Sometimes sleep doesn’t come easily. For one reason or another many of us will struggle with sleep at some point in our lives. There are lots of well-meaning tips and tricks out there to try, all it takes is a quick Google search, and voila! 10 million sleep tips at your fingertips. Unfortunately, it’s not always that easy. It’s tricky to know what works and what’s right for you.
This is one of the reasons why we started Sleeboo: to help people understand their own personal sleep behavior and to figure out what actually works for them. There’s a saying: “one person’s relaxation is another person’s torture” — everyone is different, it’s just a case of finding out what works for you.
Here are a few simple, yet very effective, tried, and tested changes that are quite easy to implement into your everyday life. Don’t worry, these aren’t meant to be rules, they’re just some tips and pointers that may help you to improve your sleep quality.
Perfect Your Wind Down Routine
One of the best things you can do in the evening is to establish a regular and relaxing bedtime routine.
You’ve probably heard this one before but it really is important so bear with me. Winding down in the evening signals to the body that it is time for sleep. It should also help to relax your mind and put any worries or stress from the day to bed, so to speak.
Try to spend at least 30 minutes doing whatever relaxes you, as long as it doesn’t involve ‘active screen-based entertainment’ like scrolling through social media. You may find that listening to a sleep story helps — there are so many sleep stories available on YouTube or as a podcast and they can be very effective; helping you drift off to a relaxing story and a soothing voice. Our favorite? The dulcet tones of Matthew McConaughey reading this delightful sleep story.
And we’re back in the room.
Bright lights in the evening can affect our ability to fall asleep. One of the last things we do at night before we go to bed is brush our teeth in a brightly lit bathroom, so try using dim lights or even candles.
While you’re there, why not create a spa-like experience in your own bathroom — pop some essential oil into a burner and maybe even some relaxing music to set the mood (or invite Matthew McConaughey to join you here instead). Apply a face mask or just sit and relax for a while. It doesn’t have to take long, even just 10 minutes will do wonders!
Read Until You Can’t Keep Your Eyes Open
If you don’t already read before going to bed, consider changing this immediately. Getting lost in a good book before you switch off the light can really help you to unwind and take your mind off the days’ worries, preparing your body for sleep. In fact, devoting your undivided attention to one activity, such as reading, could be a form of mindfulness. Reading allows for quiet reflection and requires mindful attentiveness; letting go of any distracting thoughts and opinions in order to be fully in the moment with the text.
Allow yourself to be completely absorbed by the book and only put it down when you can no longer keep your eyes open. If it’s midnight and you’re still reading, then so be it — don’t worry about the time. In fact, don’t clock-watch at all. Several studies have looked into the harm clock-watching does to our sleep: it often triggers a kind of pre-sleep worry and makes it harder for us to fall asleep.
Someone once told me that it’s better to have four hours of deep, restful, and uninterrupted sleep than seven hours of fitful sleep. I’m not sure how true that is but it seems reasonable to me.
Oh, and be sure to choose a light, cheerful, easy-going book, something you can happily get lost in (anything by Bill Bryson works a treat for me).
Still Can’t Sleep? Get Up
If you’ve spent 20 minutes tossing and turning in the sack and still sleep won’t come, don’t stay in bed. In his book, “Why We Sleep” sleep expert Matthew Walker suggests that if you are feeling worried or anxious about not being able to sleep, staying in bed regardless can make it even more difficult to drift off. Naturally, our brain associates our bed with sleep, so when we can’t get to sleep we may be sending conflicting signals to the brain if we stay in bed, making the whole situation even worse. Instead, get up and do something relaxing until you start to feel sleepy.
Read a book in another room, do some stretching and breathing exercises, some yoga, meditation, a puzzle, or maybe organize that overflowing kitchen cupboard.
Only go back to bed when you feel sleepy again — let sleep come to you, don’t chase it.
Maintain A Routine, Even on Weekends
Not always as easy as it sounds, I know, but our bodies crave consistency and irregular sleep schedules can be more damaging than you think.
Maintaining regular wake-up and lights-off times can really help to improve sleep quality. is because our bodies actually prepare to wake up about one hour before we actually wake, so when we get up at different times each day, our poor bodies have no idea when to prepare to wake! As tempting as that weekend lie-in might be, try to resist the urge!
The important thing to note here is that you have to do what’s right for you. Maybe reading isn’t for you, maybe you’re a podcast-kinda-person. If you really can’t get outside, throw open some windows and let the natural light into your home.
Think about what relaxes you, what works for you, and start by making some small changes today.
Small changes can make a huge difference, so whether you change up your evening routine, invest in a good book, or set your alarm a little earlier than usual on the weekend, you can “sleep soundly” knowing you’re paving the way to better sleep.
Please note that the material above is provided for general information only and should not be relied upon or used as medical advice.