Getting a Good Night Sleep
Getting a good night sleep is essential for good health. Sufficient sleep aids fat loss, helps you to burn more calories and keeps your brain more focused. If you’re struggling to sleep, it can affect the way you feel; hopeless, disorientated, unmotivated and even depressed. From my own struggles with disordered sleep and fatigue, I want to share with you the help I’ve received and provide actionable insight to help you rest up easier!
I’ve battled fatigue and disordered sleep since I was very small. I used to come in from junior school aged 6 and be too tired to even make it in to the house, curling up on the doorstep. My mum took me to every doctor, I had every brain scan, tried every ‘jungle juice’ sleep potion and I still found my sleep issues persisted. Eventually, I was told it was a stress-induced fatigue issue, I needed to manage my stress, manage my sleep and just deal with it.
Recently I’ve been struggling with mental health and fatigue, I’ve been feeling so tired during the days but struggling to fall or stay asleep at night. So I’ve done my research, tried and tested methods and sought professional help to help me to sleep better at night and feel less tired in the day. I’ve compiled my top tips (and gifs) for a good night sleep below, hopefully they’re useful.
Ditch the Caffeine: Caffeine can play such havoc with our energy and sleep cycles. Ideally I’d say ditch the caffeine full stop but if you can’t imagine a day without your skinny latte, then at least try to limit your consumption after 3pm. Drinking coffee late in the afternoon can disturb melatonin production (melatonin is the hormone that controls our sleep schedule by letting us know whether it’s time to sleep or wake!) so ditch the 4pm pick-me up cappuccino and opt for a herbal tea instead.
Don’t exercise too late: exercise releases endorphins, that’s why we feel so buzzed and amazing after a spin class even though we should feel totally shattered. If you exercise late at night or right before bed, you’ll still get that endorphin rush that’ll leave you with too much energy to drift off peacefully. Try working out first thing in the morning, it’ll give you great energy to seize the day but won’t last long enough to keep you wired through the night. If you do want to do something active at night, try yoga or gentle stretching.
Don’t nap: being tired and napping can be a really vicious cycle; you’re tired so you take a day time nap, but then you’re not tired at bedtime so struggle to sleep, so the next day you feel tired so you take a nap…….and so on! As tempting as it can be to just rest your eyes for half an hour in the afternoon – resist! Your body will thank you for it when you drift off peacefully at night.
Evaluate your sleep space: is your bedroom tidy, messy, crowded, smelly? If you’re not sleeping in a good environment, you will struggle to get to sleep. Change your sheets regularly, tidy and declutter your bedroom, invest in good curtains and clean frequently so there are no funky smells. A Zen bedroom will aid a good night sleep.
Read a book: it can be really tempting to spend hours scrolling through Instagram, refreshing apps, watching TV or play on your iPad before bed but the small, bright screen is going to mess with your sleep. Try reading a good book, just a chapter or two will do, before bed. You’ll tire out your mind, ready for a good sleep.
Have a routine: if you have a set pattern of bed-time activities you do every night before sleep, your body will recognise this routine and know that it’s time to start winding down. I have a shower, put my pyjamas on, have a cup of herbal tea, read a chapter of my book, brush my teeth, wash my face and get in to bed to sleep. It’s very simple but the structure and routine will really help.
Have a herbal tea: some teas can be great for soothing you to sleep, try a chamomile or valerian tea before bed to help you relax. Watch out for teas that have a slightly higher caffeine content though, black and oolong tea might have the opposite effect!
Set your phone to Do Not Disturb: I set my phone to do not disturb mode the minute I start settling down in to the sleep routine. No text, Facebook message or email is important enough to warrant interrupting my sleep. On an iPhone you can change your DND settings so you still get notifications if one of your ‘favourites’ rings you or if the same number tries to call you three times in the space of two minutes. I still want to be there for my nearest and dearest in case of an emergency but I don’t want to be disrupted for any old thing.
Avoid all screens: as I mentioned in the pre bed-time section, small screens can be really counter-productive to sleep. Screens supress that vital sleep hormone melatonin and keep your brain alert. Try to save all your phone/tablet checking to before your bed-time routine, make sure all your alarms are on and social media is checked before you start preparing yourself for bed. Bonus tip: keep your phone on the other side of the room so when your alarm goes off in the morning you have to get yourself up and out of bed to switch it off!
Listen to some relaxing music: there are so many apps, playlists, audiobooks, meditation tutorials and YouTube videos designed to send you to sleep, have a scout around (during the day time) and see if there are any you like that make you feel sleepy and relaxed.
Drop some lavender oil: incense or scented oils can be great relaxation aids. I always pop a few drops of lavender on my pillow before bed because the scent makes my eyes heavy and wistful for sleep. Geranium, bergamot and chamomile are also lovely relaxing scents to surround yourself with at bedtime.
Revaluate your sleep space: Is your bedroom dark, quiet and a nice temperature? Is your bed too big, small, hard or soft? Trying to sleep in a bright, loud and freezing/boiling room on an uncomfortable bed can be really difficult. Invest in a sleep mask, ear plugs, fan, heater and/or mattress topper if necessary to make your bedroom as comfortable and sleep-efficient as possible.
Tire but don’t excite your mind: I found this tip particularly useful as it can be really difficult to shut out the incessant buzz of thoughts plaguing your mind whilst you try to sleep. If you’ve ever played Scattergories, I play a similar game in my mind before bed. Think of a category (animals, food, places, names) and then go through the alphabet finding a word for each letter. (Food: apple, banana, carrot, donut, egg, etc. etc.) It’s such a simple, dull game to play, you’ll be asleep in no time!
If you still can’t sleep:
Keep a thought journal by your bed: sometimes I’ll be drifting off to sleep and I’ll suddenly remember something I need to remember to do tomorrow. I’ll tell myself I’ll remember it but then I’m too stressed trying to remember it to fall asleep. Write that thought down! Then you can let go off it and drift back in to sleep but you’ll still have the note to remind you about it in the morning. Try to physically write it down rather than make a note on your phone too.
Don’t be tempted by the screen: If you are really struggling to sleep and you’re in that reset phase, do not be tempted to check your Instagram/Facebook/emails! That will only set you back further.
Don’t force it, reset: sometimes I’ll do everything right; avoid all the screens, do the routine, read the book, drink the tea, play the dull game, and it just won’t work. If you find that after twenty minutes or so, you’re still lying there and you don’t feel at all ready to drop off, don’t get frustrated and try to force it. Get out of bed, re-tire your mind with another chapter of your book, have a little stretch, listen to some meditation music and then get back in to bed with a fresh, Zen mind and start again. You’re better off taking twenty or thirty minutes to reset than spend the next three hours wriggling about in bed annoyed that you’re not asleep yet.
Seek help: if you’ve tried all of the above and given it a bit of time to work, do not suffer in silence. Genuine insomnia and sleep struggles can be part of a bigger picture that needs professional attention. Keep a sleep diary and take it to your GP so they can give their professional advice and recommendation.
Hopefully those tips are helpful. Let me know what you think or if any of them are particularly useful for you. It can be quite difficult to change up habits and routine but it’ll be worth it when you’re cruising through 8 hours of sleep every night without a hitch.