Do you ever lay in bed for hours unable to fall asleep? Or wake during the night? Then this is for you! Below are my top tips on how to get more shut eye.
- Set yourself realistic times to go to bed and wake up in the morning, and keep them consistent every day of the week: including weekends.
- Set a pre-bed ritual. Start winding down 1/2 hour to 1 hour prior to your intended sleep time. This will prepare your body for rest. If you have the same ritual every night your body will start to know naturally when it is expected to sleep. Great examples include a warm shower, some light stretching, yoga, or reading a book.
- Avoid drinking fluids in the last hour before you go to sleep. If you typically down a large glass of water or a hot milk drink just before bed: chances are you’ll be needing to urinate during the night. And this means disturbing your sleep cycle.
- Avoid screens in the last hour before you sleep. This includes smart phones, TV, laptops and computers. The blue light emitted by these screens alters the production of melatonin: an essential hormone required for sleep onset. Blue light filters can be used if avoiding your phone is simply not an option for you.
- Avoid stimulating foods and drinks after 3pm. This includes alcohol, nicotine, caffeine and chocolate, as they not only make it difficult to fall asleep, but the metabolism of these substances during the night can jolt you awake (hello 3am wake up!).
- Keep the bedroom for sleep and sex only. This ensures your body knows that once you are in the bedroom it is time for rest. If you work, eat or watch TV in bed, your body will be used to fighting the urge to sleep, and you may find yourself continuing this pattern when you actually want to go to sleep.
- Don’t skip the carbs at night! Unless you are following a ketogenic diet, consuming complex carbs (brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, potatoes etc) with your evening meal has been shown to increase the brain’s production of serotonin, a precursor to melatonin: that sleep inducing hormone we mentioned earlier. So make sure you get a healthy dose with dinner.
- Set your senses to sleep. Pick an essential oil that you smell or dot on your pillow every night to encourage sleep. Lavender is a particularly calming scent that could help you nod off. It’s important to use the same scent every night, and not to use it any other time of day for greatest effect. Similarly, an eye mask can trigger your touch sense that it is time for sleep, whilst also darkening the room for you. Ultimately, the more senses you can trigger consistently: the better. These are simply examples, find what works for you.
These techniques are really helpful for a lot of people, so give them a go. But if your sleepless nights are as a result of a small baby, then you may need some extra assistance or need more creativity. Similarly, if you lay in bed with a racing mind, perhaps there are certain nutrient deficiencies affecting your mood. Or you may need more psychological support. Try these tips first, and if your insomnia remains unchanged, book a consult for more personalised advise.