How do you sleep at night?
I hope the answer is ‘Very well’ however this is not the case for everybody. I’ve certainly noticed a change in my sleeping pattern since lockdown. Initially, I slept so much more than normal, so did my daughter Poppy, we were sleeping in later and then as a result, going to bed later. Now that we are well into lockdown, I’ve noticed that my sleep pattern has changed again. Over the last week, I’ve started to look at how I am spending the most part of my days and what I am consuming and how much exercise I am partaking in and I’ve actually realised that I am still moving just as much, perhaps not as intensively as I would have been whilst still going to the gym, but the main changing factor is that I am looking at a screen a lot more, whether that be my phone, the laptop or watching the TV. The increase in screen time has certainly effected my sleep more, so I’m currently cutting right back and will see how that reflects through my sleep.
So, as the heat creeps up and tension mounts about when normality will resume (and what it will look like) sleep can become something we painstakingly strive for rather than effortlessly relax into. I’ve touched on the importance of sleep before but we haven’t really looked at the correlations between high anxiety and bad sleep – let’s just say that they aren’t the best of bedfellows – pun very much intended!
All too often when its time for your body to switch off for the day your mind grabs a red bull and straps on its running gear, before long its 3am and you’re wide awake, angry, upset and probably wondering whether you’re not sleeping because you’re anxious or whether your sleeplessness is causing anxiety.
The reality is that it’s likely a combination of the two.
If this is you then fear not as we will looking at ways to avoid this today.
Relax, grab yourself warm, milk-free chamomile (sorry but its the only way!) and let’s look at some easily adaptable techniques to take you henceforth to the land of nod…
People who exercise regularly get a better quality of sleep than those of us who don’t.
Not only will the act of getting out of breath boost serotonin and a number of endorphins that boost your mental well being, the bonus of being genuinely tired at the end of the day work perfectly in tandem.
If you’re struggling with sleep and are feeling less then your best mentally, exercise is the best first step you can take towards sound sleep.
I appreciate that in some instances, like now, going to the gym, etc isn’t always viable but, and its a big but, just 30 mins of brisk walking every day is enough to start seeing a difference.
Start here and reap the benefits!
Do You Wind Down?
This made such a big difference to the quality of my sleep that it deserves to be the next weapon in your sleeping arsenal, and it is so simple – Give yourself a buffer period where you slow down before bed.
Which of these two scenarios do you think promotes better sleep;
You finish watching the news at 10, go upstairs, wash/brush and then sit in bed aimlessly looking at your phone for 30 mins then lie down to sleep…
You aim to be asleep by 11 pm so at 10 pm you turn off any screens you were using (phone, tablet, laptop, tv) open a book or listen to a podcast then as you’re starting to feel naturally sleepy you wash/brush and get into bed ready for sleep.
It is obviously the second scenario but the first scenario is the overwhelmingly more popular choice.
Firstly, the blue light from a screen tricks your mind into not wanting sleep by helping to suppress melatonin, this is a direct excerpt from the sleepcouncil.org.uk
‘In an evening, the blue light that emits from devices (including TVs) suppresses the natural production of melatonin – the hormone you need to feel sleepy – and plays havoc with your body’s circadian rhythms making it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep.’ If you haven’t done so already make sure that you adjust your phone to the ‘night shift’ setting to eliminate those blue-toned rays in the evening.
As hard as it may seem, ditch the screens an hour or so before bedtime and get better sleep. Simple.
This next one is such a good tip and one that I employ if I need some extra help to push me over the ‘sleeping line’ and it is soooo simple.
Starting with your toes, simply squeeze your toes by curling them forward and tighten their ‘grip’ so to speak, then release after a few seconds. You’ll notice that the contrast from being squeezed gives the effect of supreme relaxation.
Now rinse and repeat as you work your way up to your body. By the end of it you’ll feel a new level of relaxation and comfort, trust me, it is a great technique to fall back.
If you’re still lying in bed after working through the tips above then don’t stew in it, as counterproductive as it may seem getting out of bed is a great way to ‘reset’ and break out of the sleepless funk you’re presently in.
Grab a cup of chamomile, or similar, and open a book for 20 minutes then try again. This has helped me on so many occasions I couldn’t even begin to imagine how many and it almost seems like on of the worst things you could do besides having a coffee and jumping in an icy lake*.
*Other lakes are available
If you’re still struggling to sleep then rest assured (pun unintended) that there are further steps you can take and plenty of help out there. The above is an introductory list that will help the vast majority of people.
One thing we haven’t touched on above is mindfulness and meditation, this however is something that really needs a post of its own!
Until next time,
Sleep well 🙂