5 tips for better sleep
If you’re having difficulty falling asleep, a few simple changes to your routine can help you wind down and get a better night’s sleep.
1. Wind down your day
Winding down before bed is essential to a good sleep. Reading, writing or a mindfulness practice 30-60 minutes before bed can all help with winding down. If you have a lot on your mind it can help to talk it through with someone or journal how you are feeling.
Busy day at work tomorrow? Try writing a to-do list now so your mind doesn't continue trying to plan and problem-solve overnight.
2. Check your sleep environment
Is your sleep environment conducive to sleep? Now that many of us are working from home our bedroom is also our office. What message does this send to your brain? If you can't keep the 2 environments separate then create some boundaries between work and sleep. Power down your laptop and clear away your work things to create a calm restful sleeping environment.
As you wind down, your body temperature drops. This signals to your body that it’s time to sleep but if your room is too hot then sleep can be hard to come by. You could try a warm (not hot) shower, cooler clothing or open a window.
Reduce any sources of bright light in your room, with blinds, curtains or try an eye-mask. We produce melatonin, the sleep inducing hormone, when it gets dark and bright light can suppress production, meaning you stay awake longer.
3. Put down your gadget
Imagine having conversations with several people at a time, whilst also working or shopping (or both) in real life? Would that feel stressful? Would you be ready to fall asleep?
Our minds are bombarded throughout the day with a huge amount of information about endless different topics. It’s like having multiple conversations all the time, which is not conducive to sleeping. If we do manage to nod off, our dreams may be vivid and we may sleep lightly.
The blue light from your electronic devices can also suppress your body’s ability to produce melatonin, preventing you dropping off to sleep. Try to have a conscious break from electronic devices and give your mind a rest for at least an hour before bed. The world can wait - you are not a 24 hour service.
4. Let your tummy rest before you do
Trying to sleep with a tummy full of food can interfere with your body’s normal sleep processes. The body works hard to digest food and it will keep you awake while it is working. It also sends a message to the brain to say “here is some energy, let’s use it.”
Try not to eat a heavy meal and avoid caffeinated drinks and alcohol later in the day. Having a light snack is fine, or try sleep-promoting foods such as bananas, green leafy or starchy foods, or peanut butter. These are high in Tryptophan - an essential amino acid that helps our bodies produce serotonin and melatonin, chemicals involved in the sleep process.
5. Be present
Be aware of the predictions and rules our mind can make about sleep. “If I don’t sleep, I will have a terrible day” (prediction). “I must get 7 hours sleep” (rule). Try to consciously plan to wind down and go to bed when you are tired. Ensure you feel able to leave the day behind. If you notice your mind planning, predicting and laying down the rules, shift your attention to your senses and bring yourself back to the present moment.
Research suggests that having white noise such as sea or rain sounds in the background helps shift attention from thoughts and feelings and helps us drift off.
OK Positive has lots of resources to help you wind down, from meditations to breathing square exercises. If you have insomnia that lasts more than 4 weeks, contact your GP for help and advice.