If there’s one thing I’ve learned about sleeping well, it’s that, the harder you chase it, the more elusive it becomes.
So, my top tips for sleeping well are:
- Avoid caffeine after 12pm – the half life of caffeine is 12 hours so if you drink a coffee at 2pm, you will still have half that caffiene in your body at 2am. And, even if you have become used to its effects and don’t notice it, the caffeine will impair your sleep quality
- Avoid alcohol – I know, it seems boring and predictable but, alcohol impairs the quality of your sleep too so, it’s just not worth it – at least not daily!
- Set a ‘time for bed’ alarm chances are, you have an alarm to wake in the morning but having a bedtime, like for children is really useful for adults too. Work out how long it takes you to get ready for bed, how long you are usually awake before you get off to sleep and how long you need to sleep for to feel refreshed when the alarm goes off. THAT’s your bedtime.
- Get ready for bed after dinner – if you struggle to go to bed in good time because you’re too tired to make it there, do all the things you need to to be ready earlier in the evening. Brush your teeth, get your pyjamas on, get cosy, breathe nice and deep and let the day drift away.
- Screens… yes, they feature in our lives, yes, they have an addictive allure but, they are likely to be impacting on your sleep. Blue light filters help.
- Relax during the day – good nourishing relaxation during the day enables us to store up the energy required to get a good night’s sleep. Watching TV does not count! #sorrynotsorry TV is passive zoning out and whilst it’s fabulous and has its place, it isn’t relaxation. Zoning out just puts us in a different brain space for a while. Once we then climb into bed, the to-do list, the argument you’re turning over… all come flooding into your brain again. Trying breathing exercises or guided meditations and any other things which bring you out of your mind and into your body are really key. My favourite is the 6:6 breathing – breathing a long slow in-breath for 6 seconds and then a long slow out-breath for six seconds and repeating that, ideally for 20mins. It slows your body right down and gets you into a nice calm and relaxed space. The counting and focusing on doing it really slowly keeps your brain busy.
- Write a to do list for tomorrow loooong before you get into bed so that your brain is not turning over all the things you need to remember as you start to relax.
- Journal… or do something to work through the events of today so you’re not up all night replaying conversations and more.
- NO SUGAR! Sugar is also a stimulant so eating sugary snacks (including raisins, grapes, dates and bananas) in the evening is not a great plan. It’ll fill your blood with fizzy energy which needs to be burned off before your body is ready to sleep.
- Sleep time is ‘me-time‘ – if you’re drawn into another episode of your fave TV show or feel desparate for that little bit of time alone once everyone else is in bed, but end up dragging yourself through the day, reframe sleeping as the ultimate in self-care me-time. It’s the chance to recharge your batteries and renew so that tomorrow really is another day.
- Nasal breathing – yes, ensuring you focus on breathing through your mouth for most of the time you’re awake and asleep, will probably improve the quality of your sleep. It certainly has for me.
- Watch your inner dialogue – how often do you tell someone “I’m such a bad sleeper” or “I’m a terrible insomniac”. When you think about this, you don’t give you or your body the opportunity to be anything other than those things if constantly reinforcing the negative. It’s not that it might be very true but it remains the truth the more we reinforce it. So, listen to yourself and your words and how you speak about it. Worth a try, eh?
Not all of this will be helpful if you struggle to get to sleep, stay asleep and more of those thing associated with insomnia and most of it won’t be a miracle cure but, stick to it. It’s really worth it. After 4 years of poor sleep length and depth which was interrupted easily and frequently, I have just had 6 weeks of mostly great sleep. I am a transformed woman. So, I know it’s possible.
If you want more help, join me for The Sleepy Sessions, my fortnightly Wednesday event.
Should we re-name these flowers ‘Cowsleep’?
These pretty flowers literally litter the grassy banks of the A41. Until recently they were protected as they had been wild harvested until near extinction – hard to believe when you see the swathes of them between the M25 turning for Hemel Hempstead and then at the slip road going back on at Hemel!
