Sleep is a funny old thing and sometimes it’s so easy to get caught up in the busy-ness of life that we forget just how essential sleep is for survival. It’s not until you’ve gone to bed at 11pm, woke up at midnight and then not been able to sleep again until 5 minutes before your alarm goes off, and then you’ve got to slave through a working day that we realise, actually this sleep thing is a good deal.
I struggle to sleep when I’m stressed or have a lot going on at work as my mind just goes into over-drive, and it really proves just how vital a good night’s sleep is for your health and quality of life. If I’m tired, I tend to be grouchy, clumsy and snap at everyone around me. I thought I would share with you some tips on how I get myself some decent ZZZs especially during those stressful times when you probably need sleep the most!
Create a pre-bed routine
I like to make sure I have a routine to follow each night where I just completely chill out. So before bedtime, I’ll have an hour or two just to myself – no working, blogging, and no social media! I’ll run myself a nice hot bubble bath, maybe put on a facemask and relax with a chapter of my favourite book. You want to ease into the transition from being awake to asleep so that your brain is relaxed and ready to shut off. It’s best to avoid any stressful activities such as talking about work or any emotional issues ad these can cause your body to secrete cortisol, which actually increases alertness!
I have a TV in my bedroom so I’ll also sometimes let myself watch my favourite show for half an hour as I’m dozing off. I’m a huge fan of Friends, the American sitcom, so that tends to be a go-to choice, however we’ve just started watching Power on Netflix and I’m hooked!
Utilise Helpful Products
Using candles, scents and sprays is something I’ve only recently started doing. Products can be a great help in setting the mood, relaxing you and helping you to stay asleep once you get there. Anything lavender and camomile is great as they offer calming and soothing properties that slow heartbeat, relax muscles and also reduce stress!
I used to work night shifts and I always struggled to stay asleep during the day until somebody recommended drinking chamomile tea about an hour before I went to bed. This worked like a charm for me – just make sure you use the bathroom before you go to bed as the last thing you want is to wake up needing a wee at silly hours!
Sleep When You’re Actually Tired
Sounds silly, right? But there’s no point in going to bed if you’re going to spend the next 90 minutes tossing and turning and watching the clock. If you’re not asleep within 20 minutes, get out of bed and go and do something; read a book, listen to some music or a podcast for 20 minutes and then try again.
Struggling to fall asleep is just frustrating and the more frustrated you get, the less likely you are to get a good night’s sleep.
Watch What You’re Eating & Drinking
So in the hours leading up until bedtime, you should really try to keep track of what you’re eating and drinking. It’s a no-brainer that if you’re drinking coffee and other highly-caffeinated drinks after 6pm then it’s going to affect your sleep. So will nicotine and alcohol as they affect your quality of sleep. Think about when you’ve gone on a night out, passed out and had a full 8 hours sleep, you still feel absolutely exhausted because you won’t have had a good night’s sleep.
Personally, I avoid drinking any tea or coffee from 3pm onwards. This may not be viable option for everyone but I try to stick to water or non-sugary juices for the rest of the afternoon/evening, or if it’s chilly and I fancy a hot drink I’ll have hot chocolate or hot vimto.
It’s also a good idea to have a decent meal for dinner, but don’t over-do it. You’ll not want to feel hungry but at the same time you don’t want to feel stuffed.
Don’t Exercise Late At Night
I used to be super-guilty of this, mainly because my favourite Zumba class was always scheduled for 9pm. I’d do the class, feel fabulous and then go home and just be staring at the clock in bed for hours on end. If you’re going to exercise, it’s always best to keep it early on – no later than 7pm! Exercising will actually help you fall asleep faster, and have a better rest, but only if you do it at the right time.
Why do you think so many people get up earlier and go for a 6am run or Pilates class? Because it activates cortisol, which in turn activates the mechanism in your brain or alertness. That’s the last thing you need flowing through your body at bed time!
I hope these easy-to-follow tips help you to sleep tonight. Feel free to share your own suggestions in the comments section.