We addressed the important topic of sleep in a recent blog post, and touched on the importance of establishing a consistent bedtime routine. We broke it down into four essential steps:
– Create a bedtime routine
– Turn your bedroom into a cave
– Watch your liquid intake
– Cut down screen time
But what happens when you simply can’t fall asleep? Perhaps you ave your routine and environment nailed, but the act of actually drifting off feels like climbing a mountain.
We’re back to talk sleep, this time with 12 easy, actionable ideas you can try to help you drift off, and perhaps incorporate into your night-time routine for good.
1. Yoga, stretching or meditation
Forming a habit of carrying out a gentle 10-15 minute yoga routine can help relax your mind and prepare you for bed.
2. Take a warm bath or shower
Not only because many find it relaxing – but primarily because it allows your body temperature to drop more easily, which is part of the natural process of falling asleep. The optimum pre-bed bath time is around 1 hour before you plan to hit the hay, giving your body enough time to cool down.
Reading a real book or magazine (rather than an article on your phone or device) can boost mood and reduce stress. Generally it is recommended that people read fiction at night rather than nonfiction. With fiction you are not being introspective or using a lot of brainpower, so it can be more relaxing. With nonfiction, the experience can feel more reflective and alerting. Avoid reading anything emotionally unsettling.
Journaling with pen and notebook can also help prepare you for sleep. It can be a helpful way to assist your mind in unpacking the day’s events, and clearing your mind for rest.
5. Have a warm drink
Whilst this does contradict the idea of reducing liquid intake, a well timed (and crucially, small!) cup of warm milk or hot herbal tea can assist with winding down. Milk contains tryptophan and melatonin, which may aid sleep. Chamomile, valerian root, lemon balm, and lavender teas may reduce symptoms of insomnia and stress.
6. Avoid fatty foods
Stay away from fatty foods late in the evening, as these are hard to digest.
7. Avoid late-night workouts
Strenuous workouts late in the evening increase your body temperature and can make going to sleep harder. If you’re working late and have missed your favourite gym class, consider switching your workout to the following morning so you can get a good night’s sleep and wake up raring to go!
8. Avoid alcohol before bed
Whilst alcohol is a sedative, it delays REM sleep as your body works to process the alcohol. Plan your bedtime so you have at least three hours after having an alcoholic drink before turning in.
9. Wear socks to bed
Wearing socks increases blood flow to feet and heat loss through the skin, lowering body temperature and thus, making you sleepy! If this doesn’t appeal, consider popping an extra blanket at the end of your bed as an alternative way to keep those toes warm.
10. Mask noise if it can’t be eliminated
If eradicating all noise is not an option, use a white noise machine or play relaxing music that is calm and quiet. There are plenty of white noise tracks on Spotify, and apps such as Calm have a whole range of soundscapes such as rain and ocean waves to help send you off. Better still, you can set a timer so the sounds fade after a certain amount of time so it’s not let playing all night.
11. Experiment with Aromatherapy
Scents such as lavender may reduce stress levels, improve mood, reduce anxiety and increase sleep quality. Rose, chamomile, geranium, jasmine, sweet marjoram, clary sage and frankincense may also relax you. Try a few drops of aromatherapy oil on a tissue and tuck it next to your pillow.
12. Get up if you really can’t sleep
If you are lying there, getting more and more frustrated and tense, checking the clock and counting the hours until your alarm… get up. Revisit this list, and try something you might find relaxing (such as reading, or having a small hot drink) until you feel sleepy again.
…ultimately, as we concluded in our last sleep-focussed article, the key is consistency. One of the easiest natural ways to fall asleep is simply to go to bed at the same time every night. Our bodies like routine, and want to be able to anticipate the onset of sleep. A consistent bedtime allows for this to happen.
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