You know the feeling. Your alarm goes off – yet it feels like you only just placed your head on the pillow.
You barely feel refreshed, though you drag yourself out of bed with eyes partially closed- heading for the kitchen and your first cup of coffee…
Poor quality sleep is slowly taking its toll on our population, with less time for replenishment and a slow but steady increase in the expectations we place on our body.
Our busy lives make it hard to wind down at night and our attachment to all things electronic doesn’t help.
So what can you do about it? As it turns out, quite a lot!
1. TIME OUT. How much time do you need between sleep and stimulation? (30 minutes? 3 hours? 5 hours?)
We’re all different so figuring out your unique cut off time – from computers/ emails/ documents/ work/ even TV – can prevent a racing mind from keeping you falling to sleep.
2. CUT (BACK) CAFFEINE. What is your daily tea, coffee and cola intake?
Consider cutting back during the day and/ or stopping intake by 2-3pm.
Dandelion root coffee is a great tasting coffee substitute (minus the caffeine) and if you drink decaf, look for one that has been decafinated using water, not chemicals.
3. OH SUGAR, SUGAR. Do you feel anxious as well as tired? Do you use sweet treats and ‘filler foods’ (like pasta and rice) to boost your energy?
If so you’re probably consuming too much sugar. Begin implementing smaller, more frequent and nutrient dense meals (like veg and protein) and sustain your daily energy needs in a healthy/ balanced way.
Additionally, you might like to incorporate ground cinnamon into your diet (for example in smoothies, on porridge, in curries etc) as it can help to stabilise blood sugar levels.
4. RUMBLE ALERT? Is digestion keeping you awake?
Eating dinner at least 3 hours prior to bedtime ensures the digestive process has begun well before you get into bed.
(You can also drink water with either freshly squeezed lemon juice or organic apple cider vinegar added, before meals, to help support your digestive function)
5. CLEAR YOUR MIND. Keep a pen and paper next to the bed.
Use them for creating a to do list for the following day (before you fall asleep); and to get those thoughts out of your head, if you wake up during the night.
6. INDIVIDUAL SLEEP ROUTINE. The mind responds to routine- the aim here is to design one that helps your body prepare for sleep.
Consider: Going to bed/ getting up at the same time daily; keeping work/ study out of the bedroom; drinking herbal tea a few hours before bed (i.e. chamomile, oat flower, lavender, lemon balm, valerian – all aid restful sleep); utilising soft lighting (lamps, dimmers) in all rooms before bed to ‘set the scene’ for winding down; burning/ diffusing lavender essential oil; reading a good book; meditating; stretching gently; using a fan in your room to block noise if you’re a light sleeper; keeping a gratitude journal (see secret #7).
Including a relaxation and/ or breathing exercise as part of your routine is also beneficial. (You can also do this if you wake during the night).
Once you are laying in bed try: tensing and then relaxing various parts of your body starting with your feet, working up to your face. Then turn your awareness to your breath and start to breathe more deeply. Your breathing naturally slows when you sleep, so doing this supports the onset of sleep. (You can try counting as you elongate your breath – in 1, 2, 3, 4, out 1, 2, 3, 4 etc).
Another technique is to, on the inhale deeply draw your breath down into your belly and on the exhale, imagine that you are letting go of your day. (On each out breath you can might like to name the things you are letting go of).
7. GRATITUDE. Finish your day and establish the next one, on a positive note.
Before drifting off to sleep, think of three things you are grateful for (no matter how large or small) and two things you are looking forward to the following day.
In our busy life we are so often striving for goals in the future, so this simple act is a great way to give thanks for the blessings we already have already received and invite more of those blessings into our life.
8. DEAL WITH STRESS. If you continue to experience sleep troubles, consider what else you can do.
This could include: consulting with a professional of your choice (holistic practitioner, GP, counselor for example); booking in for a relaxation treatment (like Reiki!); signing up for a yoga or meditation class; scheduling a weekend away/ booking a holiday; or re-evaluating your schedule.
So… where to begin? Think about which of these ideas feel right for you- the ones that really sit with you as you read them. Even start with the tips you know you can stick to easily and build from there.
BONUS TIP: Ensuring you are comfortable (room temperature, breathable cotton sheets & PJ’s) and that the bedroom is pitch black, also promotes peaceful sleep. (This is because any level of visible light will trigger a reduction in melatonin production, a hormone produced by our pineal glands that is required for effective sleep).
Wishing you a wonderful nights rest!
PS: Which of these tips works best for you? Do you have a tip for quality sleep you think others could benefit from? I would love to hear from you!