About four months ago I was having a really tough time getting to sleep and once asleep, sleeping through the night. For a couple of weeks I would lie awake for hours, extremely restless and increasingly emotional (due to increasing lack of sleep). Each day I would wake up feeling like I’d been hit by a bus, mentally and physically fatigued. My insomnia was a reaction to a traumatic event, and with already heightened anxiety it was a terrible combination. After about a week of sleepless nights I sought medical help as it was becoming more of a problem than just setting up a good bedtime routine. I was on sleep medication for a month to help re-establish my circadian rhythm. It was also important for me to establish a better sleep routine to increase the chances of me sleeping for longer than a couple of hours.
So today I thought I’d share a couple of ways in which I have improved my sleep hygiene. There are a couple of habits that I found easy to adjust and others that have take some time to become natural parts of my routine.
- At least one hour before bed, turn off all technology. As someone who uses their phone for a morning alarm I found it beneficial to set my alarm and then turn my phone on airplane mode so I couldn’t be disturbed or use the internet.
- If you’re easily affected by caffeine avoid caffeinated drinks in the hours leading up to bed time. Most nights I enjoy a cup of tea just before getting ready for bed. I’ve moved from green tea to chamomile as it has no stimulants and is known for its calming nature.
- Try not to eat too close to your bedtime. If there’s one way to make you feel uncomfortable in bed it’s feeling like you’ve got a lump of concrete in your stomach. Not a fun feeling and it can often leave you feeling a little ill when you wake up in the morning.
- Pick a bedtime and stick to it! This one was a bit difficult for me as I used to procrastinate before bed. I know that may sound weird but I’d go to bed and read, check facebook, instagram and pinterest, and then before I knew it I’d be mucking around for an hour or so. Obviously bedtimes need to be somewhat flexible and take into consideration the time you need to get up but I tend to give myself a half hour period in which I need to at least be in bed ready to turn off the light.
- Pick a wake up time and stick to it! Another difficult one for me. Particularly on days when I have nothing on in the morning and it’s just extremely tempting to add just a couple of hours extra dream time. To be fair, after a couple of months of having generally the same wake up time I’ve begun allowing myself a couple of days a week where i’ll have an extra half hour in bed or so.
- Naps. Friend or Foe? Honestly, I’m a BIG believer in naps. There are however some rules that need to be followed if you’re going to allow yourself a day time rest. Firstly make sure they’re not too long – 45 mins should be the max (unless you’re sick). Have an alarm set and get up straight away, don’t lie in bed daydreaming about what you need to achieve in the rest of your day. The most important thing to remember about naps is that after 4pm you’re doomed to a sleepless night. Anytime after 4 I find I get sluggish a lack the motivation to finish the tasks I need to achieve for the day.
- Finding Calm. Seriously meditation is your best friend when it comes to de-stressing and slowing your brain down before sleep. My favourite meditation app is Calm (it’s free too – bonus!) as it guides you through 2,5, or 10 minute meditations with your choice of background noise. The challenge is actually doing this on a semi-regular basis – definitely worth it though!
- Encourage tiredness with exercise. If you’re exercising for at least half an hour per day you are going to see rapid improvements in your ability to get off to sleep at night. This year I have had a lot of trouble motivating myself to participate in physical activity but when I started having sleep issues I forced myself to get out of the house at least 6 times a week. The results were remarkable!
- Wash your sheets & make your bed! There is no better feeling than climbing into bed after a big day and having clean sheets to snuggle into. You’ll feel better when you go to bed and when you wake up in the morning. Making your bed is great because it’s an easy way to keep your room looking tidy, but if you make your bed straight away you’ll find it easier to resist the urge of climbing back under the covers for an extra couple of minutes.
- Your bed should be a sacred space. Avoid using your bed for daytime activities that can be done elsewhere. I’m talking activities such as doing assignments or work, eating or taking phone calls. Use it as a space for relaxing and unwinding before bed.
Do you have any sleep hygiene tips?