A good night’s sleep can be incredibly restorative but if you are struggling to sleep it can take its toll. It’s estimated that one in three of us have trouble sleeping, whether it’s getting to sleep, staying asleep, or both.
Insomnia can involve waking several times during the night and often lying awake, waking early and being unable to drift back to sleep.
This can result in feeling irritable and unable to concentrate the next day because you’re so exhausted.
We all need different amounts of sleep; adults are reckoned to feel best after between seven and nine hours.
If what you’re achieving feels closer to nine minutes, here are ten tips to help you sleep to make sure you never wake before the dawn chorus again.
1. Keep your phone out of the bedroom
Don’t use your phone as an alarm clock, get a proper old-fashioned alarm clock. Switch your mobile off at bedtime and keep all tech out of your bedroom.
That way you won’t be tempted to check messages, browse social media or play games before bed or if you do wake up during the night.
It’s hard to disconnect from your phone but if you are really struggling to sleep consider switching your phone off an hour before bed and allow your body to naturally get drowsy.
The blue light emitted from smartphones disrupts the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates the body’s sleep cycle.
If you just can’t put the phone down at night, consider the Night Shift feature (iOS) or Twilight app (Android).
Both adjust your screen colors to minimize blue light which can be harmful to the eyes, especially in contrast to the darkness of bedtime.
2. Create a space to switch off and relax
Look at where you’re sleeping. Is your bed comfy? Is the room at a temperature you feel comfortable with? Making sure the room is dark and quiet, and using ear-plugs, an eye mask or blackout blinds will be helpful.
Also check if your pillows are as plump as you’d like and check if your mattress is still firm enough. Pillows and mattresses have a shelf life and will stop you relaxing fully if they are not functioning properly due to age.
3. Cut out meals before bed
Avoid eating big meals late in the evening. If your digestive system is awake, you will be too! Ideally, leave at least an hour – or preferably up to three hours – between bed and food, so there is time for your body to digest.
Eating a balanced dinner will help prevent late night cravings and provide you with a steady source of energy as you fall asleep.
Remember to stay hydrated throughout the day as feeling dehydrated can produce false hunger cravings.
4. Get into a routine
Getting up at the same time every day, even at weekends, is a great way to develop a ‘body-clock’ that knows when to wake up, and more importantly – when to go to sleep.
Having a routine is your way of disciplining your body into acting how you want it to.
The human body naturally has a sleep and waking rhythm which is disrupted by all the distractions of modern way of life.
If you can manage to get up at the same time every morning – even at weekends – your body will have a great chance of getting into a natural sleep rhythm.
5. Read a book
It’s all to easy to forget or neglect books as they don’t hold the instant appeal of a phone or tablet. In trying to sleep, however, this can work to your advantage.
Reading before bed (real books, not e-readers!) can create a relaxing bedtime ritual and signals to your body that it’s time to wind down and go to sleep.
Research suggests that reading can act as a serious stress-buster. Getting lost in a story can help zone out from any worries which may be keeping you awake.
Creating a reading habit before bed will signal to the body that it’s time to switch off. It also has the added bonus of improving your concentration skills during the day.
6. Aromas can aid the sleep process
Lavender is said to have sleep-inducing qualities. Recent studies found a reduction in blood pressure, heart rate and respiratory rate of people using lavender before bed.
Dab a drop or two on your temples, wrists or neck before bedtime or sprinkle a few drops on a piece of tissue and tuck it under your pillow.
In terms of mood, those who inhaled lavender oil said they had more energy and were more relaxed.
Aromatherapy sachets, pot-pourri and sleep pillows are all good options to help with relaxation. Try them and see what works for you.
7. Exercise can help
Gentle exercise during the day can help you sleep better – just don’t do it too close to bedtime.
Expending energy during the day by being more physically active helps you feel more tired and ready to rest at the end of the day.
Research indicates that exercise – particularly regular exercise that’s part of a consistent routine – can help boost your sleep quality and duration.
This will allow sleep to rejuvenate you, ready to exercise the next day again and continue the healthy cycle.
8. Wind down before bed
Try to wind down for at least an hour before bed – have a warm bath, a milky drink, read, or listen to relaxing music. Setting a specified bed time will allow you to know when to start winding down.
Then its time to switch off stimulating technology, and concentrate on everything that relaxes you. A relaxing bed time routine will allow your body the chance to get drowsy and fall into a relaxing sleep.
9. Cut out stimulants before bed
Cut down on caffeine, alcohol and nicotine, and avoid them altogether near bedtime. Consider swapping to decaf coffee.
Don’t forget that most tea contains caffeine too. Try decaffeinated teas like pure chamomile tea – it can help reduce stress and anxiety, as well as sleeplessness.
Try going alcohol free for a while if you drink on a regular basis – even in small amounts. Some people find drinking alcohol helps them drop-off to sleep.
As the night goes on you spend less time in deep sleep and can be woken up by needing to go to the toilet.
All this can leave you feeling tired the next day no matter how long you stay in bed.
10. Save sleep for night time
Don’t nap during the day, even if you’re weary, and avoid sleeping in after a bad night, or the cycle could continue.
Napping in the afternoon may feel desirable or even necessary but if you’re sleep deprived it can adversely affect your all-important night-time sleep.
If you are so tired you can’t avoid a nap, set a timer for 10 or 15 minutes and try to do it in the afternoon, not the evening.
You may find this short nap is enough to re-energise you. Naps that are more prolonged or that occur close to bedtime can compromise your ability to fall or stay asleep at night.
From: The People’s Friend