How did you sleep last night? Did your head snuggle into the pillow, as you drifted off into a soothing, nourishing 8 hours? If you’re like a lot of people, probably not.
Here’s some of the things I’ve used over the years which have helped me improve the quality of my sleep:
This one is the obvious and I’m sure the biggest problem for most. I’m glued to my phone nowadays and I’m not proud of it. But it’s so easy to pass the time! I’ll just check one more thing! Just see what’s happening on Facebook! And on it goes for hours on end. As fun as it is watching Little Mix performances, it’s not exactly productive. So come 10pm, I become Lieutenant Paul and begin my bedtime routine with military gusto. TV off, laptop off, my phone goes on charge for the next day, set my alarm, turn on Do Not Disturb and I resist the urge not to touch it until the next day. It’s not easy because it became my go-to time-waster as my partner finishes faffing and gets into bed. So instead, if I’ve got time to “waste”, I’ll do nothing. I’ll maybe read a book but most of the time, I try to quiet my mind and practice some mindful breathing (more on that below!).
NB: The blue light shining from a phone screen is proven to keep you awake and stimulated. iPhones have a fab function which dims and softens phone colours at a set time, so it gradually helps to calm your mind as the night goes on. If your phone has a similar function, I really do recommend using it.
The benefits of Mindfulness are endless. It reduces stress, helps concentration, improves your resilience. But it can also be daunting if you’ve never tried it. Like most things, if you want to feel the benefits, you have to put in the practice and mindful breathing is a great way to start. What I do is simply get comfortable, gradually slow my breathing and relax. I Inhale for a count of five through my nose and exhale for a count of seven out of my mouth. I don’t rush and count at my own pace. I gently focus on my breath filling my lungs as I exhale and focus on the air as I breathe out. As I stay in the moment, I will slowly begin to relax and before I know it, I’m asleep!
Build A Cosy Nook
My bedroom is my sanctuary. It’s where I see off one day and welcome in the next. I’m never going to get a decent night’s sleep unless my room is comfortable and welcoming. So I invested in some gorgeously soft sheets and memory-foam pillows so come 10pm, I’m actually excited to go to bed! Plus I always make sure I make my bed every morning, without fail. It’s how I mentally sign off my morning and head out to start my day properly. And if I forget or run out of time, I make sure I do it in the evening. Getting into an unmade bed feels like you’ve got a sleep hangover from the night before. There’s nothing like getting into a crisp, cold, snuggly bed.
Empty Your Head
For me, the biggest problem is my mind still going 100mph when my head hits the pillow. I can spend all day tinkering about with this and that, with a chaotic jumble of thoughts bouncing around my head in the background. But as soon as I get into bed, there’s nothing to distract me and wham – they all burst onto centre stage, vying for attention. Usually, it’s ideas and reminders I don’t want to forget. So every time it begins, even if I’m dosing, I lean over and write them in my notebook. They’re often not legible, and sometimes don’t make sense in the morning, but they’re out of my head and that’s the main thing. I don’t have to cling onto them once I’ve committed them to paper.
Emptying my head really helps, but I did find that some nights, particularly when I was stressed or anxious, I would end up filling page after page. They’re out of my head but then all I see is mountains of stuff I have to do staring back at me. Plus the danger is once I get going, it fuels my creativity so how do I stop? What I’ve found helps is after I’ve done my brain dump, I practice some gratitude. I walk through my day in my head, hour by hour, bit by bit and think of everything I’ve been grateful for in that day. A compliment from a customer, a joke with my partner, the neighbour’s cat coming out to greet me when I get home – if it made me smile, no matter how small, I acknowledge and appreciate it. This helps me to ease myself into sleep feeling positive about the day, even if it’s been a bit rubbish, instead of continuing to ruminate on the negatives.
The Power of Lavender
Lavender is infamous for its relaxing properties however I personally wasn’t overly aware of just how powerful it can be. And it happened purely by chance! I got myself a brand new diffuser to freshen up my bedroom and I’d ended up choosing a Lavender and Amber fragrance. It took me three days commenting how well I slept for me to realise what was happening – the lavender was calming me down! Recent scientific studies have confirmed the benefits of lavender – from reduced stress and anxiety to lower blood pressure. and of course, improved sleep. Never underestimate the power of nature!
Sleep is crucial to our wellbeing. By taking a step back and finding out what solutions work for you, you can make a real difference to the quality of your sleep. Happy napping!