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.