Suggestions for a better night’s sleep

Why do many people find good sleep frustratingly elusive even at the best of times? Now with the added pressure of COVID-19, it is not surprising that even those who slept well before, are finding that stress and lack of routine are all contributing to sleepless nights.

Sleep, or lack of it, is the hot topic that everybody is talking about. A good night’s sleep and rest is essential to a healthy existence. Not only is it the root of your physical and mental health, but your overall quality of life!

Not to be underestimated, sleep helps us maintain a healthy weight, balanced hormones, it controls our sugar levels, repairs our heart and blood vessels and supports our mental health by keeping our brains working properly. It keeps stress levels down, which in turn makes problem solving much more manageable, and the list goes on.

So, why do many people find good sleep frustratingly elusive even at the best of times? Now with the added pressure of COVID-19, it is not surprising that even those who slept well before, are finding that stress and lack of routine are all contributing to sleepless nights. We are struggling to fall asleep, or falling asleep, experiencing bad dreams and restlessness, which only means we wake up in the morning feeling short tempered, overtired and exhausted.

“Finish each day before you begin the next, and interpose a solid wall of sleep between the two.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Top 5 suggestions for a better night’s sleep!

No 1: Your Bedroom is your sanctuary!

Creating the right environment in your bedroom is the first step to preparing a nurturing and calming space. Keeping it fuss free and tidy will help, and look at changes to lighting, so that you can create a relaxing feel.

 If possible bedrooms should be kept strictly for rest and romance so avoid any phones, televisions or tablets. The blue light actually stimulates your brain and will prevent sleep. 

Temperature is really important, too hot or too cold and you will wake up, so try to find the right balance for you. Turn the heating down in the bedroom, change the tog rating on your duvet and if it’s not too noisy, open the window, there’s nothing quite like hearing the rhythm of rain or the wind blowing whilst your cosy in bed! 

“I’m more alert and I think more clearly,” Jeff Bezos, Founder of Amazon told the Wall Street Journal. “I just feel so much better all day long if I’ve had eight hours.”

No 2: Develop a routine

Developing a bedtime routine or ritual can in itself pave the way for preparing our bodies for bedtime and sleep.  Try to go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time each morning.

It helps to start your bedtime ritual about an hour at least before you actually want to go to sleep, so perhaps begin by enjoying a shower or having a candlelit bath, it’s very soothing to get into bed smelling of your favourite soap or lovely bath oils.

Reading is also a good way to wind down, or try a meditation.

No 3: Light and the Dracula of Hormones!

The natural hormone melatonin helps to regulate our body clock and sleep patterns according to its exposure to sunlight and darkness.

Melatonin is produced by a gland just above the middle of the brain. In daylight the gland is inactive but when it gets dark the gland wakes up and starts to produce melatonin which in turn is released into the blood and as a result makes us feel sleepy. This is referred to as the ‘Dracula of Hormones’ as it remains in our blood until daylight when it is no longer produced and can hardly be detected.

The secret of ensuring you produce enough melatonin is ensuring your room is dark and that you are not likely to get woken up by bright street lights or the sun rise, especially in the spring and summer months.

An eye mask is a must have to keep by the bed, especially if your blinds or curtains are not light tight. Just make sure it is a good fit, not too tight and doesn’t press on the eyes.   

While the former Chief Executive of Microsoft Bill Gates used to work through the night in his office, he realized that he couldn’t enjoy a high quality of life when he relied only on midday naps for rest. “I like to get seven hours of sleep a night because that’s what I need to stay sharp and creative and upbeat,” he said in a Microsoft FAQ.

No 4: Eating and exercise

Whilst we all do it, sleeping can be a complex business, and the more it eludes us the more stressed we become. In fact, the combination of what we eat, how active we are on a daily basis and our lifestyle choices, along with how we sleep, becomes a major aspect of how we function day to day. Plus, just as when you think you feel hungry and want to head for the fridge, it is probably dehydration and you have not drunk enough water. The same goes that psychologically, when you feel sleepy, you might mistakenly feel as though you need to eat.

Drinking coffee or anything caffeinated after 2.00pm and especially in the evening can really disrupt your ability to sleep even if you think it doesn’t. Alcohol may have the effect of making you feel sleepy initially, and red wine particularly, is known for raising your body temperature, but all alcohol can induce restlessness and discomfort causing you to wake you up during the middle of the night.

Whilst we all know that regular exercise and activity is good for the body, the timing of it also has an important part to play with sleep quality. Whilst a good work out can set you up and energise you for the day, just before bedtime and it can give you a sleepless night. When you exercise it increases your body temperature. Because a cooler body temperature is associated with the onset of sleep, it is important to allow enough time between being active and your body cooling down.

No 5: After all that, what happens if you do wake up?

If you do wake up in the wee small hours, try keeping your mind empty by focusing on counting for 5 breaths in and 5 breaths out. Try meditating if this is something you regularly do, or playing very soft music. Arianna Huffington in her book Thrive, shares her sleep secret which is counting backwards from 100 in 3s…it works!

If you still can’t sleep though, get up, go to another room, have a hot drink and read for a while. Only go back to bed when you feel sleepy. And lastly if you are awake because you are worried, it is quite true that the darkest hour is always before dawn, and our problems will always seem worse at night. Keep paper and pen by the bed so you can off load your thoughts and you can pick them up in the morning!  

His Holiness the Dalai Lama famously said, “Sleep is the best meditation,” and he certainly lives by that sentiment. In a 2012 interview with Arianna Huffington, the Dalai Lama said he sleeps soundly for eight -- sometimes nine -- hours each night so he can feel completely rested the following day. He insists sleep is necessary for maintaining a calm, relaxed mind during the day.

Try this... Sweet dreams!

Podcast - Get Sleepy

This podcast does exactly what is says on the tin. It’s a twice weekly story-telling podcast, designed to help you get a great night’s sleep. Each episode combines sleep meditation with a gentle and relaxing bedtime story, to help you “get sleepy”.

Spotify, Apple podcasts, Google Podcasts 



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