Like so many herbs, all the parts of the lant are useful medicines but, it’s the yellow corolla – the flower part of the flowering heads – which are particularly sedative.
I have recently begun using the flower as my main herb for sleep mixes. I always combine several herbs in order to address the multiple aspects of sleeplessness that the person I prescribe for is experiencing. It has a light taste which I have read described as aniseed-y but I don’t agree. Or, certainly not as a tincture. I see the point but if you don’t like aniseed don’t be put off as it’s really not that strongly so!
As with all sedatives, the ideal is that they wouldn’t be taken over a long period of time. That they be used for a short burst during a temporary sleep disturbance. If your sleep continues to be poor quality, slow in coming, short in duration, disturbed and more, it’s a really good idea to begin the journey to address why that is.
That’s what we do together. There’s loads of research about sleep and what happens to our bodies when we don’t get enough. We still don’t fully understand why we sleep or what really happens when we do. But, I have only heard it said in one place that in order to sleep and sleep well and gain good nourishment from it, we need to have plenty of energy. In chronic sleep deprivation and chronic fatigue states, we become so depleted that we don’t have enough energy to sleep!
The daytime is as important as the night! Nourishing yourself with good foods, avoiding depleting stimulants, and getting really goot relaxation are all key to replenishing the stores for better sleep.
Cautions: This remedy should not be prescribed for pregnant women, patients who are sensitive to aspirin, or those taking anti-coagulant drugs such as warfarin. Long-term use may also be inadvisable if taking hypotensive medications – PFAF
Wild harvesting: Please don’t pick these flowers yourself as we don’t want to get into the situation where they are near extinction again. It’s fine to pick a small handful to try out as a tea but if you want a plentiful supply, I suggest buying them from a sustainable source. I stock them as both a dried flower and tincture.
You’re not sleeping well. You feel like you haven’t had a proper night’s sleep in a long time. I hear you. It’s an awful feeling. You know that everything in your body is not functioning optimally and you are putting yourself at higher risk of every ailment and serious disease going.
So, what do you do?
First things first, the research shows that the more we worry about not getting to sleep or having enough sleep, the less well we sleep! So, STOP WORRYING ABOUT IT!
What do you mean that didn’t work?
It’s so much easier said than done. I remember right in the midst of my new-baby no sleep phase that I felt like I was broken. That my ability to sleep had been broken. I thought I would never sleep again. And, I thought I would die through lack of sleep. I felt terrible. I spent so long teetering right on the edge of being asleep but as soon as I noticed, or my partner moved, or the radiator creaked, I would ping back into wakefulness. I lay awake in my bed for hours failing. It became a place I loathed.
So, how do we stop thinking about not sleeping? How do we shift out of being ‘a bad sleeper’ into being someone who doesn’t have a label for their sleep, they just do it.
Warning: no quick solution!
We start with the daytime. We listen to our inner voice and hear how we are talking to ourselves. How are we mentioning our sleep? What do you hear?
What do you hear?
‘I’m such a bad sleeper’ ‘I’m an insomniac’ ‘I just can’t seem to get a good night’s sleep’
I think our brains and our thoughts are very powerful. When we tell ourselves these things repeatedly even if it seems as though it is just the truth of the situation, how can our bodies do anything but continue to obey?
I think this is a very powerful concept and one I use a lot when I work with my herbal patients and EFT clients.
I needed a lot of extra help to get back the skill of sleep. I wish I had known of the tools I now have and use with my patients. I think I would have been in a very different situation from the one I actually found myself in. And, in spite of that wish, I know that I learned a huge amount from my experience as that drove me to look for more tools. I also firmly believe that the best we can do with our toughest paths is to find the silver lining and use it to our eventual advantage which is where I am now. I know that my skill set is so suited to that kind of situation that I can help more and more people who feel like they are beyond help.
Read Part 5 in my series on sleep to hear about how I help myself and others to get a good night’s sleep.