Let’s be honest. We probably all know sleep is good for us, but do you know how good?
Good sleep hygiene is, in my opinion (very important!), one of the single greatest contributing factors to overall health and quality of life. Here are just some of the amazing benefits sleep can help you with.
Helps to regulate weight
Allows your body to repair (especially after a workout)
Reduces inflammation (leading precursor to diseases)
Keeps you more alert and energetic
Fights off depression
It may even be a major contributor in preventing cancer and diabetes
Unlike many health gimmicks sold out there, sleep is one of those things that offers results immediately, and leaves you in no doubt that it is worth repeating.
The trouble however is often how to even fall sleep without tossing and turning for hours, and also how to improve the quality.
Well aside from the usual suggestions of less caffeine, less time in front of a screen, and earlier bedtimes, here I’ve tried to provide some great strategies to help you become regular sleepy monkeys:
1. AN HONEST ASSESSMENT OF PRIORITIES
In the real world, many people don’t have more time to sleep. There really is no extra space in the day available, but for many it’s more about assessing priorities. What are your priorities in the evening? Where does going to bed at a reasonable time rank in your priorities?
Making a list of your top priorities, and numbering them from first until the last, can really help to put things into perspective. If you can realistically put sleep higher up on your list, for sacrificing something else that won’t have a big impact, then why not try it? It might just be small things at first, but if you can then it’s worth a try.
2. MINDFUL ACCEPTANCE
On the other hand, you might realise that you really don’t have time to put sleep any higher on your list of priorities, in which case a big dose of self-compassion is the prescription. Stressing out about not being able to sleep will only make you more anxious and work against you. Instead, practicing a mindful sense of understanding with yourself, free from any judgements, can be a great stress relief. It’s not an ideal situation, but an awareness that you are doing the best that you can, will bring about its own sense of calm.
3. MASTURBATING BEFORE BED
This one might catch you by surprise, or you might already be doing it, but masturbating can be a great way to help you nod off. It can release endorphins which in turn can help you to relax. Sex is of course another option, and the more vigorous the better in terms of feeling tired afterwards.
Regardless of the act, men especially are known to become tired after ejaculating as a biochemical shift occurs, and the hormone prolactin is released, leaving them ready for sleep.
4. STICK TO THE SAME SLEEP SCHEDULE
Try to keep the times that you go to sleep and wake up consistent so that your body gets used to a routine. That includes the weekends if you’re able to.
Exercise is a fantastic way to make sure that you are more tired by the end of the day and increases production of melatonin which is the hormone that.
6. GET MORNING LIGHT
Exposure to just 20 minutes of natural daylight before midday has been shown to help improve sleep. Again, if you can make it something active, like walking, then you’re on the right track.
7. AVOID BLUELIGHT
Our bodies are triggered to feel sleepy and equally alert, according to external stimulus, i.e. sunlight and darkness. In technical terms, when it gets dark, our bodies are wired to naturally release the hormone melatonin, which signals the body the get tired and sleepy. That’s good! But there is a disruption to that process, and it is coming largely from our electronic devices.
Our fixation with screens means that we are exposed to blue light. Blue light is naturally occurring. We even get it from the sun. Howevr, the sun’s blue light is not as ceoncentrated as our devices, nor is it visible at night time (unless you’re in the artic circle), and so each time we watch Netflix just before bed, blue light inhibits melatonin production and so keeps us awake.
The trick? Try and have at least one hour before bed with no electronic devices.
8. BE AWARE OF LATE EVENING NUTRITION
Aside from caffeine interrupting our sleeping habits, food in the evening can also play a role. It’s natural to feel a dip in energy as the day draws to a close, and it’s even more natural to be drawn towards sugary, sweet, and fatty foods as you become more tired. That’s the body’s way of reaching out for energy. It’s a clever survival skill we’ve developed, but that sugar rush can also sometimes give us such an energy boost that we no longer feel tired and that’s not what we want. Of course, you should enjoy the food if you want it, but also begin to consider how it would feel to embrace your fatigue and allow it to decide your bed time.
9. HAVE A RELAXING NIGHT TIME RITUAL
Making a routine before bed can help you to wind down. Especially if it’s enjoyable and consistent. When we do something consistently, we prime ourselves for a result. If you know that you want to sleep at 11.30pm and you need an hour to wind down, then 10.30pm becomes your new hour to take some ‘you time’. You might do things like listen to music, or ask your partner for a massage.
You’ll be surprised as eventually your routine will become so conditioned, that the process may often times trigger you to become tired just thinking about beginning your routine.
10. WRITE/DRAW/RECORD YOUR THOUGHTS
This is an amazing way to collect your mind into one neat space and is especially useful if you have a lot of thoughts going on once your head touches the pillow. A great twist on writing can also be to draw. It doesn’t need to be anything specific. Even just doodling can be relaxing sometimes. Can you draw or write your day?
How does this work? The brain loves to work in the abstract, In fact. Research shows that drawing thoughts can reduce the energy needed for processing information. Easing out some of that mental clutter can really help to prepare our minds and bodies to relax for a good night’s kip.
