Confession: I am the worst at taking my own advice. Or anyone’s advice, in fact, when it comes to sleeping. I love to sleep. I love my bed. There is a small possibility that it’s literally my favourite place to be. My favourite part of the day is Liam getting up for work so I can steal all the blankets and pillows for myself.
And yet, every time I get in bed I find myself mindlessly scrolling, trying to squeeze in just one more episode (more recently it’s the My Dad Wrote A Porno podcast which is not ideal for sleeping to), and end up being awake for hours. Sleep evades me sometimes.
There’s also a strong chance you’re like me, too. So let’s sort it out, shall we?
I mentioned sleep in my 10 Habits You Need To Practice More self Love post. You need sleep.
It’s part of being a fully functioning human person and yes we can get along on four or five hours a night (and a similar number of coffees), but rarely do we thrive.
It affects your physical performance, your hunger levels, your concentration, your mental health and your ability function each and every day. I got so tired of being sleepless and exhausted all the time, so a few months ago I started to work on my sleeping pattern.
Let me tell you, it’s been a journey. The difference a good night’s sleep on the reg can do for you is incredible. So without further ado, here’s how I did it.
Get yourself a proper routine
Generally, when I’m working, my evening routine looks like this: mindful shower, body oiling, (Love Island), gratitude journal/other journalling, essential oil diffuser goes on, get in bed, set alarms etc, sleep.
How I start winding down usually starts a few hours before I even think about going to bed. You don’t have to do this exactly, but the idea is to get rid of all the day’s stressors before you’re caught lying in bed with your mind going a hundred miles an hour.
I like to visualise washing the day away and pay some real attention in the shower. How am I feeling? What am I using? How are my products making me feel? I’ll usually throw some essential oils in here too to start winding down.
Being stressed, or having high cortisol levels if you want to go all biology, is a huge reason you’re not sleeping.
Find a way to start relaxing and make it a little ritual. Nowadays I’ve trained myself to associate the oils I diffuse of an evening with sleep and all of the actions I take around that remind me I’m winding down and getting ready for bed. Part of this is also getting to bed around the same time and up in the morning at the same time too (which is easier said than done when you work shifts, but it’s important to try).
Invest in some essential oils
If you’re interested in aromatherapy, I’ve already posted about 14 Essential Oils You Should Have In Your Life. But at a bare minimum, get yourself some lavender and clary sage oils. Lavender really calms you down, soothes your anxieties and sets you up for sleep. Clary sage is fantastic for a dozen or so reasons, but its sedative benefits are why I really love it. Drop a few drops on your sleeves or pillows, diffuse it around your room or burn it (safely!) before bed time.
I diffuse my oils with this InnoGear Diffuser which turns off automatically after an hour.
If you’re not keen on the scents of either, pick yourself up some frankincense, bergamot, ylang ylang, vetiver or chamomile.
Make your room somewhere you want to sleep
Honestly, I thought making beds was something just my granny liked to do growing up, but it really does help. For starters, it makes me feel really productive in a morning to get up, shake the night out of the bedding, tidy up and remake the bed.
Again, I’ll usually spritz the room with some happy scents like neroli or bergamot when I’m getting up (occasionally after a bad dream I’ll straight up sage the room, but you don’t have to go down the woo-woo route if it’s not for you).
Second, it’s really relaxing to come back to a tidy, made up room.
How your room looks and feels is important – we have black out blinds which are important because darkness literally tells your body to get ready for sleep (which is why good lighting during the day is important too). Controlling the light is super important for proper melatonin production, which helps control your sleep/wake cycles.
Make it look nice too. I’m not saying redecorate your entire room, but make it somewhere calming, relaxing and somewhere that you actually want to spend time.
I keep lots of amethyst, selenite and rose quartz around the bed, partly because they’re beautiful and partly because they’re strongly associated with calming vibes and a good night’s sleep.
I try not to keep tonnes of bits and products on my bedside table, and we don’t really keep a lot of stuff around the bedroom. We do have a TV, but I try not to watch it in bed unless we’re having a #wildnight as it does really stop us sleeping.
In short: clean your room, make your bed and make it a place of calm.
