How to Sleep Better (and Boost Your Wellbeing in the Process!)
The intersection between sleep and wellbeing is well documented, but when you’re in the throes of insomnia, waking constantly with a mind full of worries, or struggling to rouse yourself in the mornings, it can be hard to keep a cool head.
Feeling well rested is pretty much a prerequisite for being productive, thinking clearly and creatively, and looking after your overall wellbeing. When we’re consistently tired and distractingly fatigued, we struggle to make decisions, look after ourselves through exercise and eating well, sustain healthy relationships, or even care for our mental health. We also tend to lose our patience far more easily.
Whichever way you slice it, sleep is a pretty big deal.
If you’re reading this as an insomniac or perpetual in-the-night-waker, you might want to throw a pen at your screen right now: you know being tired makes you ratty; you know sleeping better would make you a whole lot happier — what you don’t know is what to do about it.
*Sound the advice claxon* because we’ve got you covered (you should know by now that Form has always got your back).
Tried and Tested Tips for Reclaiming Your Rest
As someone who lives with OCD and an anxiety disorder, I’ve had my fair share of restless nights. A worry pops into your head and you just can’t switch off: so you lie there…and lie there…and lie there; becoming increasingly anxious about the fact that you have to get up in 7 hours, 6 hours, 5 hours (you get the idea).
What really changed things for me — and allowed me to wrap my wellbeing in a protective cloud of restfulness — was developing a sleep routine, and using the right sleep aids.
So here’s what works for me (and thousands of others!)
Make your evening your own
Of course, one of the most effective ways to get a more restful night’s sleep is to have an evening centred on the things that help you to relax, and make you feel good. For me, that can range from meditating on my acupuncture mat with some incense burning, to binging on Netflix boxsets until I’m falling asleep on the sofa. Listen to your body (and mind), and feed it what it needs — whether that’s complete rest, self-reflection, an evening with friends, or the peace and solitude of settling down with a good book.
Try to avoid working at night (unless you work nights), as it’ll be far more difficult to relax at bedtime if you’re going straight from work-mode to sleep-mode. Our bodies need a gentle journey from one part of the day to the next.
Write out your thoughts
If you have a busy brain, your body resists sleep because your mind is worried about missing something; what if you drift off and forget all about that thing you need to do in the morning? You need to give your brain ‘proof’ that it’s safe to switch off. Grab a notebook (or plain old paper and pen), and write down EVERYTHING that’s whizzing round your head — including your to-dos for the next day. Do this every night, just before you climb into bed.
Note: avoid writing this out on your phone, tablet or laptop. The act of writing your thoughts by hand can be extremely cathartic, and limiting screen use before bed is always a good idea.
Drink yourself sleepy
Sadly, drinking a lot of booze before bed really isn’t very helpful when it comes to sleep. Sure, you might drift off easily enough, but you’ll soon be wide awake — with a few heart palpitations thrown in for good measure. For me, night time herbal tea is the gold standard of evening drinks. Failing that, a cup of camomile can help to slow you down…but I really would recommend the sleepy tea.
Create a sea of calm
I’ve actually got a drawer of calm; a whole drawer of my bedside table dedicated to sleep aids. It’s become a bit of a ritual (no surprises there as someone with OCD) — but I like to think this is the healthy kind of ritual, and one you can all get behind. My drawer of calm contains everything from lavender pillow mist and sleepy face spray, to pulse point oils and aromatherapy inhalers.
Have a book buffer
I don’t always practice what I preach (who does?), so I’m not going to tell you to switch off all screens as soon as you’ve finished your evening meal. If you can, fabulous — but if you need a more realistic solution, get yourself comfy in bed with a good book, read until your eyes are starting to close, and don’t look at your phone again after putting your book away. This is your buffer between screen and sleep.
A Word From the Experts
“A good night’s rest is essential to a healthy lifestyle — protecting you physically and mentally, as well as boosting your quality of living. It makes you look better, feel better, behave better, perform better and think better. Just one bad night’s sleep affects our mood, concentration and alertness — while long-term sleep deprivation has far more serious consequences, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and stroke. To ensure you experience good sleep it’s essential to follow good lifestyle habits and to eliminate the factors that are causing you disturbed sleep. For example, making sure your bedroom is the right environment (cool, dark and quiet), that your bed is comfortable and supportive, looking at the lighting in your home, and avoiding foods and drinks that can hinder sleep. Avoid screen time at least an hour before bed and find alternative ways of relaxing like warm baths with calming scents, quiet soothing music, reading, gentle stretching and yoga. It’s also important to establish a regular sleep pattern — going to bed and waking up at roughly the same time. Your body and mind will feel much better for it.”
If you need someone to talk to about your sleeping habits, you can call the National Sleep Helpline on 03303 530 541.