Sleep like a baby
Aaah, sleep. When you get enough of it you feel refreshed and ready to tackle the day ahead. Get too little and you’re wired, grumpy and more likely to mess things up. And regularly missing out on sleep can result in more than just a zombie-like feeling, it can put you at risk of obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
Sleep is mostly controlled by our body clock (our circadian rhythm), a 24 hour cycle which regulates all our body’s processes. Ideally our circadian rhythm will rise in the morning when it becomes light and promote wakefulness. When it gets dark it should fall and increase the pressure on our body to sleep.
Moving into a new season can often throw our body clocks out a little, as can a change in the actual clocks (happening later this month), along with a whole load of other things. Here are my top tips for getting your seven(ish) hours:
Get into a good sleep routine to get your body and mind into a good rhythm. Even if you're dog-tired, try not to nap in the daytime as you'll diminish your chances of sleeping well that night. Reduce the levels of light in your home in the evening by using dimmer switches and low watt bulbs. Avoid technology for a couple of hours before bedtime. Go to bed at the same time every night. Have a warm bath or shower, listen to some relaxing music, or do some gentle stretching beforehand. Read a book for 10 minutes before you turn your light out.
Paint it black. Not literally but your bedroom should be dark when you sleep. If you don’t have a blackout blind or curtains, an eye mask can be just as effective.
Cut out noise. If you’re sensitive to noise (snoring partner anyone?) ear plugs can help block it out. If you live in an area where there can be sudden noises from elsewhere, playing white noise (available on CD, YouTube, Spotify, etc.) quietly can help as it reduces the difference between total quiet and a sudden sound.
Keep your room at a comfortable temperature. It shouldn’t be too hot or too cold, the recommendation is around 16-18°C. I have a tendency to feel the cold but find that I always get a better night’s sleep when my bedroom is cooler than the rest of the house and the window is open a bit, even in the middle of the winter.
Ditch the devices. As hard as it is to lure yourself away from Netflix, WhatsApp and Facebook, your bedroom should be a device-free zone. That means no TV, laptop or phone and anything else with an LED display (including clocks). This was becoming such a problem in our house that we now have a ‘device box’ on our landing which we put all gadgets in before we get ready for bed. It sounds a bit OTT but it works!
Create a haven. Even if the rest of your house full of stuff, try to keep your bedroom less cluttered, more tidy and clean. Adding a few personal and beautiful things like perfume bottles, scented candles and favourite pictures makes your bedroom inviting and a place you want to be. Essentially your bedroom should only be for two things – sleep and sex, so make it attractive for both!
Buy the best value bed and mattress you can afford. Change your mattress about every eight years and buy one which provides you with support and comfort. Many good bed companies now allow you a certain number of nights to test out your new mattress and will replace it if you’re not happy.
Avoid stimulants and sedatives. Caffeine and cigarettes won’t help to relax you. And sedatives such as sleeping pills and alcohol may help initially in knocking you out but you may find that you end up relying on them.
Exercise helps you shake off the tensions of the day and enables you to enjoy a better quality of sleep. Exercise regularly and you should see your sleep improve.
Eat well. Avoid sugary, processed foods and eat foods that are rich in tryptophan, an amino acid that helps boost the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. Examples include chicken, turkey, milk, dairy, nuts and seeds. A warm milky drink really can help you relax and nod off, as can chamomile and valerian teas.
If you do wake up don’t panic. Don't lie there worrying about not sleeping. Get up and do something you find relaxing until you feel sleepy again. I’ve found that reading a book and having a warm drink before going back to bed helps.
Reduce stress. Sleep, like so many things can be negatively affected by a life on the go, stress and anxiety. A busy mind makes it hard to sleep, creating space to find things to worry about, which then results in sleep becoming a worry in itself – a horrible but all too common and distressing cycle. A good tip is to keep a notebook on your bedside table so you can write down anything you’re thinking about or worrying over. This way you can relax knowing that it’s documented and you can focus on it in the morning.
And finally, relax...We all need to get ourselves more relaxation so we can sleep like that baby koala. Nowadays there are plenty of online resources, apps, group classes and books to help you chill out, including meditation, breathing exercises and yoga. And I know I'm biased but reflexology is a fantastically good stress reliever, helping to quieten the mind and relax the body. Many of my clients report getting a really good night’s sleep after their reflexology treatment.
If you do struggle to get a good night's sleep, I hope you find these ideas helpful and discover some which work for you. Sleep well x
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