Now I’ve given you the worrying facts, and educated you on how massage can aid your sleep quality in my previous article… Now it’s my turn to show you the light (or maybe the dark!) and let you know how to help yourself.
Here are my top 10 tips on how to fall asleep easier and maintain a healthy sleep cycle full of quality slumber:
1. Set a routine and stick to it
The time you need to wake up for work in the morning is your marker. Count back 8.5 hours from the time your alarm will go off and this will give you the time you must start preparing yourself for bed, cleaning your teeth, putting your pj’s on, etc. Then make sure you stick to this routine strictly throughout the working week and try your hardest to keep to it on your days off to avoid ruining your newly reset body clock. The first few days may be difficult if your sleeping pattern is a mess to begin with, but persevere and you will be rewarded with energy through the day, every day. Don’t forget to listen to your body – 8 hours is plenty for most people, but others may need 9 or 10 hours; top athletes have even attributed their success partly due to sleeping for up to 12 hours!
2. Turn your bedroom into the perfect sleeping environment
Blackout curtains are a must have, especially as the weather gets nicer. Having the room as dark as possible really helps your body to realise it’s time to sleep as well as prevents the sun from waking you at 5:30am when your alarm isn’t due to go off for an hour or two later. It’s equally important to ensure your room is at the optimal temperature for sleep: suggested between 15.5C and 19.5C. Being able to limit noise during sleeping hours is also helpful but not always possible if you live on a busy road. Try listening to white noise or guided sleep meditation if noise is a problem for you.
3. Invest in quality bedroom items
No, that’s not an excuse to rush out and buy that mahogany chest of drawers and matching wardrobe! I’m talking about your mattress and your pillows. A firm mattress and pillows that support your head and neck in a neutral position while laid down are what you need so experiment with different types and see what works for you. Don’t forget to turn your mattress regularly and replace your pillows if that lose their plump-ness.
4. Power down with a sleep ritual
This links to point number one about preparing yourself for bed. Do the same things every night before you get under the duvet to help get into the right mind-set for sleep. Make your lunch for tomorrow, pack your work bag, clean your teeth and read a book or maybe meditate, whatever takes your fancy as long as it gets you ready for a good 8 hours.
5. Exercise! Exercise! Exercise!
If you wear yourself out then you’re more likely to go to bed, fall asleep and stay asleep. Listen to your body though, too much exercise can leave you exhausted for the day ahead, so make sure you find that perfect balance.
6. Avoid or limit naps
We’ve all been there, not a lot to do and feeling sleepy after a large meal, a nap in front of the TV on a Sunday afternoon sounds like a great idea. If you do this then be prepared to lay awake when you hit the hay Sunday night and your head is filled with thoughts of Monday morning fast approaching! If you do need to nap then set an alarm so that you don’t lose 4 hours in the land of nod and instead feel refreshed enough to make it to an appropriate bedtime.
7. Cover your clock
You’ve woken in the early hours of the morning, your clock says 5am and you’re alarm is going off in an hour. You’re head instantly fills with thoughts of the day ahead, a mental checklist of tasks to do and whether you remembered to take the bin out the night before. All notions of sleep have gone and you lay there for an hour, wide awake before you jump in the shower to start your day. By hiding your alarm you can avoid this and stay blissfully unaware of how close your alarm is until it’s time to wake.
8. Be careful of what you eat or drink before bedtime
This may seem like an obvious point, but stay away from caffeine and sugar rich food and drink to ensure your brain isn’t buzzing at bedtime. Make sure you check the back of those packets because you might be surprised at what contains a high sugar content!
9. Practice mindfulness or relaxation techniques
Without realising we can often hold tension in our face, jaw, neck or other areas of the body when we lay in bed as a result of subconscious stress or worry. Others may lay in the dark and their mind fills with racing thoughts. By practicing mindfulness or relaxation techniques you can let go of the tension and quiet the mind to allow yourself to drift off to sleep.
10. Stay away from those screens
It’s a well-known fact that the screens of TVs, laptops, tablets and smart phones have a blue light that tricks the brain into thinking you should still be awake. By switching these off and exchanging them for a book or e-reader that isn’t lit like a tablet your brain creates signals to the body that it’s time to power down and turn in for the evening.
11. Know when to see a doctor
Sometimes you’re doing all the right things but sleep still eludes you, or perhaps you sleep for hours and still do not feel rested. Over or under sleeping is a sign that you probably need to see a doctor about your symptoms because something else might be going.