We’ve all heard that ‘sleep is the best medicine’ and as irritating a saying as it might be, we all know deep down that it’s true. It improves our mood, our productivity, our immune systems and is vital for our cardiovascular health, metabolic rates and maintaining healthy blood pressure levels.
Sleep is one of those things I take for granted until suddenly, I find myself lying awake for hours wondering how I managed to drift off so easily before. Even if I’m physically exhausted, my mind will refuse to switch off.
I am no expert, but I’ve found there are a few things I can do while I am going through a phase of finding it not-so-easy to create an environment more conducive to a good night’s sleep. I thought I’d share them with you while at the moment lots of people are studying or working from home and feeling more anxious than usual, and therefore may be finding it more challenging to fall asleep than they usually do. I also spoke to Jade from Sleepy Mama , creator of 100% natural relaxation products.
1. Have a sleep schedule
This is a good habit I slipped out of over Christmas and now that I’ve started setting an alarm for the same time every day again I’ve noticed a real improvement to my quality of sleep. Going to bed and waking up at the same time everyday help’s regulate the circadian rhythm (basically your ‘body’ clock). Having fixed times that you spend awake will help your body switch off when it’s time for sleep.
2. Avoid getting into bed until it’s time to go to sleep
I’ve found that even watching a film in bed before going to sleep has a detrimental effect on my sleep quality. By saving the bed as a place to sleep in only, your mind will make the bed to sleep association and (hopefully) you will find you are able to fall asleep more quickly. My only exception for lying in bed during the day is if I’m ill.
3. Exercise (preferably outside)
I find that exercise means I expend more of my energy making me feel more sleepy at bed-time. Getting outside also helps with the body’s circadian rhythm as it’ll enable you to align with nature’s ‘dark-light’ cycle. As I write this despite it being midday it’s dark and raining heavily outside, so I realise my advice may be easier said than done! Taking vitamin D, opening windows and doing a home-workout may be all that’s possible on somedays but I do think that every little helps.
4. Don’t go to bed feeling too full (or too hungry!)
I try especially to avoid caffeine or chocolate (well during the week anyway) before I go to sleep as I know it’ll give me a spike of energy which isn’t helpful for getting off to sleep. Feeling too full or too hungry is likely to keep you awake or at least disrupt your sleep in some way, and there is some evidence to suggest it’ll slow your metabolism too. If you’re prone to heartburn lying down tends to aggravate this more. Alcohol is another sleep disrupter, while it may help to relax you and get you off to sleep more quickly, it reduces the REM (rapid eye movement) phase of sleep. This is the phase of sleep that helps your brain to convert what you’ve learned during the day into memory, and also promotes your quality of deep sleep. Obviously it’s not possible (or maybe not much fun) to be completely puritanical with what you eat and drink and what time you get off to sleep, but I think if you aim to have the majority of nights in the week following this it can make a real difference.
5. How to relax & unwind using sleep aids
Sometimes no matter how much I have implemented the four steps above, and no matter how tired I am, my brain still struggles to switch off.
These are some aids that help with this:
- sleep podcasts & calming music (though apps like calm or even just a Youtube video)
- herbal tea (my favourite is camomile or a slice of lemon in hot water)
- sleep sprays & balms
- eye masks (these are especially helpful in summer)
Sleepy Mama By Jade
“Sleepy Mama was inspired by a collective of many things in my life. Being a mother, being diagnosed with an under active thyroid, suffering with two ectopic pregnancies, secondary infertility and preferring a natural and holistic approach to life.
Sleepy mama is a lockdown baby and started when I desperately missed my job of 4 years in a natural cosmetics company and it was also started to save my own mental health at the start of the UK lockdown.
The original trio sleep hero’s that started it all off are our ‘Sleep balm’, ‘Sleepy spray’ and ‘Sleepy dust bath salts’. Made in small batches using organic essential oils, locally sourced beeswax and strictly no chemicals and absolutely no colourings (natural or otherwise). Each of these three products contain lavender but also find it important to layer with others such as vetiver and ylang ylang.
And the best possible advice is put down the devices!“
If you’ve tried all these steps and are still struggling, or think your disrupted sleep may be due to an underlying condition, I would definitely refer to a health care professional for help. This is just what works for me, and everyone is different 🙂 Remember to let us know if you have any tips of your own!