In today’s busy society, it can be hard to stick to a strict bedtime routine which may not be much of a problem for most people, but if you suffer from sleep issues or insomnia then irregular sleeping hours are unhelpful and can lead to burnout and exhaustion.
Pretty much everyone at some stage of their life will experience periods of sleeplessness. In fact, research by Iowa State University shows that over the past decade, sleep quality and quantity has declined. Poor sleep is known to have negative effects on brain function, hormones, exercise and performance. It can also lead to weight gain and increase disease risk. According to Harvard, there is even a link between lack of sleep and poor mental health.
However, a good sleep can actually help you eat less, exercise better, boost your mood and energy and be healthier overall.
So, what can you do to ensure that you get a good night sleep? After years of struggling with sleep issues and anxiety, I now close my curtains, turn my devices off, diffuse some lavender and breathe and relax with my favourite guided meditation.
Here are some things that revolutionised my sleep pattern:
Increasing light exposure
Our body has a natural time-keeping clock known as the circadian rhythm that affects our brain, body and hormones, helping our body know when it’s time to sleep. I found that increasing my light exposure during the day and going a walk made a significant difference. When we are exposed to natural sunlight or bright light during the day, this helps improve our energy levels as well as sleep quality and quantity. If it’s not practical to get daily sunlight exposure, artificial bright-light device or bulbs are now widely available.
Reduce afternoon caffeine intake
Caffeine has numerous benefits including, increasing energy, focus, and performance. However, when consumed late in the day, it stimulates our nervous system and may stop our body from relaxing at night. It can also stay in the blood stream for 6-8 hours. I found that replacing my afternoon coffee with a relaxing herbal tea, like chamomile or lavender before bedtime helped prepare my body for bedtime.
Create a sleep routine
Being consistent with our sleeping and waking times can aid long-term sleep quality. It programmes the brain and internal body clock to get used to a set routine. Imagine a baby who is unable to sleep, what is the first thing we would do to help them sleep? Yes, implement a routine and adults are no different.
Most adults need between 6 and 9 hours of sleep every night. By working out what time we need to wake up, we can set a regular bedtime schedule. I used an app on my phone to help with this and ensure consistency. It is also important to try and wake up at similar times every day.
Our body needs to shift into sleep mode at least an hour before sleep. Light exposure during the day is good but night time exposure to light has a negative impact as it also impacts the bodies circadian rhythm and can even trick your brain that it’s still day time. This reduces hormones like melatonin, which helps us relax and get deep sleep.
Switching off my mobile phone to reduce blue light exposure an hour before bed was critical in winding body down to prepare for a good sleep.
Just Breathe! Focusing on my breath for five minutes, allowing my body to just breathe and relax, letting go of all the days unnecessary worry and tension is one of my favourites. It switches off the body’s stress response as well as soothing the nervous system.
It’s a common buzzword around today and there are many sceptical of the benefits, however the reality is that worrying keeps us awake! There is an easy solution, journaling for five minutes before bed, literally downloading all of the thoughts that are in our mind and writing our to do list for tomorrow can actually help us relax and prepare the body for sleep. At the very least, at least they are out of our head and we can pick it up in the morning.
Meditation has many health benefits and I am a huge advocate. It can be a great natural way to treat insomnia and sleep problems. By doing a five minute meditation every evening before bed, it greatly increased my body’s relaxation to prepare for sleep. I use guided meditation from an app (buddhify and Headspace), while diffusing some Essential Oils.
My favourite oils for sleep are Lavender and Bergamot to calm the nervous system and aid the body’s natural transition to sleep.
 2009, Harvard Health Publishing [Online] Published: July, 2009. Updated: March 2019. Viewed: 19 January 2020 Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/sleep-and-mental-health
 2019, Iowa University [Online] Published: February, 2019. Available at: https://www.news.iastate.edu/news/2019/11/12/sleeptroubles