Another way is using a voice recorder as you don’t even need to open your eyes
11. TAKE A WARM SHOWER/BATH
Warm showers and baths are the ultimate relaxation. The hot water improves a feel good neurotransmitter called oxytocin, and this in turn improves your mood and lowers stress levels.
12. READ A BOOK
A classic and for good reason. If you’re up and can’t sleep, then often times it’s better to do something than getting more frustrated and anxious. Reading an enjoyable can help to calm you down and prepare you for a state of rest. It’s also avoiding that blue light from screens.
13. GO TO ANOTHER ROOM
If you are in the habit of doing things like eating, or working, in bed, then you might be working against yourself. You want to associate sleep with the bed, but if you are in the habit of doing activities in that space, then it can be hard to fall asleep. Try keeping the bed, and even the bedroom as a space for just sleep, relaxing, and loving!
14. MAKE A STORY IN YOUR HEAD
This is my favourite strategy. Making up your own stories in your head. It requires a great imagination, but you can literally do anything you like and go for as long as you like. What’s more, even though you’re not asleep, you are still at rest with your eyes closed, and so your muscles, and entire body have a chance to rest. That means that in the worst case scenario that you don’t sleep all night, you will at least feel that your body is somewhat recharged.
15. STRETCHING AND YOGA
While heavy exercise might have the opposite desired effect of keeping you awake, some light stretching and yoga might be just the ticket for a calm night’s sleep.
16. TRY A MIND BODY HEART SCAN TO FIND YOUR TENSION
A mind-body-heart scan is a great way to check in with yourself and see where you might be holding tension and more. How do you do it?
Lie down in bed, close your eyes, and begin to take a few deep breaths.
BODY: Next, focus on your physical sensations. Take your focus to your head. I like to visualise a ring or glowing white halo that is hovering above my head. You then visualise your halo slowly traveling down around your body, and notice your physical sensations every stage the halo goes down. Do you notice any tension, or pain? For example, how is your breathing when you get to your chest and stomach?
MIND: Next, focus on your thoughts. Usually you’re trying not to think when you sleep, but here you just want to notice your thoughts. What are the ones that keep reoccurring? You might want to write them down.
HEART: And lastly, focus on your feelings- What emotions are you experiencing as you consider your thoughts and physical sensations? Now is the time to practice self compassion and let go of any disempowering judgements about yourself.
This exercise may not seem like much, but we are so often walking around burdened with tension and emotions that are all bubbling under the surface, but the demands of day to day living mean we are not able to fully process the experience. By bringing an awareness to our current state, we can often relieve a lot of tension.
17. GIVE YOURSELF A MASSAGE
If you are aware of any physical tension in your body, then a quick massage may be just the ticket and you don’t even need anyone else for it. The temples are often a great place to start rubbing gently I small circular motions. You can massage you scalp like you would when washing your hair, and moving down to your neck. Wherever you like in fact!
Another technique to relieve tension is squeezing your muscles anywhere in your body, or your whole body at the same time, as tight as you can, and then releasing. Once you release, you’ll feel a great calm wash over you as you notice how many parts of your body you may have been holding tight and not even realised. Curling your toes is a great place to start.
18. PREPARE YOURSELF A BEAR CAVE
If you want to put your body into a mini h mode and sleep like a bear, then you need a room that is fit for the job. Your bedroom should be free from any disturbing noises, and light. Having extra equipment ready can be very useful. Things like earplugs, eye masks, humidifiers, black out curtains, and fans, can all go a long way in improving your quality of sleep.
19. SLEEP LIKE ROYALTY
This requires a bigger financial investment, but making sure you have a comfortable mattress, pillow, and sheets, can really affect the quality of your sleep. It can be easy to get used to any old mattress, and mushy pillow over time, but when you experience a quality night’s sleep in a hotel for example, you quickly realise how important they are.
20. KEEP YOUR BEDROOM TIDY
Keeping a tidy room, or at least your bed, can make the experience of sleep far more inviting. Remember to wash those sheets once a week to keep them fresh, fluff the pillow every morning to keep it plump, and make the bed as soon as you wake up so that you have something cosy to collapse on at the end of the day.
21. FIND A TEA TO SOOTH YOU
While we know that caffeine, especially towards the end of the afternoon, can disrupt our sleep, tea can be a great antidote. It is a fantastic alternative but still hot, and relaxing. There are many that aid specifically with sleep, but if in doubt, a simple chamomile tea is always a great option. Chamomile is known to be a mild tranquiliser and contains the antioxidant called apigen, which can also help to reduce inflammation, and decrease anxiety.
You can even add you rown natural ingredients for more flavour or make your own mixes, with thigs like fresh mint leaves, ginger root, and lemon. Whatever you choose, just be careful not to pick a tea with caffeine.
22. KEEP A SLEEP DIARY
Keeping a record of your sleep is a great idea to track your trends. As one common example, you might think that you’re going to sleep at one time, but you might find it’s actually far later than you realised when you it down. Journals can really reveal some truths that we may not be consciously aware of, and that’s their power!
23. SEE A MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL
Lastly, if you are really worried about your sleeping, then seeing a medical professional might be wise. You can never be too safe and at the very least it might put your mind at ease which means less stress for you.
Put these tips to use and look forward to a great night’s sleep.
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