Calm your caffeine habit
I’ve not been off caffeine more or less for about 3 months – I’ll sometimes indulge in decaf (again, only when I’m feeling #wild), but mostly now I stick to herbal teas.
I have a whole post on the way in a few weeks about the effects of caffeine and why I gave it up – and I’m not saying you have to do the same – but time your caffeine right. Stop using it to fuel your afternoon lulls and stick to a cup of coffee in the morning. Caffeine after lunch can really cock up your sleep even when you’ve stopped feeling the buzz.
Put your phone down
I can already hear Liam tutting at me because I am honestly the worst for this, but my best nights sleep happen when I get in bed, set my alarm, and put my phone on airplane mode until morning.
Your phone emits blue light which can mess with your melatonin production – so basically making your brain think it should still be awake even for a short while after turning it off.
Essentially what you’re doing is tricking your brain into thinking the day is longer than it actually is, making it think you’re sleeping at the wrong times and so not getting the best night sleep you deserve.
Spend some quality time reducing your stress levels
An interesting fact about our pal, cortisol: He’s the little dude your brain releases that are associated with stress and fight or flight. This naturally raises during your day at work, when you’re anxious, overworked, or generally irritated, and can stop you sleeping at night when it’s too high.
Essentially, your body stays switched on because your brain is trying to process whether or not there’s a threat. Cortisol is also naturally higher in a morning to give you a bit of “get up and go”. If you struggle in mornings, it’s usually because your cortisol levels are low. Your body can’t constantly keep your stress levels high – that can lead to adrenal fatigue – and so not managing your stress levels can both keep you awake at night and half asleep in the morning.
We touched on this in the first point, but I’m not just talking bedtime routine here. Spend more time learning to deal with stress through the day. Move more, meditate more, do some journalling, hydrate yourself, dance more, find a new hobby. Whatever it is you do, find a way to keep yourself in balance. You’ll know you’re managing when you start waking up with some pep in your step.
Stay hydrated – at the right times
I won’t insult your intelligence by assuming you don’t know how important hydration is, but it does affect your sleep. Drinking plenty is so important for your overall health, but drinking too much in the morning can also keep you up all night too.
Getting up to pee can shake your body awake – even if you’re still tired, and really disrupts your sleep cycle. Think about it – you get up, move around, walk about a bit, turn on some lights, shit yourself when you fall over the dog, and then come back to bed. You’re wide awake and starting the whole process all over again.
The short of it is this: don’t drink too much too late in the day.
You’ve heard it all before, but exercise really does help you sleep. If nothing else, it physically wears you out, but the idea here is that it promotes daytime awakeness and tires you out of an evening. It calms your cortisol levels, reduces stress, strengthens your circadian rhythms and can fix up your metabolism, so it makes sense that it can help you get some good shut eye. It doesn’t have to be aggressive exercise either – walk more, dance around your room for 10 minutes, do some gentle yoga, swim more or skip, as Liam has taken to doing.
There’s some studies happening right now that indicate that regular exercise (four or so times per week) can extend the period in which you’re in deep sleep.
Experiment with some light therapy
You don’t have to get too serious about this, but look at places you spend your time during the day.
Liam really doesn’t like bright spaces, so we spend a liot of time in dimly lit rooms which always makes me fall asleep in the day.
We’re back to our buddy melatonin, who, when faced with a dark room, thinks you should be going to sleep. Which means when you actually need to do something, you’re drowsy, and when you need to go to bed you feel all out of whack. It’s the same reason you shouldn’t sleep in a brightly lit room. Experiment with your lighting and see how you feel.
Surpise! The key to good sleep is consistency! Who’d have thought? For real though, when you find something that works, stick at it and don’t ruin your own progress. I’m guilty of this quite often, and I regret it every time.
Do some experimenting, see how you’re feeling and honor your body! There’s a myth that needs to be destroyed that we always have to be busy, that we can keep on “getting by” and feeling good, and that you’re not being productive if you’re not always doing something. Sleep is self care – priotitising your sleep is taking care of yourself. Make it non-negotiable to be well rested.
Do you have any more important tips? Share them with me!