Top Tips for a Good Night's Sleep
Do you struggle to get to sleep or stay asleep? Tossing and turning all night long? Waking up tired, with no energy? Here are some of my top tips for a good night’s sleep'
1. Create a pleasant bedtime routine, e.g. having a bubble bath, making a warm milky drink (but not if this is tends to make you get up in the night to go to the toilet), listening to your favourite relaxing CD, or reading something calming or spiritual.
2. Many sleep experts recommend go to bed at roughly the same time every day - however, if you normally have trouble falling asleep at night, it can be more helpful to wait until you are feeling tired and sleepy. Try both of these different approaches and see which one suits you best.
3. It is best to sleep in the dark, or with a diffuse blue light (this helps production of theta-“sleep”-waves in our brain) – other types of lighting are more likely to promote wakefulness. If you get up in the night to go to the toilet, try to keep the light off (as long as you can find your way safely!).
4. Only use your bed for two activities: sleeping and sex! Reading is also fine for some people, but not for everyone - if you do read in bed, make sure the content of the book is soothing, relaxing or perhaps even a bit boring, to help you drop off. No eating, working, making phonecalls or watching TV in bed!
5. Even if you are tired during the day, avoid taking naps after 3pm.
6. Eat tryptophan–rich foods such as turkey, fish or banana a couple of hours before bed (use only as a small snack if eating shortly before bed) – these will help production of melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone. Make sure you eat your evening meal at least 2 or 3 hours before bedtime, as going to bed with a heavy stomach is not helpful.
7. Avoid having electrical equipment in the bedroom, and if this is impossible make sure it is fully switched off when you go to bed. Some people are very sensitive to electromagnetic radiation and the quality of your sleep may be affected by a proximity of a TV, DVD recorder or hi-fi, even if these are on standby. Keep your mobile phone as far away form your head as possible - and definitely don't put it under or next to your pillow!
8. Avoid starchy and sweet snacks late at night; and, of course, avoid caffeine. Try to replace normal tea and coffee with herbal infusions – chamomile is good for inducing sleep.
9. Cut down on cigarettes and alcohol. Nicotine is a stimulant and smoking can contribute to insomnia. Even though alcohol does make people drowsy, it tends to disrupt healthy sleep pattern even when drunk in small quantities, so your brain and body will not get a proper rest.
10. Learn Self-Hypnosis, Meditation, or one of the Energy Psychology techniques (such as the Emotional Freedom Technique or Tapas Acupressure Technique). These can be very helpful for relaxation, release of tension and calming anxious thoughts. Breathing and various relaxation exercises can also be very useful. Not all of these techniques will suit you, so try to find 2 or 3 different approaches that you feel are enjoyable and easy for you to do, and practise them regularly.
11. If noise from neighbours or a snoring partner is bothering you, wear earplugs. Or, alternatively, the so-called Betty Erickson Induction is a nice and simple self-hypnosis exercise which incorporates the noises in your surroundings into the process of relaxation, and can work in less than peaceful environments. You can download the description of Betty Erickson Induction here: http://www.practicalhappiness.co.uk/modules/download_gallery/dlc.php?file=8
12. 30 minutes of exercise a day is excellent for general health, but avoid strenuous physical activity before bedtime as this may keep you awake. If you must exercise in the evening, choose activities that involve slower movement, and especially those that incorporate deep breathing such as Qi Gong, Tai Chi, Pilates or Yoga. Or, simply go for a gentle walk before bedtime.
13. Avoid watching stimulating TV programmes or films before bed, and if you like reading in bed, choose something soothing or spiritual instead or a thriller or a detective novel. Listen to relaxation/meditation CDs or simply relaxing music, before going to bed. “Rainforest” or “whale” sounds can be very peaceful too, if you like them!
14. Have a comfortable mattress and pillow. Turn your mattress regularly to avoid it wearing out unevenly.
15. If it takes you more than 20-30 min to go to sleep, get up and do something else away from the bedroom and return to bed when feeling sleepy.
16. If you have difficulties with waking up in the morning, especially in winter, consider investing a special lightbox / lamp that mimics sunlight and helps you to wake up naturally. This is particularly useful if you suffer from S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder).
Most people can improve the quality of their sleep considerably by following the above tips. I would not expect you to stick to them rigidly, as everyone is different and has different needs; just have a play with some of the above suggestions and be curious about which particular changes will make the most difference to your sleep patterns and will help you wake up rested, alert, bright and ready for the day ahead!
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