When all you want is a good night's sleep, chances are you're not going to get it. But maybe these techniques can help.
For the past few months, I've been having terrible sleeps. Numerous reasons are to blame: staying up too late, eating and drinking too late, not being able to stop reading my book even though it's supposed to make me tired. But it's mostly stress.
Last week, I shared the triangle breathing exercise to help alleviate stress during the day. But I'm sure you know the feeling when all you want is eight-hours shut-eye, but your mind starts coming up with all the comebacks you should ever have said or starts worrying about something you can't possibly do anything about until at least the morning. Night-time is when humans have been conditioned to rest; it's in our nature. But our life patterns have changed since the days we lived in crannogs and caves. Now, I'm not saying that our ancestors had easier lives than us, but they never had to think about affordable housing (their mud hut was free!).
We know that scrolling through Instagram at midnight is never going to help the good sleep cause, nor is it going to help your self-esteem. But let me remind you of the basic steps to take to be prepared to sleep when you close your eyes.
Wake at the same time every day
Getting up at the same time may be crucial to nailing your sleep pattern. It may seem insane to sacrifice your weekend lie in, but waking up at the same time every day will help you sleep better. It will get easier in time, until when you are waking up without an alarm.
Go to bed at the same time
When you train yourself to wake at the same time every day, this puts in a domino effect that dictates how the rest of your day goes. Your day will start to come to a natural end, and you'll want to go to sleep when your body says its time. Don't fight it. Don't watch another episode of Grace & Frankie, I don't care that it's only 30 minutes long.
It won't be feasible for everyone, but an hour of downtime before bed will help you prepare for sleep. Put away your phone, in fact, turn off all screens. Take your time removing your makeup, maybe prepare the next day's work outfit. Maybe have a relaxing, warm shower. Spritz some lavender over your pillow. Settle down with a book in a bed that's as comfy as you can make it... and drift off to dreamland.
This hour without distraction may give your brain the chance to work through whatever's on your mind. You're much more likely to come up with a solution, or be able to park that thought when you're not trying to get to sleep.
It's not a last solution - concentrated breathing may well become part of your bedtime routine even if you don't have a lot on your mind. The 4-7-8 method may be 'trendy' at the moment, but I use it, and it works (that's why it's trendy, I suppose!).
According to prominent wellness guru Dr Andrew Weil who brought the 4-7-8 technique into public recognition, here's how to do it.
- Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
- Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
- This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
Other Methods to Try
Try wearing socks in bed. You can really feel cold feet when you're trying to get to sleep.
If you're still struggling to sleep, get up and do something, but don't turn on the tv or look at your phone. Play solitaire, do a jigsaw puzzle or sudoku, colour in your mindfulness colouring-book.
Do you struggle to sleep? Have you tried any of these methods? What has worked for you?