Paying attention to the externals – things like making sure your bedroom is the right temperature, not too light, not too noisy and clear of clutter all help for sure. But the real cure to a restless night is a calm mind, so anything you can do to soothe the brain will help. Follow our ten tips for drifting off quickly…
1. Get up stand up. Don’t just lie there fretting about not being able to get back to sleep again. If you’ve been lying awake for more than 20 minutes get out of bed and sit in a chair. Don’t switch the light on. Just sit there quietly until you feel sleepy. Then go back to bed. Play some soothing music if you like but resist the temptation to check your computer, mobile or tablet. In fact all electronic devices should be banished from your bedroom. Repeat as often as necessary.
2. Do the maths. ‘Imagine two columns headed with 60. Subtract 1 from the first column, then the second so you’re working asynchronously on both – slowly and breathe in/out with each pair of subtractions,’ says sleep expert Dr Chris Idzikowski. The idea is to engage the brain so you stop dwelling on worries but not so much that you wake it up. Makes a change from counting sheep!
3. Write away. If night-time worries are really pressing try writing them down. Once done fold up the paper, put it away in a drawer and vow not think about it again until morning. If your mind returns to your worries visualise yourself closing the drawer and putting your worries away.
4. Don’t check the clock. Clock watching is a real killer if you’re lying awake tossing and turning. Turn the clock away from you and resist checking the time.
5. Visualise it. Occupy your mind by visualising a peaceful scene in great detail – a beach, a glade in a forest, a garden, a lush river bank it doesn’t matter what you choose. Create the scene in detail in your mind’s eye. Feel the breeze, hear the waves lapping the shore, the wind through the tree tops. As you recreate the scene in your mind’s eye your body should start to relax.
6. B-r-e-a-t-h-e- mindfully. Mindfulness meditation has been found to help sleep in several recent studies. Mindfulness simply means being in the here and now. Focusing on your breathing is a key technique. Simply breathe naturally in and out. Don’t force yourself to breathe deeply just be aware of your breath going in and out. If thoughts, emotions or awareness of your external surroundings start to intrude simply bring your mind back to your breathing without judgement.
7. Put out the light. There’s a reason our bodies are primed to sleep at night. Night-time light exposure stimulates pathways in the brain that control hormones, metabolism and the sleep-wake cycle. Banish electronic equipment from the bedroom and if you live in a town use blackout blinds and curtains to keep things as dark as possible.
8. Cool it. You need to be comfortably warm but not too hot to sleep. If you wake up too hot open a window, strip off a layer and have a drink of chilled water to cool you down from the inside. If menopausal flushes have got you tossing and turning a cooling Chillow pillow and/or a Physicool Cooling Mist Spray could be the answer.
9. Stop trying so hard. Ironically worrying that you’re not sleeping or that you will be tired the next day is one of the main things that can keep you awake. Experts say it’s unnatural for us to sleep for eight hours on the trot and in fact most of us surface from time to time in the night. It’s when you allow your mind to get ‘caught’ by the wakefulness and start to fret that you can’t nod back off. Applying a little mind over matter helps. Challenge negative thoughts about sleep – for example ‘What’s the worst that can happen?’ You’ll be tired the next day. It’s not the worst thing in the world. Letting go of your fears can help you relax and fall asleep.
10. And finally…don’t sleep in – no matter how tired you are. So it’s 7 o’ clock and you finally got back to sleep at six when the alarm goes. Resist the temptation to roll over and hit the snooze button. According to sleep experts it’s vital to get up at the same time every day no matter how badly you slept the night before and how tired you are. Do it religiously every day and you will reset your body clock.
Text © Patsy Westcott Photograph © TSUNG-LIN WU – Fotolia.com
Have you tried any of these sleep tricks or discovered others that work for you? Let us know!