How To Get A Healthy Night’s Sleep
Sleep – it’s a vital requirement for everyone, and yet few of us seem to be getting enough of it.
For some of us it’s that we’re working and playing so hard that we simply haven’t the time for the sleep that we need. For others, the problem lies with being unable to switch off even when we’re trying to sleep. Try some of these suggestions to help beat the cycle of sleeplessness tonight.
Achieve tranquility in your sleep space
Getting your sleep environment right is the first step in achieving a well-rested body and mind. Cluttered surfaces and blinking electrical equipment can contribute to an increase in anxiety levels, as can strong odours. Make sure your bedroom is a haven of tranquillity, filled with calming sights and scents.
After a hectic day it can be difficult to turn off your brain and relax into a restful sleep, especially if attempting to switch from one hundred miles per hour to lights out without any proper wind down time. Research has shown that dimming the lights up to two hours before bed can help your brain to release those all-important sleep hormones. Removing yourself from work-related or other stress-inducing activities is also crucial (that means no late night emailing). It has also been proven that using back-lit screens (computers, mobile phones) can keep you awake for longer, so although your screen might be switched off, you won’t be.
Get into good habits
A consistent pre-bedtime routine works wonders for helping you to wind down. Regulate your bedtime to get your circadian rhythms in check, carry out a nightly routine such as a bath or shower, a reading a chapter of a book, listening to some music and having a warm drink, and be strict about sticking to it. The power of association is a powerful thing!
Worrying is the nemesis of sleep. If you’re prone to thinking through your concerns or agonizing over tomorrow’s tasks at night, get into the habit of spending a few minutes each evening acknowledging these worries, writing them down, and agreeing with yourself that there’s nothing you can do about them right now, and that you will address them in the morning. This practice can really help you to calm a busy brain.
Keep a journal
Everyone is an individual, which means that what works for one person to help them to sleep might not work so well for another. Get into the habit of keeping a sleep journal at least a few days each week to keep track of methods and techniques which seem to work for you. Note how well you slept and what sort of a pre-bed routine you had carried out that day, as well as what sort of a day you’d had. For example, did you sleep particularly well after a hot, rather than a warm bath? Did you eat very late and find it difficult to drift off? Gradually you will begin to see patterns emerging and, ultimately, will be able to tailor your pre-bed routine perfectly to suit your individual needs.
Meditate to sleep
Meditative practices such as counting (not necessarily sheep!) or repeating in your head a mantra (a chosen word, phrase or sound) can help you to relax. Such techniques focus your mind just enough to prevent invasive thoughts from keeping you awake. Some people can achieve a similar state by trying to remember minute details of the previous day’s events, or listing names of familiar people or places.
Anxiety can lead to shallower and faster breathing, which can cause an increase in adrenaline which, in turn, can keep you awake. Controlling your breath is a fantastic way to help calm body and mind to induce sleep. In a similar way to meditation, controlled breathing can help you to focus and relax, reducing anxieties and helping the body to achieve a state of rest. A breathing techniques to help you sleep is the ‘4-7-8’ method, which involves deep breathing in through your nose for four seconds and out through your mouth for eight seconds, holding each breath for a seven seconds in between.
Food for thought
Avoiding caffeine, nicotine and alcohol seems an obvious choice if you’re seeking a good night’s sleep, but did you know that some foods actually release chemicals which encourage your body to rest? Bananas, milk, avocados, almonds and figs are said to aid sleep, so stock up on these during the day, taking care not to eat too much, too late — or too little for that matter; no one wants to go to bed hungry.
Comfort is crucial
Is your mattress sagging and your bedding tired and unappealing? A worn mattress and flat pillows can cause back and neck problems, making sleep uncomfortable. Clean, fresh sheets can work wonders for helping to create the right frame of mind for sleep, and a new, fluffy pillow feels like resting on a cloud after putting up with a tatty old one.
Sam Butterworth is a writer and a big fan of a great night’s sleep. He writes for Homemaker Bedding.