To sleep, perchance to dream… At least that’s what we hope for. We all know the feeling of not getting enough quality sleep, and the negative effects it can have on our health and well-being.
Poor concentration, memory, fatigue, lack of motivation are just a few results from sleep deprivation.
Studies with MRI scans in insomniacs have shown that over time sleep deprivation causes the brain to shrink. The areas affected by this (including the amygdala) control the emotions and we can end up losing interest in hobbies and interests from being too tired.
It’s estimated that on average we spend a whopping one third of our lives sleeping!
That’s some serious slumber time, and it stands to reason that we should try and make the best of this that we can.
Life as always has it’s way of interrupting this vital need, be it work, stress, computers, phones, poor diet….the list is almost endless.
We’ve sourced the web and put together some of the best ideas (plus a few of our own) to sleep like a log.
So next time you wake up with the face and posture of a Notre Dame bell ringer, try following these tips to help you get a good, healthy nights sleep.
Good sleeping habits: Routine
Stick to a good sleep routine. If possible, try going to bed around the same time each night. Ever woke up at exactly the same time, without setting your alarm, or just before it goes off? Well the body and mind get used to a regular sleep discipline, and when well maintained will thank you for it by rewarding you with a fresh, more alert feeling throughout the day.
Come to the dark side!
Try making the room as dark as possible at bedtime.
Investing in black out blinds can help. Darkness helps aid the body in the release of melatonin. An eye mask is also a cheap and practical solution.
Time to unplug Neo!
Blue light from electronics such as Computers, Ipads, Smartphones and the like can cause problems with our sleep cycles. They trick our brain into thinking we still need to stay awake. So turn off all those devices at least an hour before bed.
If possible try to move Televisions and computers to a separate room away from your bedroom, as the brain makes associations with which room is for work and play and which is for sleeping.
F.lux is a great free program for Windows, Mac and IOS devices, that helps control the level of blue light emitted from these devices. You can adjust the settings to your own preference and have it run automatically. It can help with getting a good night’s rest. Find it here.
Stop staring at the clock!
Keeping an eye on the time when you’re having a restless night can just make matters worse and make you anxious and depressed.
(It’s 2:00 am and I’m still not asleep, 2:10, 2:30!)
Try turning your alarm clock the other way around, or put it somewhere where it won’t be a distraction.
Try to avoid the temptation to toss and turn if you are prone to it.
Remaining still, as difficult as it may seem will help you to fall asleep faster.
Jump into a nice hot bath
Okay, stepping into one is probably a safer solution!
A relaxing bath before bedtime can help you unwind from the stresses of the day. Try putting some lavender oils in the water for a pleasant aroma and a calming effect that aids slow-wave sleep for a deep, satisfying nights rest. You can also try putting some lavender mist on your pillow.
Food and drink before bedtime
Don’t eat any food at least 3 hours before bedtime. That means dropping the carbs and sugar. Also grains and fruit.
Avoid caffeine, chocolate, energy drinks too, tempting as they may be. Try a warm cup of milk, with a teaspoon of honey or a chamomile tea.
Avocado and organic yoghurt are high in magnesium and potassium. Try eating these in the evening to help you relax and fall asleep.
Tart cherries have a soothing effect, and are one of the few foods that contain melatonin. Research has shown this to aid a good nights sleep. Bananas too, also have potassium and magnesium which relax the body.
Attitude for Gratitude
Think of all the positive things that have happened during your day and be thankful for them.
Name them quietly to yourself, and if you have a few (hopefully you do!) you might find you drift off quite quickly.
It’s quite meditative in effect. A good mantra to use is, “X (insert thing your thankful for) happened today, and that was good”
Use your own mantra if you prefer.
For example: I had a great meal today, and that was good.
I enjoyed the sunshine today, and that was good. All these little things add up and can not only help with falling asleep, but over time can help build a positive perspective to your day.
Tension and Release
Here’s a great exercise if your trying to get to sleep, or even just before you close your eyes ready for bed.
Tense and release various parts of your body:
Scrunch up your toes and hold for 3-5 seconds, then release and relax (Remember to breathe!)
Do the same procedure working your way up your body (legs, stomach, buttocks, arms etc.)
Shift your consciousness to how good the feeling of releasing that tension is.
You can also add to this or try this without the tense and release method by just focusing on the different body parts and imagine tension fading away from all these areas, and as you do so you feel more and more relaxed as you drift off to sleep.
Read a book
Try reading before bedtime. Studies show that this activity can reduce stress by 68 percent, diminish worry and help with problems like Alzheimer’s. Not to mention learning new ideas, and improving creativity.
You can also try reading a book your really not interested in for at least 10 minutes. Just like that boring lecture we have all encountered this should send you off to snooze land rapidly.
Keeping a journal can help calm the mind, and relieve stress.
Jot down your thoughts of the day, and perhaps make a plan for the next day. You can also note down any stresses that happened during the day and do your best to work actively on them for tomorrow.
If you start to sap – Try a nap
Generally speaking naps are good for you, but try not to nap too long. About 20 minutes (a power nap) to half an hour should do it, and 1 hour at most. You may find it harder to get to your main night time sleep if you nap any longer. Short naps can have a refreshing and restorative effect. Studies show that men who take naps three times a week lowered heart related problems by 37 percent.
Naps are not recommended for those people suffering from depression or insomina as this can just add to the problem.
Plug those lugs
A simple cost effective solution to block out those unwanted noises during the night. Be it a snoring partner doing their best Warthog impressions, Fido howling at the moon, Alley cats auditioning (badly) for the X factor, or anything else.
A couple of these popped into your ears should keep those aural invasions at bay whilst you get some much needed shut eye.
Invest in a good mattress and pillows
Bit of a no-brainer here. Yes it can be expensive, but considering that our bed is where we spend a large chunk of our lives, it’s worth making sure you have the best mattress and pillow you can afford so you get the best quality sleep possible.
If you have back problems you may want to consider sleeping on the floor. It takes a while to get used to so expect a few days of slight aches whilst your body adjusts. A typical setup would be a yoga mat on the floor, with a memory foam topper and blankets if you need extra cushioning. Try experimenting with the amount of blankets you need to suit your comfort level.
Many people report having the best nights sleep they’ve ever had using this method so there’s no harm in trying it. It’s cheap, portable and unlike mattresses, you won’t have to replace the floor every few years!
This method usually suits back sleepers the best, but if your a side sleeper you can try using side sleeping pillows or cushions to aleviate any pressure on the hips.
What’s Fonzie like? – Be Cool!
Aim to keep your room at 68 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees centigrade)
It’s generally easier to fall asleep in a room that’s too cool than too hot, but obviously make sure you don’t freeze!
Simple things like opening a window, sleeping in your birthday suit and letting your bare feet stick out from under the covers all help.
Sleep like an Egyptian
The Egyptians had a cunning idea to cool down: They would have a dry towel as their bottom layer to sleep on and then wrap themselves in a wet sheet as their blanket. So on those hot nights when you can’t sleep and life seems “UnPharaoh” (sorry my joke is so bad it Sphinx – I blame my Mummy) , try this method to help you get a nice long snooze.
- Maintain a Routine
- Keep the bedroom dark
- Turn off electronic screens
- Turn your clock around/Put it out of sight
- Lie still
- Take a bath
- Eat and drink right before bed
- Be grateful
- Tense & Release
- Use Earplugs
- Invest in a good Mattress and Pillows
- Adjust the room temperature
- Use old Egyptian wet sheet method
I hope these tips help you towards some good quality rest,
be sure to include anything that works for you E.g.- Yoga, Meditation etcetera. Now go catch some Zzzz’s!