As I mentioned in my introductory post I’m not a great sleeper but a great deal better than I was. I generally get about 7 hours sleep a night which is pretty good. I can survive on five but rarely get more than 8.
Even when I was younger and stayed out until the early hours I would, maddeningly, still wake up at around 10.30 to 11am while my friends slept through till mid-afternoon. My youngest son who often works through the night is perfectly capable of sleeping until 5.
Over the years I’ve learnt what makes it more likely I’ll get a good night’s sleep and what will disrupt it, illness being an obvious one you can’t do much about but here are six lessons I’ve learned and four more precautions I should take but don’t always manage.
Buy a better bed and bedding
You spend roughly a third of your life in bed so why pay less on a bed that will probably last 10 years than you would on your annual holiday? A decent sized bed, a good mattress and a high quality duvet and pillows makes sinking into bed a real pleasure. (OK some people like hard beds but they don’t do it for me. I slept on a futon for 10 years during my peak sleepless period)
Shut the light out
It’s tricky to get a total black-out in a domestic bedroom but do your best. Light sneaking in at 4 in the morning as it does at this time of year is a surefire recipe for not being able to get back to sleep. Some people find eyemasks help. I just find they feel weird.
Keep the bedroom cool
This can also be tricky because fans and air-conditioning units are noisy as is traffic or birdsong if you leave the window open but whatever you can do to keep the temperature down is worth it
I don’t drink coffee after lunch, whatever time that ends or tea after 5pm. If I have coffee after dinner I’m buzzing for hours. My favourite late night drinks are lemon verbena or camomile
Don’t sleep during the day
I very occasionally do if I’ve slept particularly badly – on a plane for example – but I try and avoid it. If I do I’ll set the alarm to wake me in an hour or so
Have some kind of sleep remedy to hand
This is obviously more controversial but if all else fails (i.e. extreme wakefulness at 2am) I’ll take something, I used to take half a codeine based painkiller called Syndol which my former health visitor sister-in-law told me about but it’s now quite hard to find. (Boots seem to have stopped selling it altogether) Failing that half a sleeping tablet. But NOT EVERY NIGHT. However what I find is that the mere reassurance of having something within reach should I need it usually does the trick without me having to take it. I’m not suggesting you do the same merely telling you what works for me
And what I try to do but don’t always succeed …
Eat early – and stay active for at least half an hour afterwards
By early I mean before 8pm but that doesn’t always happen particularly when I’m out. Walking for half an hour after dinner or doing something reasonably active rather than slumping in front of the telly is also a good plan
I sleep so much better when I don’t drink at all or drink very little. Alcohol may help you drop off to sleep but can also wake you in the night. But I am a wine writer. Nuff said.
Stop faffing around on my computer/ipad/phone
Of course I don’t but I should. Blue light doncha know? (Will be investigating this in more detail but here’s what one alternative health practitioner says)
Like most people I’ve always slept worst when I’ve been miserable or stressed. Nowadays it’s more likely to take the form of my brain buzzing if I wake up in the early hours and it’s just a question of trying to divert my mind onto more calming thoughts. Easier said than done obviously though I hope this blog will unearth some solutions.
What are the strategies you’ve found most helpful?