Struggling to sleep? Can't switch off? Thoughts in overdrive?

It is recommended that we need 7-9 hours’ sleep per night to function effectively and when this is not the case our bodies build up a sleep debt like any debt, sleep will eventually need to be repaid. So, if like many people your body is slowly building up a sleep debt.
This is the place for you to find helpful and practical tips to ease those restless nights. Which are easy to build into the busiest of life styles, with most of us juggling lots of roles in our life mother, wife, sister, friend and a career whilst trying to have a healthy work life balance, get enough exercise and eat well. Fulfilling all these roles can result in stress, anxiety and overactive thoughts which all have a negative impact on sleep.
 As someone who has struggled with sleep, these are tips I have gathered along the way to improve my sleep. It is not necessary to try each tip or relaxation technique every night. I have found a combination of two or three of these have really worked for me to have a much better sleep routine.

 Struggling to sleep? Can't switch off? Thoughts in over drive?

Tips:

  • Stick to a sleep schedule- yes even on a weekend! This helps to regulate your body clock, could help you to fall and stay asleep for the night and will reduce the build-up of debt.
  • Avoid caffeine and Alcohol- Research suggests that caffeine and alcohol should be avoided 4-6 hours before bed. However, this can be hard for many of us especially me as I love tea, so i had to make a compromise and now have my last lovely mug of tea 2 hours before bed and have noticed a difference in my sleep. Alternative hot caffeine free drinks could be drunk in the lead up to bed are Green tea which contains theanine promotes sleep (my fave is Dragonfly Pure Green Tea) and Chamomile.  
  • Daily Exercise- Yup, I said the E word. But 20- 30 mins light exercise such as a brisk walk, hiking and even household chores a day can help you to fall asleep half an hour earlier and sleep for an hour longer. When life is busy it may seem very hard to squeeze in that 20-30mins but exercise does have a number of positive effects on our general health not just sleep such as helps us to feel happier, have better skin and more energy.
  • Bath before bed- Who doesn’t love a nice long soak in the bath after a long hard day? Another bonus it is seen as one of the best ways to help promote sleep. Baths help the body to release the sleep activator and transport it round the body, it causes the muscles to relax more and slows your heart rate then following a bath your body temperature goes down which can make you feel a little light headed and sleepy. Other good tricks to help with bathing would be to drink glass of warm water before a bath to help to lower your blood pressure and try adding Epsom Salts with lavender oil to your bath aids muscle aches and relaxation.
  • Ban Electronics- Phones, tablets and TV's have all become such a huge part of society now however the blue light that they emit can have a very negative effect on our ability to fall asleep as the body produces less melatonin because blue light tricks our body into thinking it is day time. So 30 mins before bed adopt a ban on blue light in your bedroom, switch on a lamp read a good book or try some of the relaxation techniques outlined below to help you to relax quicker before sleep.
  • Bedroom Temp- I have found this has a massive impact on my ability to fall asleep, if my bedroom is too hot I feel flustered and frustrated then find myself tossing, turning and becoming very irritable on the opposite if am too cold this makes me feel tearful and tense. Both result in me been unable to relax. So I researched the perfect sleeping temperature and found it to be 17-20 degrees. This shaped a new sleep habit for me, I will turn my radiator off around 2 hours before bed and open my bedroom window a little and this seems to regulate the temperature in my bedroom by bedtime and has drastically improved the time it takes me to fall asleep.

Struggling to sleep? Can't switch off? Thoughts in overdrive?

Relaxation Techniques

Pink Noise

Neuro research suggests that one easy way for adults to have deeper sleep and stronger memories is to listen to sounds called 'pink noise' a mixture of high and low frequency sounds that are more natural and balanced than their better-known cousin white noise. Personally, I do not find white noise relaxing but each individual is different. I have however found pink noise incredibly relaxing, I use an app called 'relax melodies' and tend to go for bird noises, with a relaxing melody and a water sound. The great thing about this app is one its FREE, two you can create your own perfect relaxing sounds rather than them been pre-programmed and you can set a timer so it does not play all night.

     

    Mindful sleep
    I am a huge advocate for practicing mindfulness and have found it helpful in lots of ways in my everyday life including techniques to help me sleep.

      Two techniques i have found particularly helpful for sleep are:

      1. Body Scan: Lay in bed, get comfortable, notice your breath and where your body is in contact with the bed then bring your focus gently down the left leg to the left foot, focus on each toe then the sole of the foot, up your left leg then do your right leg and the rest of your body in the same way noticing any tension. After 'scanning' the whole body in this way, spend time being aware of your body as a whole and of the breath flowing freely around your body.
      2. Progressive relaxation: Lay in bed, tense your whole body up, clench your fists, scrunch up your face and point your toes then progressive relax the tension from your feet through your legs and up your body, repeat until you fall to sleep. This technique is my absolute FAVE.
      Breathing exercises:
      Deep breathing affects your body by relaxing and calming returning the body to its natural state from the everyday stresses of life. Techniques vary for many people due to lung capacity and natural breathing rhymes but by practicing these techniques you can help improve these areas. My favourite breathing exercises are which can be used at any time of day to reduce anxiety, stress and help ground you.

         

        4,7,8 breath:
        - Exhale completely through your mouth
        - Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
        - Hold your breath for a count of seven.
        - Exhale completely through your mouth for a count of eight.
        This is one breath.
        - Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.

         

        Square breathing:

        Breathe in to a count of 4
        Hold for a count of 4
        Breathe out to a count of 4
        Pause for a count of 4
        Repeat
        Aroma diffuser
        My most recent and helpful purchase was a diffuser, I put this on at the same time I switch off my radiator, and it fills my bedroom with lovely scents to help me relax. Amazing essential oils to use for sleep are lavender, Bergamot and Cedarwood.
        Water
        Drinking a pint of water before bed can help to reduce risk of heart problems and keep you hydrated throughout the night.

           Struggling to sleep? Can't switch off? Thoughts in overdrive?

          If you have tried lots of different techniques, yet you are still struggling to sleep contact your GP if you experience any of the following:

          • Takes more than 30mins to fall asleep
          • Consistently wake more than a few times and for long periods.
          • Nap frequently
          • You often fall asleep/ feel sleeping at inappropriate times of the day.

          Author: Faye Johnson


          Leave a comment

          Please note, comments must be approved before they are published