Tired of having yoga and deep breathing shoved down your throat…? But also one of the 16 million Britons who regularly suffer from insomnia…?
Lying awake and staring at the ceiling for hours on end is a frustrating, miserable, and lonely experience. Furthermore, prolonged lack of sleep is linked to weight gain, depression, and anxiety, as well as an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Today, as we pass the halfway point of Mental Health Awareness Week, we’re offering a variety of tips to improve your sleep cycle and give you the best chance of clocking those eight hours.
- Don’t Panic…
There is nothing wrong with you. You aren’t going crazy. You may need a few coffees in the morning, but in the grand scheme of things, one night of poor sleep won’t do you any harm.
But it’s tempting to ruminate after a night of wakefulness… “Why is this happening to me? What if it happens again? What if I can’t do my job properly? What if I never sleep again?”
Over-thinking and anxiety about sleeping are worse than not sleeping itself. Try to accept that you’re struggling to fall asleep. You’ll be surprised how much calmer you feel just by practising acceptance.
- Turn off Your Tech…
Late-night tech checking and social media scrolling… So many people are guilty of it. Apple has even started tech-shaming us now! Do you get that that notification telling you how many hours of your life you’ve (wasted trawling through social media) spent staring at your mobile phone each week…?
Working from home has already presented us with numerous challenges – but one of the biggest is our inability to distinguish between work and downtime. Make sure you set clear times in which you work to make sure your professional life doesn’t take over life at home. It may feel like you’re on top of things if you’re replying to emails at 11.30 pm, but it’s hugely counterproductive to your sleep.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends that you should stop using electronic devices, including your phone, at least 30 minutes before you go to bed. Devices suppress the release of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, largely due to the artificial blue light they emit. The more electronic devices you use in the evening, the harder it will be for you to fall asleep or stay asleep.
- Get out of Bed…
Lying in bed awake can create an unhealthy link between your sleeping environment and wakefulness. Before you know it, you’re hardwired to become more awake the second your head hits the pillow.
If, after half an hour or so, you still can’t drift off, get up and go into another room. Make a warm drink, read a book, or try a guided meditation for around 15 minutes, and then get back into bed.
Doing so will help you wind down further and help settle your initial anxiety over not being able to fall asleep.
- Go to Bed at the Same Time Every Night…
Going to bed at the same time and waking up at the same time every morning can revolutionise your sleep. Establishing a regular bedtime routine trains your body to be tired at certain times and soon, this will become a habit. It also helps your body regulate its circadian rhythm, meaning you’ll have a greater quality of sleep, too.
“Sleep drives our schedules as humans and everything about our bodies works a little bit better when we’re on a schedule,” says Chris Winter, MD, author of The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep is Broken and How to Fix It.
Try going to bed at 9.30 pm and setting your alarm for 6.30 am, for example, for three consecutive days. Even if you struggle to drift off, your body will thank you for establishing a routine.
You knew it was coming… There is no denying that meditation is an absolute game-changer when it comes to sleep. If, after reading this blog, you only choose one thing to implement, make it this one. Meditation, in any form, has been shown to increase melatonin (the sleep hormone), serotonin (the precursor for melatonin), reduce heart rate, decrease blood pressure and, most importantly, activate the strengthen the parts of the brain that control sleep.
If you’ve never meditated before, consider downloading an app such as Headspace or Calm, both of which offer free night-time meditations to help you settle and drift off.
- Try a Magnesium Salt Bath…
Adequate magnesium levels are vital for both sleep and stress management, and magnesium baths (known as Epsom salt baths) have been found to boost melatonin production, the sleep-inducing hormone.
Soaking in a warm bath raises your body temperature and exiting it will more rapidly cool it down. This instigates the production of melatonin, thus better preparing you for sleep. Try having a bath 90 minutes before you plan on going to bed, for optimum results.
As soon as you establish one night of good sleep, you’ll find it easier to get back into a routine and reset your sleeping pattern for good.