“Laugh and the world laughs with you, snore and you sleep alone.” – Anthony Burgess
These days, life seems to have become increasingly stressful. It can also, without warning, become very difficult to manage. Multi-tasking used to be a viable choice when it came to time-management. But the sheer number of tasks we’re faced with only seems to grow, as do the areas of life we’re trying to juggle. These days you have so many realms to contend with: your work life to manage, children to organise, family to care for, hobbies, interests, and the inevitable commitments that come from having a family, and an attempt to have your own social life.
Modern life is an entirely different ball game.
It leads to a lot of sleepless nights, and endless hours spent lying awake at night mulling over the various stresses in your life.
The endless need to ‘adult’ is exhausting. Day after day it becomes less manageable, until all of a sudden you’ve joined an elite group: insomniacs.
Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
Struggling to sleep is a frequent problem that a big proportion of Brits, and millions more around the world, suffer with daily. The inability to sleep for longer than an hour or two takes a serious toll on your mental health. When you can’t get a good night’s rest, it makes everyday life even less manageable. The simplest of tasks like socialising with your friends or spending time with your loved ones suddenly seem more difficult, so you can begin to isolate yourself.
I Can’t Sleep!
The key to looking and feeling our best on any given day stems from a delicate balance between our diet, exercise, and the amount of sleep we had the night before. Without a solid night’s sleep, you’re going to find your mood has been affected, you’re struggling to concentrate, and you aren’t as alert as you should be.
We all know the feeling: sluggish, achy for no reason, lacking in motivation, and generally feeling like we got out of the wrong side of the bed (assuming we got to bed at all).
It’s recommended that we get around eight hours of non-disturbed sleep every night in order to function properly and live a healthier lifestyle. But in recent years, it’s been outlined that we’re neglecting every element of a good night’s sleep. Currently, only a quarter of British adults say that they sleep well almost every night.
It’s not just us Brits either. Statistics show that others across the globe are really struggling to get a good night’s sleep on a regular basis. With 50 to 70 million people suffering with one or more sleep disorders in the US, and 37.9% of people admitting to unintentionally falling asleep at work or during the day, it seems that lack of sleep is an epidemic we’re all facing.
From sleep disorders to stress and worry, or having a partner that snores, there are various reasons you might experience disturbed sleep. Here’s what you need to know if you can’t sleep and fifteen brilliant techniques to ensure you easily get your forty winks…
#1 Create A Regular Bedtime Routine…
Creating a regular bedtime routine is invaluable. Your inner body clock, also known as your circadian rhythm, makes you feel alert during the day and sleepy at night. When you train your body clock to abide by hours you’ve set, it becomes the “norm” and your body naturally sleeps and wakes at the same time each day. Making adjustments to your sleeping and waking habits and ensuring a typical schedule makes it easier to get to sleep and wake up at the same time every night and morning.
When you’re looking to create your bedtime routine, make sure it is something you can regularly repeat every night. If you want to add in some time to read, meditate, or reflect, make sure you settle down for this quiet time before you get ready to go to sleep.
#2 Spend More Time In Natural Daylight…
Another way to help you solve the problem of not being able to sleep is by getting a good amount of natural sunlight. Daylight can help regulate melatonin and along with your daily routines can help you sleep better at night.
Try and spend at least two hours in natural sunlight every day. Understandably, this may not be an option for everyone, but try and keep any blinds or shutters open during the day, and if you’re really struggling for natural light indoors, use a lightbox.
#3 Avoid Any Stimulants…
Stimulants often prevent people from sleeping and most people don’t actually realise the extent to which they’re sabotaging their own sleep pattern. There are three main stimulants that affect your sleep: caffeine, alcohol, and spicy food. Try to avoid caffeine for at least four hours before bedtime, and as much as possible try to stay clear of alcohol as a high amount can cause frequent awakening during sleep. Spicy food can also have an impact and ultimately slows down your capability of getting to sleep.
Instead, choose foods that are more beneficial for sleep, which include items packed with amino acids and more protein-based foods such as eggs, meat, and fish.
#4 Keep Your Room And Body Temperature Cool…
It is proven that as you fall asleep your overall body temperature decreases and the temperature of your hands and feet increases. You will have a better chance of falling asleep if your room is at a cool temperature, between 15 and 23°C.
If you’re struggling one night, open a window, or take a cold shower, and try and alter your body’s temperature.
#5 Avoid Taking Long Naps Throughout The Day…
With the likes of Ben & Jerry’s, Uber, and Google installing dedicated nap stations for their employees, it’s clear that even big business has come to acknowledge that taking naps during the day is beneficial. But it is important to note that only short naps increase productivity and alertness.
Taking long naps during the day can affect your sleep at night, and it’s night time sleep that’s the most crucial for feeling refreshed and ready for the next day ahead. Studies have suggested that having a nap of more than two hours during the day can lead to poor sleep quality at night.
If you’re feeling tired during the day, take a nap but limit the time you’re asleep. It may be best to cap your nap at 30 minutes and have one earlier in the day rather than just before bed at night.
#6 Try Some Breathing Exercises…
Breathing exercises are a great way to help you relax and settle down before bed. One of the easiest exercises is the 4-7-8 method. Here’s how to do it…
- Begin by taking two deep cleansing breaths.
- When you’re ready, take a deep breath in through your nose for 4 seconds.
- Hold this deep breath for 7 seconds.
- Exhale through your mouth making a whooshing noise, counting down from 8.
- Repeat this exercise 3 or 4 times until you feel more relaxed.
