Getting To Sleep
For many people, getting to sleep in the first place is the difficult part. When your head is swimming with thoughts, ideas, stresses and mental to-do lists, it can be tricky to switch off and relax – and worrying about not getting enough sleep only adds to the problem. The NHS recommends sticking to a regular bedtime regime, to create consistency before you attempt sleep. Your body and mind need the opportunity to slowly de-stress and relax, so consider the following as pre-bed rituals.
Listen To Music. Sync Project is a company devoted to using music as “medicine”, measuring how music can affect biometrics such as heart rate, brain activity and sleep patterns. Unwind is a personalised music experience designed to promote sleep – just visit unwind.syncproject.co on your smartphone and enjoy a tailor-made music experience created to lull you into a relaxed state.
No Screens. A 2015 study – strangely enough conducted by Vodafone – on the effects of phone use before sleep found that over half of Brits regularly stay up late using connected devices to stream videos or check emails. “Device use just before bed, or when we wake in the night, can make restless sleep caused by stress at work even worse,” stated Professor John Groeger, director of research at the Department of Psychology of the University of Hull, as part of the research. Turn yours off, or put it somewhere out of reach, at least an hour before you hope to fall asleep.
Have A Bath. A warm bath helps the body to reach a temperature ideal for rest, as well as being a relaxing activity in itself. Amp up the sleep potential by using a lavender-based bath oil – Aromatherapy Associates’s Deep Relax Bath and Shower Oil is excellent, while the entire This Works Deep Sleep range is based on promoting quality sleep.
Cut Back On Caffeine. As relaxing as a cup of milky Earl Grey might seem just before bed, your body won’t thank you for the caffeine hit. Swap it out for a good-quality herbal tea – better still one designed to aid sleep, such as Pukka’s award-winning Night Time.
Go Analogue. Since you shouldn’t be looking at any screens before bed, you’ll need another activity to fill the time. Try a spot of gentle yoga (the stretching will help your body relax, too), or read a book to distract you from the day’s worries.
For a lot of people, falling asleep is only half of the battle. A 2016 YouGov study found that 43 per cent of UK women say they don’t get enough sleep, and health experts have warned of the adverse effects those hours spent lying awake can have on our health. If you are suffering significantly from a lack of sleep then consider visiting your GP for professional help, but the following are also worth bearing in mind.
Try An App. There are plenty of apps designed to track, assist and understand your sleeping habits, so it’s worth trying some out. Sleep Cycle claims to analyse your sleep and wake you in your lightest sleep phase, whilst Sleep Time+ and Sleep Better are both tracking apps designed to help you to understand your own slumber habits and get into the sleeping pattern that works best for you.
Create Your Own Haven. For many people, interrupted sleep is a result of external factors such as light, discomfort and noise. Treat yourself to a tasteful silk sleeping mask, consider blackout blinds and have earplugs handy – and if your mattress isn’t up to par, let that be your next big investment.
Find The Perfect Temperature. The NHS says that a bedroom should ideally be between 18 and 24 degrees Celsius, so if you find yourself waking up either hot and bothered or chilly and shivering in the early hours then make sure to set your thermostat correctly during winter and have a fan ready for hot summer nights. And do you really need an excuse to invest in some great new pyjamas?
Address Your Stress. If you wake up in the early hours and really can’t get back to sleep, try to consider what’s keeping you awake. If you’re making a mental to-do list in your mind then get up, make yourself a cup of herbal tea and write it down. Having it on paper can help clear your mind of distractions. Consider also starting a sleep diary. This is often the first thing a sleep expert will ask you to do, so get ahead of the game.
It’s not only the sleep you’re getting at night that’s important – power napping can have real benefits. A 2013 study by the Beijing University of Technology examined the effect of napping on athletes after training and found that naps could improve brain function and visual systems, and promote physical and mental recovery. But not just any naps will do – be sure to follow these rules.
Choose Afternoons. You know that afternoon slump, where you start to flag after a busy morning? It’s not just you, it’s a part of human nature – the Spanish siesta isn’t just about staying out of the sun. If you’re able to, try to time your power nap for the afternoon – or even early evening if you’re likely to have a late night ahead.
Keep It Brief. The optimal power-nap length is thought to be 20 minutes or less, increasing alertness and boosting productivity. Longer naps can work too, but consider that sleeping for too long can leave you groggy, or affect your ability to get to sleep that night.
Have A Coffee. If you’re trying to limit your nap to 20 minutes, have a cup of coffee before you go to sleep. It will take 20 minutes for the caffeine to kick in, which will help you to wake up more easily and in a more alert state.
Breathe. If you find it difficult to switch into nap mode in the middle of the day, try meditation or breathing exercises to get you in the mood. Headspace offers 10-minute-long meditation sessions which you can interact with on your smartphone, providing instant relaxation.