Monday, 15 January 2018

Tips on How To Get a Good Night's Sleep

Some tips for a great night's sleep - a few simple things that everyone can try to help improve your snooze time. Zzzz.....

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I didn't realise how important sleep was until I read Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker. OK, so I'd seen that my psoriasis got worse if I hadn't slept well, and I craved sugary foods more often, but I never quite appreciated the fact that lack of good sleep affects us in the long term as well as a couple of days. 


Photo by elizabeth lies on Unsplash

We're talking Alzheimer's, obesity, cancer, the immune system and heart health. 

Jeez.

Armed with this info, I've managed to get my sleep routine to a fine art. Here are some of the things I do - as a result of the fantastic book Why We Sleep - for a great night's sleep. Remember, if you still struggle to sleep at night, get checked out by your doctor. 

Happy dreams! 

Skip the hot water bottle - and have a shower or bath
You might feel toasty warm after you're snuggled up in your onesie and have the heating turned up full blast, but this could actually stop you nodding off to sleep. The body naturally drops in temperature before and during sleep, and if you're too hot, it can't initiate sleep. The good news is that you regulate yourself during the night (ever wake up with one leg out of the covers on a cold night? - that's why). Walker suggests a room temperature of around 18.3ÂșC - much lower than many of our bedrooms once the heating's turned up. And another thing - every wonder why you feel sleepy after a hot bath or shower? Walker says that it's not the shower making you warm for sleep, it's actually cooling you down ready for sleep. Apparently the warm water brings blood pumping to the surface of the skin, cooling you down. Genius! 

No caffeine 
So if you're trying to improve your sleep, you might skip that coffee or tea at 8pm. But did you ever wonder if your afternoon cuppa could affect your ability to sleep seven hours later? According to the book, caffeine has a half-life of around 5-7 hours. So 50% of the caffeine from your 4pm cuppa could still be coursing through your bloodstream at 11pm, when you're trying to doze off. Try a camomile tea instead in the afternoon. I like a milky (hemp milk) cup of chicory coffee before bed. 


Me, not playing Cookie Jam at 2am

Turn off your devices
Ugh, the number of times I've woken up in the middle of the night, checked my phone for messages and emails at 2am, laid awake for a few hours and then decided I can't get back to sleep so ended up playing Cookie Jam until my alarm goes off at 6am. As well as your brain waking up processing what it needs to know about the emails and messages, the LED light in your devices tell your brain to wake up, because it thinks that it's daytime. In the final few hours before bed, try keeping LED lights off. We light a salt lamp, which produces a beautiful dim camp-fire glow, once the sun goes down. And we wear blue light blocking glasses if we watch TV. All of us, after dinner. TVs, mobile phones, tablets... keeping to an orange glow after dark would be a good idea, to help our hormones do what they're supposed to do and get us to feel sleepy. I know it makes a difference to me. 

Go to bed earlier
Something that shocked me in the book, and felt like a lightbulb going off above my head: if you need 7 hours sleep, and you need to be up at 7am, don't go to bed just before midnight. Matthew Walker suggests giving yourself a wider opportunity for sleep, if you want to get a proper night's sleep. I go to bed at 9.30pm and get up at 6.30am. But it doesn't mean I get 9 hours sleep a night. Sometimes I read, sometimes I lay there for a few minutes, waiting for sleep. It makes so much sense, but once you realise that time in bed doesn't always equate to time asleep, you can go to bed earlier and increase your chances of good quality sleep. 

Deal with your worries
If you have any worries, make a list of them before you go to your bedroom. Put off thinking about them, now is your time for sleep, which you need to function properly the next day. Be selfish with your sleep. If you need to, look into getting counselling if you suffer with depression or anxiety. One of the things I learned from Why We Sleep was that our dreams mirror not so much what happens in the daytime, but the emotions we feel in the day. So if you've spent a day worrying and being fearful, you could be more likely to have upsetting dreams or nightmares, as your brain processes those emotions from the day (I highly recommend the chapter of the book on dreaming, it's absolutely fascinating). Sometimes dreams like this wake me up in the night, and the cycle just goes on and on. When I wake up at 2am after a bad dream, I just consciously think of nothing - I don't even try to work out what day or time it is - and I drift back to sleep. Interrupted sleep isn't great, but staring at the ceiling for another 4 hours is worse. If worries still get to you, talk to a friend, try journalling - I find this helps me - or seek professional help if you feel that your worries and anxieties get you down. You might find my Anxiety download useful, too. 

If you're interested in why we sleep at all, why it's so important and what your body and brain actually do while you're sleeping (a lot of things) you will love Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker. I've learned so much, and I've prioritised mine and my family's sleep because of it. 





Other things that might help...

   

Also, go check out Beauty and the Bird's Post about how to turn your bedroom into a sleep haven! Loved the ideas in this post, do go have a read. 

What are your tips for a good night's sleep? Let me know in the comments below! 








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