Sleeping is essential to our mental and physical health. For me, it’s definitely my biggest issue and something that I need to take control of and improve. Most of this advice is common sense and there’s a chance that some of it will be irrelevant to you – if you go against some of this advice and still sleep like a log, good for you. Don’t fix what ain’t broke. However, I’m sure some of these will stand out and you’ll think…actually, maybe I shouldn’t be doing that. Maybe it would help to try changing my habits…
Body: Look After Your Body.
- Caffeine. Ideally, you shouldn’t be drinking any caffeinated drinks in the evening (tea, coffee, coke, redbull etc) as it’s a stimulant and may keep you awake. However, chocolate is also very high in caffeine and I always have that before bed…oops. Definitely something I should avoid in future.
- Alcohol. It’s a bit of a myth that having a drink will help you sleep, because whilst it can help relax you and knock you out quickly, it’s proven to disturb your sleep – waking you throughout the night or waking you too early, leaving you feeling exhausted. Then there’s the standard hangover to come, too.
- Food. Avoid eating a big (especially spicy) meal late in the evening but don’t go to bed hungry. Sometimes I stay up so late I end up being hungry again, not good.
- Exercise. That dreaded word! 30mins of exercise a day will use up some of that extra restless energy and could be a massive help, but don’t work out too close to bed time! You might end up feeling alert to sleep, you still need some chill time. Soak those muscles in a nice warm bath.
Environment: Make Your Bedroom ‘You’.
- Keep your bedroom tidy. I’m super tidy so this isn’t an issue for me but I don’t find my room a relaxing space – I rent, so I can’t change that much about the room itself but it’s just ugly and doesn’t feel like me. This weekend I move house, I’ll have a new bedroom and it’s all white which is what I like. I’ve promised myself that I’m going to put effort into making my room nicer and somewhere I want to be – usually, I don’t allow myself because I rent and what’s the point when I’ll have to move again anyway, it’s a waste of money etc but I deserve a comforting space to sleep and wake in and so do you! I’m a little late on the bandwagon but I’m going to look more into Hygge. In terms of interior design, it basically centres around the idea of cosiness and encourages a feeling of contentment and general well-being – just what I need!
- Make sure your bedroom is nice and cool. I absolute hate a room being too hot when I sleep, I hate the heat itself but I hate the feeling of having such a lack of fresh oxygen so I always prefer to have the window open. Whatever the weather!
- Ensure that you have a decent mattress, pillows and bedding. Get yourself a separate duvet for winter and a thin one for summer so you can regulate your sleeping temperature better. You can get nice bedding/pillows fairly cheap from somewhere like Ikea, obviously you can spend a lot more elsewhere if you want to be extra fancy pants! You’re also supposed to change your mattress every eight years – treat yo’ self!
- Try to make your bedroom a quiet and dark environment – black out blinds are a must for me! However, I can’t currently do anything about the horrendously loud neighbours so you can’t always control your environment. Do your best with what’s possible.
- Use pleasant smells to relax – but don’t risk falling asleep with a scented candle! Lot’s of people use lavender drops on a pillow.
Routine: Train Yourself For Bedtime.
- Try and keep to a regular routine. Keep a schedule for when you go to bed and get up, even on your days off! This is something I’ve found that’s really helped me from snowballing my bed times later and later, meaning I’ll wake up later and the vicious circle starts. I use the iPhone ‘bedtime’ function and try to stop myself from changing it even if I struggle to sleep one night – at least if I sleep bad and don’t lay in, I’ll likely sleep better the following night and get back on schedule.
- Avoid napping – this was a big change for me, I used to nap every day in the afternoon because I’d be too exhausted to do anything else but then I’d never be able to sleep at night which was leading me to feel exhausted the next day and need a nap. Another vicious circle.
- Put aside an hour to unwind before bed. I wish I did this but I very rarely do – hopefully once I’m settled in my move and have my work schedule on point this is something I can try and do more of. You could use this time to practice breathing exercises – even using an app like Headspace, or look into PMR (Progressive Muscle Relaxation) online, there’s a free audio download if you prefer that here.
- Write down your worries. If you’re an over thinker and find yourself with your mind racing as you’re trying to sleep, try and write whatever you’re thinking about down. With me, it’s usually stuff I need to get done or plans for the next day – I use my bullet journal to write these things down and I always look at it before bed and I do find it much easier to fall asleep now as I know I’ve done everything I can and the rest is scheduled in for tomorrow. It’s important to categorise your worries into practical or hypothetical – those hypothetical worries are pointless and might never happen so, as difficult as it is, you do need to try and let those go and live in the moment. Deal with your practical worries and things you can change right now, get into the habit of sorting these out first. Make a list of things you can do tomorrow to whittle these practical worries down.
- Don’t clock watch. I am terrible for this but I also obsess over getting eight hours sleep. Sometimes I wake up after only five/six hours, weirdly feel okay but insist I go back to sleep to get my eight hours. Often counterproductive because I usually wake up feeling groggy and horrendous after laying in bed too long, snoozing on and off.
- Give yourself twenty minutes to fall asleep. If you’re really struggling to sleep and don’t feel like you’ll be dropping off any time soon, get up and repeat the end of your bedtime routine. Go and chill out in another room for a bit, have a wee, have a chamomile tea if you like, read a book, whatever. Then get back into bed when you’re feeling sleepy and try again.
Good luck! Let me know if you have any more specific tips in the comments below and don’t forget to follow for future updates.
Last weeks Blog can be found here: Wellness and Wellbeing – What Is It?