1. Routine, routine, routine
Your nightly sleep routine should include a number of factors to quieten your mind and calm your senses. First, cut out all technology (TVs, laptops, phones) at least an hour before bed (two hours is ideal). Next, dim lights or turn off any excess lights in your house after dinner to allow your body to adjust to ‘softer’ conditions. This will send a signal to your mind that it’s time to start preparing for sleep. Then, pull out a real book. According to the University of Sussex, reading a paper book can help reduce stress levels by 68 per cent.
2. Get some sunlight
Get moving in the morning outside in the sun. Studies from the Lighting Research Centre at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute found that people exposed to greater amounts of light during the morning hours fell asleep faster and had fewer sleep disturbances during the night, compared to those exposed to low light in the morning. People getting more morning light were also less likely to report feelings of depression and stress. When your body, face and eyes are exposed to the sun, it increases your system’s production of serotonin. Serotonin takes around 12 hours to convert to melatonin, and it’s melatonin that helps us sleep.
3. Set sleep hygine
Creating a space that supports sleep is important. When was the last time you washed your sheets? The Sleep Foundation notes we should wash our sheets once per week. Try adding a drop of essential oil to your washing powder to add a therapeutic aroma.
4. Minimise clutter
A neat, clutter-free bedroom helps to put your mind at ease during the day and before bed. Tidy rooms are known to foster a sense of clarity and promote pride that will follow you around all day. Make your bed, pick up those clothes from the floor, open your curtains.
5. Manage stress and anxiety
Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether you’re having trouble sleeping because you’re anxious, or you’re anxious because you can’t sleep. The answer may be both. To help reduce your stress or anxiety levels, take time to wind down and create a sleep routine, slowing your rhythms before bed. Add exercise to your day: research shows people who exercise regularly fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly. And jot down your to-do list on paper, instead of letting your brain swirl with all the things that you don’t want to forget.
6. Try deep breathing
Have you heard of the 4-7-8 method? It’s very simple – and a total gamechanger when it comes to finding easy, natural ways to get some shut-eye.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
- Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
- Then hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
7. Use aromatherapy
Essential oils have been used for eons to treat illnesses and conditions, from insomnia to headaches. Cedarwood, lavender and sweet orange all work particularly well to alleviate anxiety and reduce insomnia. Lavender is a real star – it has a long and diverse history in the healing world, with research showing it’s a natural, and potent, remedy to help aid sleep. Try it in diffusers and pillow sprays or pockets.
8. Avoid alcohol
Think a nightcap may help you get a better night’s sleep? Recent research has found alcohol and smoking are more disruptive to the quantity and quality of sleep than caffeine. While some studies show alcohol may allow healthy people to fall asleep fast and sleep deeply for a while, it significantly reduces rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. And the more you drink before bed, the more pronounced these effects. REM sleep happens about 90 minutes after we doze off. It’s the stage of sleep when people dream, and it’s the most restorative stage. Disruptions in REM sleep may cause daytime drowsiness, poor concentration, and rob you of needed shut-eye.
9. Sleepy-time snacks
The best sleep-inducing foods include a combination of protein and carbohydrates. Try a light snack of half a banana with a tablespoon of peanut butter, or a wholewheat cracker with some cheese. Eat one of these snacks about 30 minutes before hitting the hay.
10. Get mindful
There have been dozens of studies on whether mindfulness and other meditative movements (yoga, tai chi) can improve sleep quality. Some show that taking a few minutes to settle your mind before bed can help you fall asleep faster as well as help you get more restful ZZZs. Try listening to calming music with your eyes closed, or sitting in child’s pose for a couple of minutes.