I’ve reached shepherd levels of sheep-counting expertise. I have pillow sprays, temple balms, calming candles, sleepy teas, herbal tinctures, potions and lotions. I’ve tried breathing exercises, guided meditations and bedtime yoga. If there’s a new bedtime hack or trend claiming to guarantee you a blissful night’s sleep, I’ve tried it. Some have helped a little, some have made no difference at all, but all of them have led to the same disappointment when I realise it’s not the magical cure it claimed to be.
I’m not a naturally good sleeper and sleeping well is something I’ve had to work on. Over the years I’ve realised the key to sleeping well is taking a holistic approach, rather than looking for one magical thing that will guarantee you a great sleep. So I thought I’d share a few tips which I’ve found helpful.
Write it out before lights-out
This is the one thing that’s actually been revolutionary for me and it’s something that I now do every single night. 30 minutes before bedtime, I sit down with a pen and paper and write down anything that’s worrying me. It could be that to-do list that’s hovering at the back of your mind, things you need to remember for the next day. Basically you want to write down anything that usually pops into your head in the middle of the night and keeps you awake. I find that writing it down feels like I’m physically clearing my mind before bed. And if I wake up in the night thinking about something on the list, I can reassure myself that I don’t need to think about it now – I’ve written it down and can look at it in the morning. It’s been key in helping me sleep better, as well as for coping with stress.
This tip also works after lights-out too. I have another little notepad next to my bed where I can write things down that I wake up worrying about in the night. It helps me switch my brain back off again, knowing that ‘Morning Mia’ will pick it up the next day and deal with it then.
You’re never too old for a bedtime story
I’m a big reader, always have been. I love reading and am always on the hunt for a good book recommendation. So not surprisingly, reading before I go to sleep really helps me to relax. It transports me to another world and helps me wind down. It also guarantees me about 20 minutes before falling asleep of total screen-free time. And we all know we should ideally avoid blue light before bed. If you haven’t tried it, I would really recommend adding some reading time to your bedtime routine. But maybe just check your book is bedtime appropriate – now is not the time for reading that spine-tingling thriller novel. Reach for a gentle, uplifting story instead and save those ones for daytime reading.
What’s better than reading? Being read to. I recently discovered the power of listening to a relaxing bedtime story when I can’t sleep. There’s a whole world of soothing bedtime stories out there on youtube, being read in calming voices that make you feel like all is well with the world. And they really do work! This is something I keep in my armoury for the times when I wake up in the night, and struggle to get back to sleep. Switching on one of these calming stories really helps me to fall back asleep. Highly recommended! Calm and Headspace are two very popular apps that have hundreds of sleep stories narrated by some of the worlds best speakers.
Invest in a good quality eye mask, or earplugs. Or both!
I’m a naturally light-sleeper, and used to struggle to fall asleep with even the slightest chink of light coming through the curtains and would often get woken up throughout the night by noises. Then I discovered eye masks and earplugs and it was a game-changer. It took trying out a few different types to find the ones that felt comfy for me but now I’ve found the ones that work I haven’t looked back.
They also really help with sleeping when you’re travelling. I used to find it really hard to sleep when I wasn’t at home. But now, thanks to my eye mask and earplugs it feels like I’m taking a little bit of home comfort with me and helps make sleeping somewhere new feel more familiar.
Beware the weekend jet lag
I’d never thought of this before, but once I’d heard of it, it seemed surprisingly obvious. Monday to Friday I have a pretty fixed routine, getting up every morning at 7.30am. But then the weekend would roll around and I’d treat myself to a lie-in, often setting my alarm for around 9am.
This all changed when I read that sticking to a regular wakeup time every day of the week is crucial for helping you get a good night’s sleep every night. It’s all to do with circadian rhythms. Your circadian rhythm, or body-clock, is key to sleeping well because (among other things) it regulates when we fall asleep and when we wake up. By having a lie-in on the weekend, we can confuse our biological clock. So sticking to the same wakeup time every day can help regulate your circadian rhythm, which in turn can help you sleep better.
Create a relaxing routine
Sticking to a relaxing bedtime routine really helps me to switch off from the day, and wind-down for bed. Try and spend the hour before bedtime doing the same few relaxing things, whether that’s soaking in a bath, sipping a relaxing herbal tea, or a calming skincare routine. Basically the idea is to create a little soothing pre-bed routine that you stick to every night. Creating new habits can be hard to stick to at first, but I’ve found having a relaxing evening routine really does help me make that transition from a busy day to bedtime.
So there you have it, a few sleep tips which I’m hoping you might find useful!