Trouble sleeping is one of the most common concerns my clients talk about and ironically, is one of the things that keeps them up worrying at night.
So I wanted to take time to share some practical tips with you as to what some of my clients have found helpful in getting a better quality night of sleep.
A note to remember; everyone is different and not all of these things may work for you. Getting better sleep is about finding the things that help you as an individual.
1. Create a routine
According to the NHS, the recommended amount of sleep for most adults is between 6-9 hours, yet we often find ourselves getting much less than this, leaving us feeling tired, worn out and lacking in energy to take on our day. This is especially true when we are facing difficult life events or struggling with our mental health.
Going to sleep and waking up around the same time every day can help us align with our body clocks – also known as our circadian rhythm. If you can, aim to go to bed at the same time most nights, counting back from when we need to get up and ensuring you are spending enough time in bed to give yourself the best possible chance at getting enough sleep.
2. Find ways to relax
Relaxing before bed can help us to slow down both physically and mentally ready to switch off for the day. Here are some of the ways my clients like to relax:
Soak it all away – Having a bath or shower before bed can mimic the dropping in your body temperature which signals to your body it’s time to sleep. Why not try using some relaxing bath salts or bath oil.
Stretch – Feeling tense? Are your shoulders up by your ears, neck feel stiff? Is your jaw tense, your teeth clenched? Some simple stretches before bed can help you unwind and relax those muscles in preparation for sleep.
Sleep stories – We read bedtime stories to children to help them drift off to sleep, but why do we stop this once we grow up? We may have replaced this with reading our favourite books instead, but Apps such as Calm now have sleep stories for adults, which help you drift off to your favourite story. Who said that bedtime stories were just for children?
What are the ways you like to relax before bed? Do you give yourself the time and space to do this?
3. Quieten your mind
Often one of the biggest reasons people struggle to sleep is because we’re unable to ‘switch off’ our minds. As soon as your lie down ready to sleep, do you suddenly get an influx of thoughts and worries that you find you just can’t quieten down?
Journaling or writing down your thoughts in a book next to your bed can be a physical act of getting thoughts out of your mind. Putting them elsewhere, to worry about at some other time. We sometimes worry that we’ll forget to do something, so writing these things down can give us peace of mind that we’ve captured them.
Worrying is almost always about something that has happened in our past, or that may happen in the future. Whilst practicing mindfulness helps us to focus more on the ‘now’ so that we worry less, sometimes these feelings and thoughts can be overwhelming. Something that can help is asking yourself the following question:
– If YES, great, this means we can do something about it. But you’re about to go to sleep so you’re not able to do anything about it right this minute. Note it down, if that helps, and you can deal with it tomorrow.
– If NO, then try to stop worrying. Worrying about things out of our control is unhelpful and a waste of our valuable energy. Try to focus on the things about the situation that you can control as this will be most helpful to you and help you feel more able to cope.
4. Make your bedroom a sanctuary
Set your bedroom space up to encourage all things sleep.
Think cosy pillows and duvet, soft lighting, less distractions (like TV or mobile phones). Make sure you can block out the light to signal to your body it’s time to sleep – if you can’t change your blinds or curtains, why not invest in a good eye mask instead.
A gentle room spray of lavender can also help when spritzed onto your pillows.
5. Stop putting pressure on yourself
One of the most common reasons we struggle to sleep is the amount of pressure we put on ourselves to do so. Worrying about sleeping, watching the clock tick by and thinking about how we’re not asleep yet is not helpful, but how do we stop doing this?
Most certainly all of the above tips will help us to relax and get ready for a good night’s sleep, but when our mind is busy it can be really difficult to switch off.
If you’re unable to sleep, get up and do a relaxing activity until you feel tired again – this may be reading a book, colouring or listening to relaxing music or a podcast. Maybe one of the relaxing activities you thought about from earlier in this post.
Accepting that we are unable to sleep can take the pressure off and may give us the permission to be kinder to ourselves around this. Try to not be so hard on yourself, you may be experiencing poor sleep for a reason, and that is ok. Putting additional pressure on ourselves will only add to this.