My tips on how to get a good night's sleep
I have suffered from insomnia since I was 15 and it has been something that has shaped pretty much the whole of my adult life. It’s been a long journey but I am now sleeping the best I have ever slept. Here are a few practical tips if you are struggling to sleep.
Get off your phone an hour before you go to bed.
This is essential! Your phone emits blue light which stimulates the brain - it boosts our attention and energy levels and signals to the brain that we should be awake. This is the last thing we want when going to bed. Try to get off your phone at least an hour before bed, and if you can, allow even more time.
Regulate your hours.
One of the most important things is to try and go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Even if you are struggling with insomnia and you are knackered in the morning it’s best just to get up at your regular time. I know this can be really tough when you are feeling completely sleep deprived but I promise this helps in the long run. It’s important in order to maintain your circadian rhythm and to allow your body to naturally anticipate and prepare for sleeping and being awake.
Dim the lights.
On the flip side, dim lights signal to our brains that it is time to go to bed. Melatonin is a hormone that is produced by the brain and helps the body prepare for sleep by regulating the sleep / wake cycle also known as our circadian rhythm. Melatonin also reduces blood pressure and body temperature - two important factors that help the body sleep. Bright lights before bed suppresses melatonin production significantly so try to dim your lights / close your curtains two hours before you go to bed.
Don’t have your phone next to you when you go to sleep.
It’s sooooo tempting when you can’t sleep to look at your phone and then look at the time. As we already know, the blue light is certainly not going to help. Plus if you look at the time you often start to the panic about how little time is left to sleep. To resist the temptation put your phone on the other side of the room or even better in another room.
Wear an eye mask.
I love wearing an eye mask. For me it doesn’t only block out the light, it signals to my brain that it’s time to sleep. It’s part of my bedtime ritual. Try finding a big and comfy eye mask. (I have never actually tried them but I know you can get ones which have lavender in which is also supposed to be a sleep aid.)
Try not to drink too much liquid.
This is key to not going to the loo one hundred times a night!
Start winding down early.
I try to have a ritual that I stick to before I go to bed. I eat relatively early so my food is digested, I then have a bath (ideally with candles and a face mask), then I either watch TV or read a book. During this whole ritual I try to keep the lights dim and allow my body to start to wind down. Make sure if you are watching TV that it’s something that’s relatively easy to watch and pretty relaxing. This summer I decided not to watch Love Island (for many reasons), but one of the reasons being that I found it would keep me awake at night! I couldn’t stop thinking about what had happened in the show - who loved who, who hated who, who was being awful, who I liked etc etc and it frustratingly would keep me up! Anything that’s really stimulating is not a good idea to watch just before bed.
Caffeine has a half life of 6 hours and a quarter life of 12. Meaning that if you have a cup of coffee at 12:00 midday, at 18:00 half of the caffeine is still in your system and by midnight, a quarter of it is still there. So it’s like drinking a quarter of a cup of coffee just before you do to bed or even in the middle of the night if you go to bed early like me! So if you are drinking a lot of caffeine, ask yourself whether you can start to ween yourself off it so you only have one cup in the morning.
This is obviously much easier said than done. For me, insomnia led to anxiety. There was the worry at night of not sleeping, as well as the other worries about what I was doing with my life in a job that gave me absolutely zero balance. However, so many of my worries were exemplified by getting het up about the fact that I wasn’t sleeping. Try to stay calm, breathe, perform a body scan, perhaps put yourself in a yoga pose (such as the supine twist below), listen to a podcast or one of the sleep stories on the Calm app, read… whatever you do, try not to lie awake fretting. If I haven’t managed to get to sleep after 20 minutes I get up and read and then when I am very sleepy, I go back to bed.
Please know that I honestly thought my life was one of a forever insomniac, that I would have to my live on sleeping pills and that getting through each day would always just be a bit of a struggle… and I have finally managed to break the cycle, so I believe you can too.
I have some daily practices that have completely changed my life and I believe have helped me sleep better. To learn more, download your free EBook and subscribe to my wellness letter…click here.