Getting a good night’s sleep is one of the most basic acts of self care and yet it’s something that eludes many of us. Sleep is absolutely crucial to maintaining our physical and mental health, but it’s often overlooked.
A lack of sleep can leave you feeling exhausted and irritable. You’ll find it hard to concentrate and take part in activities that you love – and in the long term it can have a negative effect on our overall health too.
That’s why this year, we’re focusing on sleep for our self care challenge and we’ll be sharing daily tips to help you feel rested and relaxed.
Try a sleep yoga routine
Settling into a regular nightly routine can help you to relax at bedtime – and what better way to unwind than with a few simple yoga poses? These gentle stretches will help to release any tension from your body and prepare you for sleep. Try our sleep yoga routine created by yoga teacher Kate Bennett.
Watch an ASMR video
Some people find that listening to ASMR sleep videos on YouTube makes them feel calmer at bedtime. If you’re not familiar with ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response), it’s a tingling sensation that some people experience when hearing certain sounds such as rustling paper or whispering. Find out more about sleep ASMR and its benefits.
Try some sleep meditation exercises
A short meditation session at bedtime can help you to set aside the day’s worries and ready to settle down. Transformational Breath Facilitator and yoga teacher Aimee Hartley, author of Breathe Well, struggled with insomnia after becoming a parent, but learning some simple breathing techniques helped her to sleep again. Try Aimee’s sleep breathing techniques for yourself.
Eat your way to a better night’s sleep
When we think about getting a good night’s sleep, we don’t always consider our diet – but changing our eating habits can make a real difference to our sleep quality (and quantity!). For a start, you could try to get more magnesium into your diet. Charlotte Watts, author of Good Mood Food, says that magnesium has a calming effect on the brain and will also ease anxiety. Look for nuts, seeds, fish, green leafy vegetables, lettuce and dill. Learn more about what to eat for a better night’s sleep.
Cut down on alcohol
A lot of people rely on alcohol to help them nod off in the evening, but your nightcap could be disrupting your sleep. Alcohol can affect the quality and quantity of our sleep patterns and it can often make you wake up in the night. Research has shown that even if you just have one drink, it can impair your sleep quality. Find out more about why drinking alcohol stops you sleeping at night.
Experiment with aromatherapy to help you sleep
Aromatherapy is a simple but effective way to calm your body and mind at bedtime, setting yourself up for a restful night’s sleep. Popular fragrances include lavender, vanilla, jasmine, ylang-ylang, lemon and geranium.
There are a lot of ways to bring aromatherapy into your bedtime routine. You could try using a lavender shower gel or bubble bath before bed or even adding a few drops of an essential oil to a tissue tucked under your pillow.
Alternatively, you could try using a sleep spray to get the same result. Just spritz your bedding before you go to sleep to enjoy the soothing oils. One spritz is usually enough, if you use too much the smell can be overwhelming! There are lots of sleep sprays to choose from and a little goes a long way. Here are a few of our favourites:
- Boots Sleepeaze lavender pillow mist, £6
- Althea Tomlin organic lavender pillow spray, £8.95
- Neal’s Yard Good Night pillow spray, £15
Use a visualisation technique
Sarah Plater spent over a decade looking for a cure for her insomnia, trying everything from self-help books to special bedding. Nothing worked until she discovered the power of visualisation. Feeling stressed about a job interview, her mind drifted until she began to recall a relaxing holiday she’d had in Corfu and was able to fall asleep. She awoke feeling refreshed and rested.
If you’ve got a good imagination, then you might find that visualisation comes naturally. You can relive a favourite memory, picture yourself surrounded by nature or think about something that you love. Discover how visualisation can help you sleep with Sarah’s tips.
Enjoy a calming bedtime drink
Sitting down in the evening with a warm drink is a lovely way to prepare your mind and body for sleep. Rob Hobson, who is a nutritionist and author of The Art of Sleeping, recommends choosing a drink such as warm milk with honey or opting for herbal teas containing valerian or camomile. There are lots of good sleep teas available in the supermarket. Read more about the best drinks for a good night’s sleep.
