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How to Get to Sleep. 5 Simple Tips to Send You Off…
The evidence is mounting. The jury’s in. But let’s face it we didn’t need science to tell us, because we all knew it anyway; sleep, it turns out, is really important. However, just because we know we need sleep, doesn’t mean we know how to get to sleep.
We’ve always known that lack of sleep can make us tired, grumpy, affect concentration and our ability to learn and remember new things. But science is now also proving that our weight, our insulin levels, our pain levels and many other things can also be affected by our sleep, or particularly our lack of it.
The facts are simple, everyone needs sleep
If you’re suffering with poor health then sleep becomes even more important, in fact, lack of it could be contributing to your illness in the first place. If you’re suffering with type 2 diabetes or fibromyalgia then sleep should definitely be part of your prescription for healing. However, if you’re suffering with anything else, then sleep should always be something you’re thinking about, if not actively trying to improve.
So without further ado, from my experience in trying to improve my sleep, please find the top 5 simple tips that have worked well for me…
Our bodies, LOVE, routine. Regardless of your own feelings on the matter, if your body is grumpy and you’re looking to win some brownie points, then have a quick look at where you can implement more routine; particularly around your sleep cycle.
First, start with regular bed, sleep and waking times, as far as you can. Not only will you get to sleep more easily, you’ll sleep better once you get there AND you’ll find waking up in the morning easier too. That’s a lot of wins for a simple change. I’ll be honest, it might be simple, but for me this isn’t easy. However, I can honestly say that when I do implement this more strictly in my life, it does make an improvement.
Secondly, another routine hack that’s worth a look, is reviewing the steps you take leading up to sleep. The more you can repeat these routine steps, in the same order every night, the more cues your brain and body get about whats coming. Whether it’s a nice milky hot drink, a hot bath an hour before, or as simple as a 10 minute read, once our mind and body realise this is a routine marker to start shutting down it will begin to react on cue.
2. Review Napping
If you suffer with debilitating fatigue, napping can feel like an essential part of your day. However, napping can be a killer for your sleep cycle and your ability to get to sleep later on. For me cutting out my afternoon nap leads to better sleep at night and therefore less requirement for said nap in the first place.
Firstly, this can be really hard. When you first start cutting out naps, you haven’t yet got the benefit of greater sleep, therefore the days are going to feel long and exhausting. Try and be kind to yourself. Rest as much as you can and don’t beat yourself up if you end up needing a bit of shut eye in the afternoon.
Secondly, sometimes you need a nap and there’s no way you can make it through without. On these days try and follow some simple tips to minimise the impact on your nighttime sleep: nap as early as you can and for a short as you can, that way you’ll get a boost, hopefully without breaking your cycle of sleep for that night.
3. Temperature check.
I’m a cold person. As a result I tend to be drawn to being snuggly and warm as much as possible. Especially in bed. My preference would always be, nice warm room, snuggly bed with lots of blankets and extra layers of clothing, including socks to get me through cold nights. However, being too warm in bed is bad for sleep and staying asleep, which is key.
If you’re just about to slip into the deep restorative and healing phase of your sleep cycle and your body starts to overheats and wakes you up, then you’ve lost that phase this time around. Even if you simply throw off a layer and go straight back to sleep, your cycle starts again and you missed a whole cycle worth of the good stuff.
Our bodies prefer to sleep in a cooler environment, no matter how hygge we personally like to feel. So review your sleeping environment and see if you can’t strip back a few layers. Personally, my new approach is to keep the room cooler and my layers minimal, but use extra blankets if required. This seems to prevent me from overheating and actually helps me get to sleep quicker.
I’ve read a lot of articles and blog posts about the correlation between magnesium deficiency and poor sleep. How scientific this, is I cannot comment – I’ll be honest I’ve never read up on the science. But I have read lot’s of miracle stories of people who struggled with sleep, start taking magnesium and boom, they can sleep again.
For me magnesium was never a miracle cure, but I do find that if I’m going through a bad patch of sleeping some additional supplementation internally and in the bath (magnesium can be absorbed through the skin), has helped as part of a regime of other things.
Now my sleep is much better I tend to just have magnesium in my bath (Epsom Salts), as it’s also good for my muscular aches and pains.
Being so simple to implement, it’s probably worth a try. However there are several types of magnesium and some can upset the stomach, so it is probably worth some additional reading or consultation with your doctor or dietician before you begin.
5. Meditation and Relaxation
This is a big one for me. Is it any surprise we find it hard to get to sleep when our brains are constantly so busy and our body’s are so tense. We often make no effort to relax during the day but expect our mind and body to magically flick a switch and effectively turn into a different person, one who isn’t stressed, tense and busy, as soon as our head hits the pillow!
Meditation and relaxation can work two ways. Both by practicing during the day to reduce our overall levels of stress, tension and brain activity; and at night when we actually want to go to sleep, to give us a tool to help flick the switch.
And by relaxation I don’t mean sitting in front of the TV in the evening to unwind. I mean something which allows us to completely unwind, to not have to process, to find stillness. This could be the deep relaxation that can be induced using a visualisation in a yoga class or a massage. Or it could be something lighter that at least enables us to switch into a mindful state of being, where we don’t need to process and think. For some, this could be knitting or a repetitive craft once they become more proficient at it, for others it might be running. The key is to approach the activity with a mindfulness, and to allow the mind to be free. If you’re running and trying to plan you’re girlfriends surprise birthday party at the same time, that doesn’t count.
Just implementing one of these things can have a big impact on sleep. There’s also lot’s of other things you can do to teach you how to get to sleep. A little research will uncover countless great books, blog posts and articles on the topic. The main thing is, if you think your sleep isn’t as good as it could be, do something about it! You won’t regret it.
In fact your body and mind will thank you for it, and if it alleviates any of your symptoms in any way, then it surely has to be worth the effort!
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. Do you struggle with sleep? Or worry it could be impacting your health? What have you tried that has and hasn’t worked for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts about how to get to sleep.
Until next time, sleep well Wellness Warriors 💪 !