HOW TO SLEEP BETTER
An estimated 36% of people have trouble falling asleep on a weekly basis in the UK, which is bad news for our happiness and concentration. As a recovered insomniac, I know exactly how it feels to lie awake in the early hours. It’s frustrating, lonely, and seemingly endless. But after almost a year of disrupted sleep, I fixed my insomnia through gradual lifestyle changes — and although I’m no doctor, I’m here to share my simple tips.
01. EAT A COMPLEX CARD BEFORE BED
Although it’s not a good idea to eat a large meal just before bed, we often have trouble sleeping if we’re hungry, too. Nibbling on a light snack an hour before bed, such as wholegrain or sourdough toast with almond butter, will help with any midnight pangs of hunger.
Make sure your snack is easy to digest and not loaded with sugar or unhealthy fats. If you’re sensitive to caffeine, avoid large amounts of chocolate in the evenings and swap a regular cup of tea for rooibos or a herbal blend.
02. NO CAFFEINE AFTER 2PM
Speaking of caffeine, studies have shown that its effects can stay in your system for up to twelve hours after we consume it. Although we become desensitised to the effects of caffeine over time, if you’re struggling with sleep, this is the first thing to try.
If you’re still passionate about that morning brew, try switching to espresso, rather than pour-over or filter. There is naturally less caffeine in espresso — and it tastes wonderful, too. The perfect morning ritual. If you’re struggling through sleepless nights, it’s important to have things to look forward to.
03. REGULATE YOUR CIRCADIAN RHYTHM
Studies have suggested that exposing your face to sunlight within the first hour of waking helps regulate your sleep cycle. Think about it — we didn’t evolve with artificial light, so it’s unnatural to our sleep patterns for us to sit in a bright room until the small hours. Get serious about your circadian rhythm. If the sun rises at 6am, try to get up around that time. If the sun sets at 10pm, take it as a hint and start to wind down for bed, too. In the winter, you will naturally sleep in longer — perhaps until 7 or 8 am — and feel sleepier earlier. That’s okay — respect your body’s needs.
This tip might seem obvious, but it takes discipline to get out of bed at the same time every day. Trust me, an early morning makes all the difference for those struggling with sleep.
04. FORGET SCREEN TIME. JOURNAL INSTEAD
Blue light is no friend to an insomniac. But don’t ditch your phone just yet — meditation apps, ambient sounds and audiobooks can be fantastic tools for helping you drift off. If you’re struggling to resist the lure of scrolling near bedtime, use an app blocker that kicks in 2 hours before you head to bed.
Instead of flicking through social media, try one of these activities instead: read a book, doodle on a sketchpad, work on a crossword, or keep a journal. The benefits of unwinding the mind will not just help you sleep better, it will help your daily life feel calmer, too.
05. CREATE YOUR HAPPY PLACE
When it comes to our ideal sleep conditions, we all have different needs. Do you like a warm room or an open window? A simple sheet or a heavy duvet? A nightlight or complete darkness? Once you know what sort of environment helps you relax, ensure that your bedroom supports your sleep.
Use silicone earplugs if you’re being kept awake by noise. Try linen sheets if you’re feeling too hot at night. Take a shower before bed to help calm your nervous system, and wrap up in a plush bathrobe to complete the experience. Other luxuries, such as essential oil diffusers and soft pyjamas, will also help create a soothing atmosphere and make great gifts. Find out what works for you and don’t compromise — at least until your sleep regulates.
06. GET OUTSIDE IN THE MORNING
Gentle walks and exercise that you enjoy are hugely beneficial to your overall mood, not to mention your sleep. Daylight and fresh air will help wake up a sleep-deprived mind and soothe the anxiety that insomnia causes. Plus, Vitamin D will improve your overall health, aiding in better sleep.
If you want to take your walk one step further, try chatting with people you meet on your journey. Fostering a greater sense of community will help lower feelings of loneliness and anxiety, which will help you sleep by decreasing stress levels. Remember, you’re not alone in this.
07. TAKE NAPS DURING THE DAY
This one might seem counter-intuitive, but it was the key to solving my “Sleep Maintenance Insomnia”, which was caused by elevated cortisol levels. First, a bit of science: cortisol is the stress hormone that wakes us up in the morning (melatonin puts us to sleep), so having elevated levels of stress can’t be good for sleep. Taking a nap once a day — usually around 3 pm — helped lower my stress levels and improved my sleep overall. These days, I only take naps if I’m feeling especially ill or stressed. But I keep this tool in my belt to prevent future relapses.
From toast to taking a daily nap, I hope that these suggestions will help you through the long nights.
Thank you for reading
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