Cut down your caffeine intake
We hate to spoil your morning coffee, but caffeine is one of the main causes of sleeplessness. You don’t need to cut caffeine out entirely – making a few simple changes to your tea or coffee habits can considerably improve your sleep. Caffeine lingers in your body for up to ten hours after you’ve consumed it, making it harder for you to fall asleep. Consider giving up drinking caffeine after lunch or avoid it in the evenings to improve your sleep quality.
Although tea and coffee are the most common culprits, you can also find caffeine lurking in chocolate and some fizzy drinks so think about cutting down on these too.
Put down your gadgets
Phone, tablet and computer screens emit blue light, which is known to disturb our circadian rhythms (body clock). Spending time staring at a screen can make it harder for you to sleep at night. Try blocking out some gadget-free time in the evening if you can.
Many devices have a setting which allows you to reduce blue light emissions at a certain time of the day, so if you do need to look at a screen in the evening this can help to mitigate the side effects. Take our quiz to find out if you’re addicted to your phone.
Start a gratitude journal
Writing a gratitude journal is another great way to prepare yourself for sleep. Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, author of The Little Book of Sleep: The Art of Natural Sleep, says: “Get yourself a nice notebook and pen especially for this, and for 30 days, every day at the end of the day write down everything you’re grateful for.
“Think of all the tiny things that happened through your day that you’re grateful for. And as you let your mind rest on each thing, say thank you. You might start off with this technique thinking ‘Oh, it wasn’t a spectacular day. I didn’t get a seat on the train. It was really stressful at work’. Whatever you can think of – you might be focused on the negative things. But the more you do this the more you start to cultivate the ability to find the good, even in the messiest of days. The more the brain starts to be trained to work that way. It’s almost laying down new neurological pathways in the brain. […] Starting to do that starts to cultivate a mindset which, if you continue doing it, helps you to sleep.”
Update your morning routine
We’ve looked at ways to get to sleep, but how you wake up can also have an impact on how you feel for the rest of the day. Starting the day with some gentle stretching can prepare you for the day ahead and yoga moves such as the mountain pose will get you in the right frame of mind for the day ahead. Psychologist, yoga teacher and author Suzy Reading explains how to do the mountain pose and share more tips for improving your morning routine.
Prepare as much as you can the night before so you don’t have to rush around in the morning and can ease into your day (although this isn’t possible for everyone).
If you hate your alarm, you could try changing the tone for something more soothing. It may also be worth investing in a daylight alarm clock, which wakes you by gradually increasing the light in your room.
Spend more time outdoors
Research suggests that spending time outdoors improves your sleep quality. A study published in the Preventative Medicine journal showed that the amount of time spent in green spaces was linked to better sleep, particularly in people aged over 65.
As an added bonus, getting outdoors can benefit our overall wellbeing too. Research published in the prestigious journal Nature revealed that people who spent up to two hours a week in nature reported improved physical and mental health. There’s no need to go trekking off into the wilderness, heading to your local park has the same effect as a country walk.
Improve your sleeping environment
Your environment can also have a big impact on your sleep. Start by taking a look at your curtains: too much light in your room can disturb your sleep, so it’s worth getting some blackout curtains or wearing an eye mask at night.
Is your bedroom too warm? Generally, people find it easier to sleep when the air in the bedroom is cooler. Keep a throw on your bed if you tend to get cold in the night.
If you work from home, try to avoid working in the bedroom if you can so you can keep your bedroom as a place for sleep. It’s a good idea to try to keep phones and devices out of your bedroom if you can.
A cluttered bedroom will also make it hard for you to relax, whether you’re aware of it or not. Taking some time to tidy up your room will make it a calmer space. Learn about how decluttering can improve your mental health.