Sweet Dreams: Strategies for Cultivating a More Restful Sleep

double-bed-1215004_1280

How much sleep do you tend to get throughout the night? Do you wake up feeling rested? According to the National Sleep Council, nearly 74% of those surveyed are not getting enough sleep. The top two reasons cited for this were worry and stress.

While most of us recognise the importance of getting a good night’s sleep and understand the toll that sleep deprivation can take on our physical and mental health, poor sleep is something that too many of us have come to accept as a fact of our busy lives.

In honour of World Sleep Day on March 15th, this post will be devoted to some of my favourite tips for cultivating a more restful sleep.

TIPS FOR FALLING ASLEEP

  • Wake up at the same time every day – even on weekends!
  • Get more natural light throughout the day
  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day
  • If you tend to nap during the day, between 20-30 minutes is ideal according to National Sleep Foundation
  • Avoid eating dinner too late
  • Avoid caffeine and other stimulants late in the day
  • Figure out your optimal sleep time by calculating it at sleepyti.me
  • Adopt a daily wind-down routine – think of the nighttime routines that parents have created for their children, which is something we lose as adults
  • Switch off devices a few hours before bed (including TV, tablets, laptops, IPhones), as blue light will disturb melatonin balance
  • Try and minimize the amount of work you do in the evening
  • Ensure your bedroom is a space for rest and relaxation
  • Take a warm bath or shower before bed to help regulate your body temperature
  • Have herbal teas (chamomile with honey, valerian and lemon balm are all good options)
  • Activate your right-brained creativity before bed (try an adult coloring book, drawing, reading something light or journaling)
  • Burn lavender oil in a diffuser to help stimulate relaxation
  • Listen to calming music like the National Sleep Council’s Nodcasts
  • Practice meditationbefore bed or Yoga Nidra
  • Beware of what Kenneth Lichstein has termed ‘Insomnia Identity’, which in itself can be a powerful inhibitor to sleep
  • Let go of the struggle and effort surrounding sleep – remember that sleep is something that should come naturally to us and sometimes the harder we try to force it, the more elusive it will be

cat-859011_1280

Having outlined some of my favourite tips for staying asleep, the following set of tips have been associated with helping insomnia sufferers to stay asleep.

  • If you are finding it difficult to sleep throughout the night, experiment with avoiding alcohol before bed
  • Minimize EMF exposure by removing electronic devices from the room
  • Regulate room temperature and lighting to further assist your body clock
  • If noise is an issue, try ear plugs or a white noise machine/app
  • Try and refrain from checking email before bed (this includes personal as well as work emails)
  • If you wake up in the middle of the night, resist the urge to check your clock – if it’s too close to your waking time you may talk yourself out of going back to sleep. Likewise, if you discover it’s early on in the night, you may start to worry about whether you will be able to get back to sleep
  • If you wake up with a particular worry, make a note of it and set a time for you to deal with it the following day
  • Start a practice of journaling before bed. This will give you a space to make note of any thoughts or anxieties
  • Consult with your health care provider about a magnesium supplement or a topical magnesium oil
  • If you have difficulty getting back to sleep, try going into another room and doing something else. For inspiration, have a look at Roger Ekirch’s fascinating study on how our pre-industrial ancestors experienced something he called ‘segmented sleep’
  • To further investigate your sleeping patterns and to help get to the bottom of what may be disrupting your sleep, try monitoring your sleep with a recommended app

Remember that the key to getting a restful sleep has a lot to do with how we approach stress during our waking hours. For further advice tailored to your specific sleep challenges, visit the Sleep Council UK sleepcouncil.org.uk/perfect-sleep-environment/

Sign up for your free guide ‘8 Steps for Sustaining Motivation During Your PhD.’