Sleep - it's simple right? We (most of us) do it everyday. We go through our day and mark the end of it by getting into bed and turning the lights out until the alarm clock goes off and we start all over again. But do you ever really switch off and get a restful sleep each night?
We have a constant barrage of content coming our way from social media, live news feeds, regular email checking and those addictive tv shows we can stream anytime, anywhere, ALL THE TIME! Oh and then we have that thing called #FOMO that affects so many of us. So it's no wonder that the vast majority of us find it hard to switch off, relax and get our best sleep.
But what if there was more to this simple thing we call sleep? Tried and tested methods to help you get the right kind of sleep. A few small changes that we could make, be mindful of and build into our bedtime routines that could lead to a better sleep and a healthier, happier, more-fulfilled you?
I LOVE to sleep and I love nothing better than getting an early night. But I rarely wake up feeling refreshed and energetic and I'd always put that down to the fact that I just wasn't a morning person. It turns out that I just wasn’t doing the right things! Read on to hear about 5 things you can do to get that elusive blissful slumber.
So why do we sleep?
We tend to think of sleep as that time when our minds and bodies enter a shutdown phase. In actual fact, according to the Sleep Foundation, it's one of our most active phases when our bodies physically restore and repair and our minds process and synthesise information into memories. It's no surprise then that a good night’s rest is essential to our physical and emotional wellbeing.
My top 5 tips for sleeping better
1. Set the scene - keep it clean, dark and cool.
- Your bedroom should be clean, peaceful and relaxing and it's easy to achieve this. De-clutter! Clutter brings feelings of overwhelm and stress which we really don’t need before bedtime. Tidy away all your 'stuff', neaten up your bedside table and keep things simple. A clutter-free room makes for a clutter-free mind and is the foundation to achieving that blissful sleep. For some great tips on how to declutter your bedroom, check out this article by The Spruce
- Darkness - make sure your bedroom is dark. Ever wondered why we naturally sleep at night? Our bodies produce a hormone called Melatonin which is activated as it gets darker. Melatonin doesn't make you fall asleep but instead it tells your body that it's tired and should get ready for sleep. Exposure to too much artificial light before bedtime can disrupt this melatonin production thereby making it difficult to fall asleep. When you're getting ready for bed keep the lights low, avoid white and blue light from your devices and use a sleep mask if you can't block out all light from outside. I have tried so many different sleep masks and pillows and my absolute favourite is this eye mask by Bedtime Bliss. It’s soft and comfortable and doesn’t press against your eyelids which can sometimes make you feel claustrophobic.
- Keeping it cool - if it's too cold or too hot and you will either find it difficult to fall asleep or have a disturbed sleep. As you become sleepy your body’s temperature drops slightly reaching its lowest level around 5am and then climbing again as morning begins. Try a thicker duvet and warmer bedclothes if you regularly feel cold in the night or a lighter cover and keeping the window open if you feel too hot.
2. Establish a bedtime routine - create a ritual you look forward to ending your day with.
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time everyday, even at weekends. Your body will thank you for it, it needs a tight schedule to work at it's optimum.
- Wake up when your alarm goes off and don't be tempted by that 9 minute snooze.
- For most adults, we need on average 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Too much sleep is just as bad for us as too little and has been linked to an increased risk of obesity, headache, back pain, and heart disease.
- Have a warm bath or shower before bed, this is as much physical as psychological. As you come out of a warm bath or shower the temperate of your body will cool in turn signalling to your brain that it’s time to sleep.
- Use aromatherapy to create a calming ambience. Scent and memory are so closely linked that soon your mind and body will instinctively know that that scent is associated with rest and sleep. Lavender and clary sage both have sedative properties so are perfect for bedtime and the reason we use them in our The Dreamer candle and pillow mist. Bergamot, geranium and sandalwood can all help with managing stress levels, depression and anxiety.
3. Beware of the sleep thieves - they are coming for your zzz's!
- Avoid caffeine later in the day and alcohol before bedtime. Try a herbal tea before your go to bed or just after dinner. My favourite is Bedtime by Yogi Tea.
- Banish those screens! - make your bedroom a device free room. That means no phones, no tablets and no TV. The temptation for most of us to 'switch-on' when we can't sleep is just too much. Most of us will use our phones as an alarm clock, in which case keep your phone out of immediate reach (this will also mean that you have to get out of bed to turn the alarm off and less likely to get back in and snooze!).
4. Nourish your body - your mind needs it.
- 20/30mins of exercise a day should help with a better sleep. Exercising during the day helps to release tension and banish stress.Yoga, with its emphasis on breathing and stretching is renowned for its relaxation benefits and is therefore an ideal form of exercise for the evenings.
- Eat a lighter meal in the evening which is easier for your body to digest and therefore less disruptive to your sleep. There are several foods that can help you to sleep too. Cherries, nut and oats are a natural source of melatonin and when eaten regularly can help regulate your sleep cycle. Other foods to opt for include dairy products (cheese is actually good for you before bedtime!), turkey, chicken and beans whereas fried and spicy foods, processed meats, and tomato based sauces are all items to avoid in the evenings.
5. Be kind to yourself - don’t stress it
- Trying to sleep is stressful… the more you try, the more conscious and stressed you will feel about it. New research by The Sleep Council in conjunction with Northumbria University suggests that on average it should take 10 to 20 minutes to fall asleep. Try focussing on your breathing if it’s taking longer - this will calm you as well as stop your mind from wandering to other thoughts (and your devices!).
- If you can’t sleep, get up and leave your bedroom. Don't stay in bed, this trains the brain that your bed is not for restful sleeping. Do something calming: Read a book under a soft, dim light, avoiding any stimulating TV, phone, or computer screens. When sleepiness returns, go back to bed.
So what’s worked for me?
I tidied up my bedroom, removed all the ‘stuff’ from surfaces and put it away, moved my phone charger away from my bedside table so that my phone is no longer within reaching distance, I’ve stopped being a serial snoozer, I’ve cut down completely on my coffee drinking, I read an actual book before bed rather than reading on my phone and I use a pillow mist to calm me and an eye mask to help with the light from the street. I can honestly say that I have been waking up in the mornings feeling much more rested and looking forward to starting the day. I am by no means a morning-person all of a sudden but I am no longer waking up feeling groggy each morning which for me is a big improvement!
There you have it - 5 simple things you can be mindful of and change in your daily routine to help you find your best sleep and your best you. Have a go and let me know what you think? And if you have any additional tips and tricks, drop me a line (email, instagram)! I’d love to hear about them!
To celebrate sleep awareness week we are offering a 15% discount when you purchase The Dreamer candle and pillow mist together - get yours here.