Sleeping well is so vital for our wellbeing! Sleep impacts on the way we feel emotionally and physically; when we don’t sleep well we can feel tired and grumpy, and this can impact on every area of our lives, from our relationships, to our work performance. Here are some of our top tips for getting a good nights sleep…
It can be helpful to go to bed at the same time every night and having a wind-down routine. If you follow a similar routine every night then as soon as you start the routine your body will clock that it is time to bed soonand it will start getting prepared to sleep. What we are doing here is conditioning our bodies (like Pavolov’sdogs) to become sleepy when we start the routine. Start your wind-down routine an hour before going to sleep in order to allow yourself time to properly relax. Everyone relaxes in different ways, some people like to read or listen to an audiobook, others might prefer active relaxation.
Our minds are so often focused on the future, thinking of all the things we have to do and worrying about things that might happen, or on the past, maybe thinkingcritically of the mistakes we have made. Mindfulnesshelps us to focus on the present and on just being, which can be very therapeutic as it gives our mind a rest. Headspace is a wonderful app for guided mindfulness. Or you can have a look on YouTube for diaphragmatic breathing exercises or for progressive muscle relaxation techniques.
Camomile and valerian root tea are wonderfullycalming drinks that are fantastic to add into a wind-down routine. These herbs have been shown to reduce anxiety and to help improve sleep. The ritual of having a warm drink before bed is also very relaxing, especially if you drink mindfully. Although, make sure you don’t drink too much water too soon before going to bed as you don’t want to be needing to go to the loo during the night!
If you have a busy life and a racing mind, it can be a great idea to spend some time putting all of those thoughts (to-do lists or worries) onto paper to get them out of your head. Planning time to do this in the evening means that you have addressed your thoughts by the time you go to bed and thus they are less likely to disturb you during the night. If any thoughts or ideas pop into your mind at night, write them down (keep a pad of paper and a pen by your bed) and address them the next day. Writing things down allows us to let these thoughts go from our minds as we don’t have to try and remember them.
Gratefulness and Positive Logging
We like to end our day by writing three things we are grateful for and three positive things about ourselves. Complimenting ourselves can seem quite strange at first. It is something that does not quite fit with the British culture! We tend to be much more comfortable with criticism and we dwell on our mistakes more than our accomplishments. Thus, positive logging balances this out and it means going to bed on a positive note. There is a great app that can help with this called the 5 minute journal. Or, if you have a partner, this can be a lovely thing to do together!
The Bed-Sleep Connection
People who sleep well tend to have a positive association with going to bed; they have usually developed a connection between going to bed and successful sleeping. In comparison, if someone has difficulties sleeping, going to bed can be associated with wakefulness, frustration and anxiety. Thus, it is common to develop a strong negative association that can maintain sleeping difficulties. If you have difficulties sleeping here are some ways to encourage a healthy connection between bed and sleep…
The 15 Minute Tip
Most people generally tend to fall asleep within 15 minutes of getting into bed. Lying awake in bed for hours, tossing and turning, strengthens the association between being in bed and being awake. Instead, after lying in bed awake for 15 minutes (roughly, don’t clock watch!), try getting up, going into another room and doing something different (something relaxing, don’t watch a scary action movie that is going to get your adrenalin pumping!) until you feel sleepy again. Once you are feeling sleepy you can go back to bed and give yourself another opportunity to sleep. If you don’t fall asleep after another 15 minutes, get up again, repeating this as often as you need to. This technique reduces the time you spend in bed awake and thus it strengthens the association between being in bed and being asleep.
It is hard… the last thing anyone wants to do when they are feeling tired and can’t sleep is to get out of bed, but really, what good is lying in bed tossing and turning and feeling frustrated? We probably would not fall asleep during the time we are up anyway and in the long term it will maintain that negative connection. You may not notice a difference straight away, but over time this technique can be really powerful!
The Sleepy Tip
There is a difference between tiredness and sleepiness. We can feel tired without feeling sleepy. Ideally we should be feeling sleepy when we go to bed. Signs of sleepiness include, yawning, a lack of energy, itchy eyes, achy muscles and an involuntary tendency to nod off. Sleepiness is a signal from our bodies telling us it is time to sleep. Try and wait until you are sleepy before going to bed as you will be more likely to fall asleep quickly, thus, again, reducing the time you spend in bed awake and strengthening the association between being in bed and being asleep.
Bed is for Sleep
Avoid using your bed for anything except sleep (and sex). That means that any activities such as watching TV, reading, or looking on Facebook in bed are out! You might think there is nothing wrong with reading in bed, lots of people do it and they sleep fine! True, it is fine to read in bed if you can fall asleep easily. However, for people who find it difficult to sleep, reading in bed can become associated with being awake and not being able to sleep. Thus it can actually become a stressor that can impact on our sleep.
To Nap or Not to Nap?
The connection between bed and sleep is stronger if you save your sleeping for night-time. Thus, we should try to avoid napping if possible. This can be hard if you are tired, but a nap during the day can reduce the need for sleep at night. Thus napping can maintain a vicious cycle of sleep difficulties. Again, if you sleep easily at night you can nap as much as you want during the day!
If you are struggling to sleep, don’t give up, you will find a strategy that works for you! Everyone is different and different things work for different people. Let us know if you have any tips of your own! If after trying all of these techniques you still have difficulties sleeping, you could always try Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (provided on the NHS) or a herbal sleep supplement such as, Zonk (www.lovebrainfood.com/product/zonk-complete-sleep-remedy)!