I have started to become a little obsessed with getting a good night’s sleep in the past couple of years. It coincided with the boys getting older and E learning (then aged two and a half) to sleep through the night properly. Gradually though, I have found what works for me with how to sleep well.
How to sleep well: What to do during the day
♦ Daylight during the day: Exposure to sunlight during the day can help you sleep better at night. Sitting a whole day in an artificially lit office is not good for your sleep; heading out into the daylight at lunch time makes a difference.
♦ A warm shower or bath before bed: This has both upsides and downsides. On the upside, the warm water – especially from a bath – can make you feel sleepy; on the downside, I find I then need to blow dry my hair, which wakes me up again. And going to sleep with wet hair is not exactly conducive to a restful night. I’d say this one really depends on your bedtime routine.
♦ Exercise: Training during the day can help you to sleep well. I know that I sleep much better on the nights when I have been training, especially with weight training.
♦ Avoid too much caffeine: The research says that you should avoid caffeine for up to 12 hours before bed. Through trial and error I now know I can manage with coffee at 3pm at the very latest and no more than three cups throughout the day.
How to sleep well: What to do during the evening
♦ Sleep at regular times: I typically work a shift that starts at 6am, which means I am up just after 5am each morning. And so I have to go to bed pretty early – I aim for no later than 9.30pm. But when I have the occasional later shift, say 8am or 9am, I still make sure I go to bed on time and get up reasonably early. I don’t want there to be get differences between my waking hours. My body is used to the early starts and I need to keep it that way.
♦ No mobile, tablet or tv for two hours before bed: Not something that I am able to do, I’m afraid. The boys go to bed at around 8pm and I go an hour and a half later, so this is my only time to watch a tv series. However, I now set my iPhone for less blue light in the evenings. Blue light stimulates the brain, so changing to a yellower tone on the phone display can help. On an iPhone, go to Settings > Display & Brightness > Night Shift. Set the time that the yellow screen light is on and adjust the colour temperature of the light. On Android, there are a few different apps that you can download that do the same.
♦ A dark bedroom at night: Make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible at night. Darkness can play a big role is getting a good night’s sleep. We are still working on this one; at the moment we only have venetian blinds but the plan is to add curtains too.
♦ Mindfulness at bedtime: I like to use mindfulness meditations in the evening as I like how they relax me. I have even been known to fall asleep mid-session lying in bed. There are hundreds available via apps or online that are designed especially for sleep. I like Headspace and the meditations on the app for my Bellabeat Leaf activity tracker.
♦ Aromatherapy: One of our hotels this summer gave me a sample pack of this works deep sleep pillow talk. The pack includes an aromatherapy pillow spray and oils that you roll on to pulse points and inhale. I’ve been using them on and off since and they certainly make me feel much more relaxed at bedtime.
♦ Listening to talking books: I’ve actually been doing this since I was young. I used to go to bed every night and put a cassette into the tap player and listen to stories. Back then, I could listen to anything and everything, but now I’ve found that I need something non-stimulating. I tend now to listen to something I am not fully interested in or I have heard before. Finding a podcast that doesn’t really stimulate you can be one method. But for me, it’s Jane Austen, whose novels I know inside out. My top pick is Northanger Abbey. I must have listened to this hundreds of times. Just make sure the narrator has a soothing voice.
These methods have really helped me to sleep better. I am still working on improving further – my main fault is not going to bed in time – but I am getting there. I have recently been reading Arianna Huffington’s Sleep Revolution. Have you read it? It’s fascinating but also terrifying to think what too little sleep can do to us.
Do you have an tips for how to sleep well?