#7 Never Look At Your Clock…
We’ve all been there. You’ve woken up in the middle of the night and the first thing you do is check the time, whether that’s on your phone or your alarm clock. Yet this obsession with the time can ruin a good night’s sleep. This “clock-watching” behaviour can make you anxious about sleeplessness, causing you to fret about how many hours you have left to sleep before you are due to wake up.
If you do wake up in the night on a couple of occasions and choose to have a quick glance at the clock, it can become your “norm” to wake up at the same time the next night. That’s your circadian rhythm kicking in at the worst possible time!
To avoid this happening, keep your room nice and dark, turn your clock away from you, and keep your phone on the opposite side of your room.
#8 Try To Exercise During The Day…
Doing regular exercise every day, or at least 3 times a week, can help improve your sleep. Whether you’re partaking in strength training, yoga, or cardio exercise, trying out a spin class or just going for a walk, there are various activities you can get involved in.
Try to do some cardio exercise like running, cycling, or swimming for at least 2.5 hours a week or 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. If you’re more interested in strength training, practise exercises like push-ups, sit-ups, and squats to make your body physically stronger.
Alternatively, you can focus on your core strength, balance and breathing through poses and stretches in yoga. It is proven that there is an improvement in sleep for those with insomnia after doing yoga regularly for 8 weeks.
#9 Read Something Interesting…
A study by Cognitive Neurologist, Dr David Lewis found that reading before bed has a significant effect on reducing your stress levels. From his tests, he found that reading reduced stress by 68% and only took 6 minutes of page time for participants to feel reduced stress levels. The Sleep Council also found that 39% of people who regularly read before bed slept very well during the night.
Find yourself an interesting book and set aside some time to read before you try to sleep. Your mind will be distracted from any stresses that have been bothering you through the day, while your muscles will begin to relax. Your breathing will slow, and this will help you to feel much calmer and relaxed before bed.
#10 Get Some Vitamins In You…
If you’re struggling to sleep, and other natural remedies like having herbal tea haven’t helped, you can up your vitamin intake. The best way to do this is by eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, and a balanced diet that provides you with all the nutrients you need. If you struggle to get enough through your food, you can always try vitamin supplements.
There are various vitamins that could help you to have a good night’s sleep, including:
- Vitamin D – research suggests that low levels of vitamin D are associated with poor sleep quality. Try eating foods that are rich in vitamin D, like oily fish and egg yolks.
- Magnesium – up your magnesium intake to help you get high quality sleep. There are some delicious foods including dark chocolate, nuts, seeds, and tofu that are all high in magnesium. Avocados, legumes, whole grains and some forms of fatty fish are also a good source. You can also take tablets once every day – doses of 200-400 mg per day have been proven to improve your sleep.
- Calcium – low levels of calcium could potentially affect your dream sleeping cycle and rapid eye movement (REM). For adults aged 18 – 50 the NIH recommend 1,000mg and for those 51 and older 1,200mg. Dairy foods and green leafy vegetables as well as sesame seeds, kale, and sardines are rich in calcium.
#11 Try Journaling…
Life is busy, and stressful, leading to a lot of thoughts floating around in your head, affecting your ability to get a good night’s sleep. Writing down any problems or concerns you have in a journal can help you break the cycle of worry that tends to result in a broken night’s sleep.
Spend 10-15 minutes just journaling about your day, focusing on how you feel at that current time. Make sure that you also write down your positive thoughts too, like what you achieved in the day, what you would like to achieve tomorrow, and what you’re grateful for.
#12 Listen To Some Relaxing Music…
Listening to some soothing and relaxing music is another great way to help you get a better night’s sleep. Listening to just 45 minutes of relaxing music at bedtime will help you reach a deeper sleep than those who didn’t listen at all.
Grab your headphones, find a soothing playlist, get cosy and tucked up in bed, and let the music help you drift off naturally.
#13 Think About Your Bed…
Another thing you need to think about is what you’re actually going to sleep on. Do you have a comfortable bed with some soft pillows? If you’re struggling to sleep, you may want to check that your bed and mattress are still suitable for you.
It is recommended that you change your mattress every 8 years. There’s no need to do it more frequently as long as it has no signs of wear and tear, and still supports your body. If you are due to change your mattress you can often find body analysers to help you find the perfect mattress in your local bed shops.
#14 Have A Warm Bath…
Taking a warm bath 1-2 hours before you want to go to bed is a great way to help you sleep. You don’t have to be in the bath for a long period of time either – if you take a bath for at least 10 minutes you will see the benefits.
Having a hot bath improves your temperature circadian rhythm which helps you to fall asleep quicker and deeper during the night.
#15 Practise Meditation…
Meditation is incredibly helpful when it comes to allowing you to get a good night’s sleep. The most popular type is mindfulness meditation. This involves focusing on your body, breathing, and thoughts.
To help soothe you to sleep, practise meditating for 10 minutes before bedtime each evening.
Here’s a simple exercise to begin a gentle meditation:
- Begin by settling in a quiet place and sitting comfortably with your back straight.
- Focus on the present, and avoid worrying about the past or future.
- Practise some breathing techniques – the 4-7-8 exercise from earlier is perfect when you’re getting ready to sleep. Become aware of your breath. Feel your belly rising up as you breathe in and fall as you breathe out.
- Next, return your attention to your present thoughts. How are you feeling? Use your breathing to calm down your thoughts and remain calm. Breathe in comfort and warmth, and breathe out stress and worries.
- Evaluate whatever thoughts pop into your head without judgement and try to understand why they may have come to mind.
- As your meditation comes to an end, take a couple of minutes to just breathe and relax..
Still Can’t Sleep? Struggling To Get Your Forty Winks?
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