World Health Day is on 7th April, and is a day spent focused on our mental and physical wellbeing all around the globe. There are many ways we can take care of our health: mindfulness, healthy eating and exercise to name a few, but one of the key things to support our health is sleep.
When you have a great night’s sleep, you wake up feeling refreshed, energetic and in an all-round good mood. It helps not only your mental wellbeing, but also your physical health. One night of bad sleep isn’t going to be detrimental to your sleep, as we all have a bad night here and there due to various factors. But a regular pattern of poor sleep will eventually take its toll on your mental and physical health, and you’ll quickly spot the difference.
I’ve suffered with my fair share of bad nights, as have many of you. But the last time I had a run of four consecutive nights of just 1-2 hours sleep each time, it resulted in a panic attack. The sheer exhaustion just made me breakdown in an emotional attack and feel horrible for 24 hours. With that in mind, I want to share my tips and techniques for getting a great night’s sleep. Some of these help me get to sleep fast, whereas others aren’t about how quick I can get to sleep, but improving the quality of sleep I get.
If you’re looking at how to fall asleep quickly, I can’t recommend guided meditation enough. Of course, like with many things, what works for someone else may not work for you, but it’s always worth giving it a go.
Once or twice a week, I put a guided meditation track on via the Calm app (YouTube works just as well) and I’m normally asleep before the track finishes. I particularly like the body scan versions which get you to focus on each part of your body to help you release any tension. Tamara Levitt is my favourite narrator at Calm and her Deep Sleep track is my go-to if I need help getting to sleep. I usually opt for the 20 minute version and, like I wrote earlier, I’m often asleep before it finishes!
If you’re curious about the body scan technique I mentioned, the MBSR programme I recently tried by Tracy Kiss also talks you through how to do this.
Take a hot shower
It’s advised to take a cold shower in the morning to wake you up, but taking a warm bath or shower 1-2 hours could really help improve your sleep. Personally, I prefer a shower in the morning to start my day, but I’ve recently started doing this in the evening and have really noticed the difference. I feel cosier and warmer once I get into bed, but knowing I can push my alarm back and get an extra 20 minutes of shut-eye in the morning is a bonus!
Do a little self-pampering
I like to give myself mini hand and foot massages when I get into bed, just for five to ten minutes. I use a mixture of the Sleep Relaxing Massage Oil from the new Sleep range by The Body Shop and a solid coconut oil to do this. So try mini massages, face masks, or even sitting with a hot water bottle or heat pack to release any tension in tight muscles. Or, self-pampering can even be enjoying a hot herbal tea before bed or reading a book. It doesn’t all have to be skincare or beauty-related, just anything which brings you joy and makes you feel calm and relaxed before bed.
Avoid any digital time
I used to really struggle with this, but avoiding using your phone or watching TV for at least 30 minutes before going to bed has a huge impact on getting to sleep. I often now go upstairs and plug my phone in to charge, potter about getting ready for bed and do my night routine of mini massages, journaling and spritzing my pillows with a lavender spray, and I don’t touch my phone until the morning. There’s still the occasional night where I reach for my phone – often I forget to set an alarm, need to check my calendar or need to quickly message someone, but most nights I avoid my phone as much as possible.
Stick to a sleep schedule
Regardless of whether you are in your usual day routine or not i.e. work or school, sticking to your usual sleep routine is key for a better sleep. Sometimes, when on annual leave, I find myself going to bed 2-3 hours later than usual, but waking up at the same time, and I soon find myself feeling sluggish and tired after a couple days. Once I bounce back to my normal bedtime, my sleep is a lot better.
Get active in the day
A better sleep isn’t just about what you do within the couple hours leading up to bedtime, it’s also about what you do in the day. Keeping active such as walking in the day or after dinner, exercising or doing some yoga will help improve your sleep. I do yoga every morning, but once I incorporated 20-30 minute walks into my evening routine (after dinner), I’ve found my sleep is far better. It’s even better on the days I go to a Zumba class with a friend – I’m usually out within ten minutes those evenings!
Watch what you eat and drink
Going to bed feeling stuffed or feeling slightly tipsy due to a few to many drinks, doesn’t help with a good night’s sleep. Instead, avoid the caffeine and alcohol before bed, and opt for lighter snacks/meals if you’re needing to eat late.