Wake up feeling rested and radiant
Last month, on a Tuesday morning, I found myself staring at my bedroom ceiling, wide eyed. Every possible thought, worry, memory and idea was rushing around my overcrowded head. It was 3am.
This is how my weekly cycle of grumpiness and grogginess always began, and I couldn’t seem to find a way out.
In the midst of my frustration and the ever so familiar dread of how I would feel the next day, I rolled over and grabbed my phone, googling ‘Why can’t I sleep??!’. Through squinting eyes, I noticed a few statistics pop up on my phone, and what they told me didn’t surprise me one bit:
‘Over half of Britain’s students are sleep deprived’
‘On average, single working women get less than six hours of sleep per night’.
Since that Tuesday morning last month, I’ve been spending a lot of time researching and trying out various methods that people recommend for optimising your sleep.
Our brains actively work when we are asleep to organise our thoughts and prioritise all that we’ve processed throughout the day. If we deprive our body of it’s well needed shut-eye, our brains have no way of fully processing all that it needs to. No wonder we spend the next day feeling under-rested and sluggish.
I’ve sifted through the large amount of tips and tricks I’ve found, and compiled a list my favourites. Here’s my top 5 ways to improve your sleep pattern and reduce that grumpy morning feeling:
Step 1 ~ Create a bedtime routine
The most important step in creating a better sleeping pattern is to set yourself a routine. This will enable you to give your body a cue that it’s time to start winding down and feeling sleepy. I found it most effective to use the steps below to create a simple bedroom routine to help me relax and unwind. You should aim to do this consistently at a similar time each evening.
Step 2 ~ Switch caffeine for chamomile.
Chamomile has a reputation for effectively treating anxiety, insomnia, nervousness, and stress. That being so, it makes the perfect herbal tea to help you ease into the evening and start to wind down. If you’re being fancy, you could even add some dried lavender to help enhance the relaxation and enjoy the calm. I’ll admit, I was sceptical about this tip when I first found it-I was unable to understand how a herbal ingredient could actually help me. Having said that, when I took a trip to Tesco I picked up some chamomile tea (for no more than a couple of pounds). Much to my surprise, I noticed a difference in my sleep from the first time I drank it. It seemed to really live up to the reviews I’d read online. This tea makes me feel drowsy, peaceful and cosy. Now I crave it every evening.
Step 3 ~ Wash away the day
Rather than being constant, the human body temperature varies throughout the day, slightly dipping at around 1pm, and falling lower in the evening hours. This decrease in our body temperature is what gives us that sleepy feeling. By relaxing into a warm bubble bath or shower, we are raising our body temperature, and the subsequent drop helps us sleep. Apparently, the best time to have a warm bath or shower is 1-2 hours before you wish to fall asleep. By adding this to my evening routine, I’ve found I often feel more prepared for bed. I leave the bath feeling like I’ve washed off the stresses of the day. You’d be mad not to give this tip a go.
Step 4: Read and write
The University of Sussex carried out a study in 2009, in which they found that six minutes of reading reduces stress by 68%, clearing the mind and preparing the body for sleep. Since finding this out, I’ve been making a real effort to put my phone down before bed and swapping it for a book. Focusing my attention on something other than technology really seemed to help me wind down and feel extremely sleepy. In an ideal world, I wouldn’t use technology in the evenings at all. However, this is the real world, and sticking to this resolution is difficult now that the whole world seems to revolve around the internet. However, by focusing my attention on a book rather than my phone before I go to bed, I have seen a real improvement in my sleep pattern. My mind feels calmer, due to it not being crammed full of information from my smartphone.
The other day I stumbled upon a sleep specialist named Stephanie Silberman Ph.D, and began to read up on her advice for reducing worry and sleeping well. She advices that a few hours before you wish to go to sleep, you should write down what’s on your mind and what you’re doing about it. Then, the next time you are trying to drift off, and your mind starts to chatter and overthink , you “can mentally check it off” and say to yourself “I’ve dealt with that” or “I’m dealing with it”. This creates a lovely “sense of relief”, and enables you to put your daily mind babble on mute for the night. I’ve incorporated this into my routine and can honestly say I’ve never felt more at ease.
When we are caught in the chaos of everyday life, it’s easy to neglect our sleep environment and forget it’s importance in insuring a great nights sleep. But we spend a third of our lives sleeping in our bedroom, so surely there’s no doubt that creating the best sleep environment should be a priority. These are the best ways I’ve found to create a comfy, chilled out space for night time:
Clean out clutter:
Busy room= Busy mind. If you’re lying amidst clobber and mess, there’s no wonder your head is full of unnecessary piles of worry and stress. An organised room will keep your mind in order, and allow you to switch off properly for the evening.
Light has a profound effect on sleep. The light we are exposed to in the morning stimulates the body and mind, encouraging us to feel wakefulness, energy and alertness. Therefore, light exposure at night has the same effect. This can cause serious problems when you’re trying to have a refreshing, healthy sleep. During the evening hours, dimly light your room e.g. using fairy lights, to create a homely, welcoming environment. This will enable you to feel cosy and calm. Aim to make your room pitch black before you try to fall asleep, as insufficient darkness can cause frequent awakenings throughout the night.
Studies show that the ideal temperature for sleep is around 68°F. (20°C) If your sleep environment is too hot, you will wake up constantly in the night. If the room is too cold, your body will use a lot of energy to warm it’s self up during the night. This reduces the amount of energy going towards your rejuvenation. Therefore, for the best sleep possible use your windows, clothing and heating to create the perfect sleep temperature.
So if you’re also struggling with sleep deprivation and wake up feeling like a zombie, why not give these tips a go and see if they improve things for you like they have for me. Let me know how you get on!