You’ve experienced it: lying awake at 2am, tossing, turning and counting sheep, hoping for the best but worrying about the worst. But did you know, sleep can come easier with a little daytime preparation?
Daylight helps regulate your sleep/wake cycle. So, if possible, let plenty of natural light into your workplace or home, or a light therapy box can be very helpful during short winter days.
Refrain from daytime naps – but if you must catch 40 winks, set an alarm and limit yourself to 15-20 minutes. It’s amazing how rejuvenated you will feel after a ‘power nap’.
Exercise – even walking for only 10 minutes, if you’re able, can improve quality of sleep. Or low impact exercises like yoga or gentle stretching can help too.
Avoid stimulants – keep coffee for the mornings and avoid alcohol before bed– they’re the opposite of what your body needs in the midnight hours. Sugar and refined carbohydrates can also disturb a deep sleep, so limit dessert, white bread, white rice and pasta.
Avoid bright screens for at least one hour before bed time. Blue light from mobile phones, tablets and e-readers disrupts sleep.
Sometimes, anxiety and worry can keep you awake. But the good news is, you can learn how to worry less and your doctor will advise you, if needed. You can keep a pen and notepad by your bed to record your thoughts, then you can get on with sleeping. Or maybe Mindfulness can help – take a look at the NHS’s advice.
For an easy relaxation technique before you sleep, or if you wake in the middle of the night, breathe in, then breathe out slowly while thinking or whispering the word ‘ahhhh’, then repeat again and again. Each time your mind wanders, return to the breathing.
The trick is not to aim for sleep, just aim to relax. Relaxation is still rejuvenating and if you happen to nod off in the process, congratulations!