Struggling to get a good night’s sleep? Relax and unwind with our guide of how to sleep better
Everything is better after a good night’s sleep – science says so. Experts claim the quality and quantity of our slumber can have an impact on endless aspects of our physical health and mental wellbeing, from memory and productivity to weight loss and radiant skin. Here’s how to fall asleep faster and sleep better.
1. UNPLUG AND LOG OUT
Via Giphy gifbay.com
Scrolling through Instagram again, are we? While we’re all familiar with the pressing urge to check if anything shocking has happened on Facebook in the time it took to brush your teeth and put your pyjamas on (it definitely hasn’t), those late night bouts of digital admin could be making it harder for you to fall asleep – and damaging the quality of your sleep once you get there too.
Try going offline at least an hour before bedtime and watch how much more easily you drop off. You won’t miss much, we promise.
2. BANISH DEVICES FROM THE BEDROOM
Sleeping with your phone by your pillow isn’t just bad news for your co-dependent relationship with your inbox; the little blinking light could be messing up your circadian rhythm too.
According to sleep researchers at Harvard
, light exposure at night can suppress the body’s production of sleep hormone melatonin, with blue light from technology the very worst culprit. So go cold turkey, buy an old-fashioned alarm clock and leave your phone and tablet in another room to help you sleep better. They might be glad of a rest too.
3. COLOUR YOUR CARES AWAY
Against all odds, colouring books have become the year’s hottest wellbeing trend. It’s the perfect creative hobby – easier than knitting, less sticky than decoupage, and even more soothing and relaxing now than it was in Year 1 quiet time.
Settle down with a pack of felt tips and a grown up colouring book like Johanna Basford’s bestseller Secret Garden or Colour Me Good Ryan Gosling (yes really), and see how serene you feel by lights-out time. If you end up going outside the lines, just call it ‘conceptual’.
4. DANCE LIKE NOBODY’S WATCHING
Remember your parents encouraging you to ‘tire yourself out’ before bed by haring up and down the garden or bouncing on the bed when you were a child? That logic still stands – except your mum isn’t here, so Taylor Swift will have to do.
An hour or two before climbing into bed, crank up Shake it Off (or other feelgood anthem of your choice) and do as the lady tells you, shimmying your troubles away until the endorphins kick in. Wait, are the curtains closed? Best not to alarm the neighbours.
5. PLAY MIND GAMES
Counting sheep might not have quite the caché it once did, but setting yourself a mental exercise can be the perfect way to distract your brain from chewing over the worries of the day.
Try listing every World Cup, Eurovision or X-Factor winner as far back in time as you can remember. Recite your favourite poem or song lyrics. Think of a type of biscuit beginning with every letter of the alphabet. You’ll reach Zzzz before you’re even halfway through.
6. DON’T LET YOUR BED BECOME YOUR OFFICE. OR YOUR DINING ROOM.
Aside from toast crumbs under the duvet being one of the worst things in the world, sleep experts advise that for the best night’s sleep, you should avoid associating your bed and bedroom with anything that stimulates your brain rather than relaxing it.
So to make sure your brain has the message loud and clear, stop working, watching boxsets, paying bills, eating midnight snacks or even reading anything too challenging in bed – save it just for sleeping in. And, you know, the other thing.
7. MAKE YOUR BREAKFAST
Don’t start trying to rustle up avocado hollandaise at midnight or anything – but overnight oats (AKA bircher muesli) are having a moment right now, which is useful as prepping your breakfast before bed can be a great way to unwind and tempt yourself into sleep.
Mix a 1:1 ratio of oats with milk, nut milk, yoghurt or fruit juice and add any spices, nuts and fruit that take your fancy. Leave the mixture to soak overnight, and reward your forward-planning with an extra 10 minutes’ sleep in the morning.
8. BECOME A CREATURE OF HABIT
The old mantra of ‘cleanse, tone and moisturise’ might have fallen out of fashion in these modern times of serum and fancy liquid exfoliators, but the principle of a bedtime ritual stays the same. Making time to take your mascara off is good for your shut-eye as well as your skin, because any kind of routine helps the brain to gradually shut down and help you sleep better.
The same is true of stretching, tidying, or almost anything else you get into the habit of doing regularly before bed. Except knocking back an espresso, obviously.
9. HAVE A BATH
You guessed this was coming, didn’t you? Having a long bath is a cliché for a reason, as it’s proven to help your body relax and take your mind with it.
But not all baths are created equal, so make sure you’re doing it right. The water should be blissfully warm but not hot enough to turn your skin magenta, and the lighting should be low – candles aren’t just for terrible rom-coms. Try bath oil fragranced with lavender, chamomile or jasmine, and play your favourite ambient music to block out the sound of your family, flatmates or your own brain having imaginary arguments with your family and/or flatmates.
10. SWAP THAT GIN AND TONIC FOR A GLASS OF MILK (SORRY)
A nice glass of wine or a cheeky spirit might help your mind stop ticking over in the evening, but alcohol doesn’t do your body any favours and can actually disrupt your sleep cycle later on.
Meanwhile, milk contains tryptophan, the sleepy chemical that’s also found in turkey (it’s no coincidence that your Christmas afternoon sofa sleep is one of the best naps of the year). Sadly it’s easier to heat up a glass of milk than it is to roast a full bird before bedtime, but you can jazz up your nostalgic nightcap with a pinch of cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.
It’s easier said than done if you’re a bundle of stress and tension, but controlled breathing is one of the simplest and most effective ways nature has given us to hit ‘save and quit’ on our brains. Focus on filling your lower abdomen as you breathe in for four seconds, then hold the breath for four seconds and slowly exhale for four seconds.
Muscle relaxation can work a treat, too. Try tensing and releasing each part of your body in turn, from your toes and fingers up to your neck, head and face. If you can’t do it without cracking up, that’s fine – laughter is a tension reliever too.
Sweet dreams and sleep better!