insomnia affects most people at some time or other; for some it can simply be a result of temporary stress, possibly brought on by an impending exam, or moving house. For others, it is a more long term problem, which may be a side effect of depression or anxiety.

Some people are able to cope well with the "I will never get to sleep" feeling. They can accept the fact that they may well lie in bed all night without getting a wink of sleep. They accept and move on. They feel bad at work the next day, but the exhaustion will ensure some sleep the following night. This sort of insomnia is one that is fairly easily assuaged, they are "rational insomniacs".

The terminally stressed insomniac however, will lie in bed with the most ridiculous thoughts ticking over in their brain. With each hour that passes, the stress level increases. They think about getting up, walking around, making a cup of tea, but what if that wakes them up even more? No, stay in bed, close your eyes, "stop thinking thoughts, for god's sake!". This insomniac is the "anxious insomniac".

Of course, the terminologies are my creations - but they are also the observations of an occasionally sleep deprived individual who, has a kind and generous desire to offer a potential cure for insomnia that you may, as yet, be unaware of.

Equipment needed: A comfy bed and a Clock Radio.

Step One: Get comfy in your comfy bed.

Step Two: Set your radio dial to Radio Four (92-95 FM, 198LW)

Step Three: Adjust your settings on your alarm clock to allow at least 1 hour on "sleep" (i.e. when the radio plays for an hour then switches off)

Step Four: Lie back and relax!

The beauty of this sleep aid is that it lulls you to sleep. I have tried other radio stations and they are just far too lively, over active, with the usual "I'm Krazy with a capital K DJ". By contrast the dulcet tones of the newsreaders and storytellers on Radio Four are the ideal substitute for having your own personal bedtime reading.

It may sound silly, but it does work, honest!

If you suffer from sleepless nights, you will understand that, more often than not, the main problem is lying in your bed with idiotic thoughts spinning around your head. By listening to something else, and allowing that something else to be "neutral" to an extent, it literally takes your mind off the insane ramblings of your nocturnal mind and shifts then into a half listening, half dreaming state.

Example Programmes:

22:00 - The World Tonight - news of the day. Hopefully, you will have heard most of this earlier in the evening so the import of the headlines will not distress you too much.

22:45 - Book at Bedtime - what do I need to say?? Here you go, your own personal reading! The stories tend to be good but not of an action/adventure type. The beauty of this is that you don't need to tune in every evening at the same time for fear of missing an episode. It is the storytelling, not the contents that matters in this situation.

23:00 - Home Truths (on a Monday) - actually a very funny programme with John Peel. His voice has that kind, reassuring quality to it, makes you feel all warm and secure. On other nights, you can listen to such gems as "World of Cricket", or "Great Lives" - biographies of people you've probably never heard of.

23:30 - Today in Parliament - enough to bore you to sleep, believe me.

00:00 - Midnight News - repetition of earlier news; you've heard it all before...you are now feeling very sleeeeeepy.....very sleeeeeepy....

00:30 - Book of the Week - OK, if it's not worked so far, you get another bedtime story, just to ease those weary eyelids.....

00:45 - Shipping Forecast - HERE IS THE ULTIMATE! May I suggest that you do not try to figure out what on earth all the terminology and numbers mean. Introduced by the lullabyesque "Sailing By", the shipping forecast sounds dull, but it's a wonderful sort of dull. Just a soothing, calming voice, reading out random phrases and talking nonsense, perfect to send you off into the land of nod.

01:00 - BBC World Service - If you're still awake, you get a rendition of the National Anthem (yes, really), and then it's more world news, which you will now be hearing for possibly the third time in the evening.....Sleep beckons!

I have used the "Radio Four Formula" for about 4 years now and it has proved to be most reliable. All I can suggest is that you try it out, it may work, or maybe it's just for me...who knows!

Good Luck! and many happy hours of sleep!

For those of you outside the UK, unable to get Radio Four, I would imagine that BBC World Service has much the same effect

Incidentally, no slight is meant on Radio Four as an institution, and I am not implying that it is boring. It is also the ideal thing to wake up to on a Sunday, especially if you have a hangover - you get the omnibus edition of The Archers!

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