Something that’s such a fundamental part of being alive shouldn’t be such a challenge, but alas, for many of us achieving a good night’s sleep seems like seeking the holy grail. Our world is more connected than ever before, and our lives far busier than they’ve ever been, leading to our sleeping patterns being neglected in favour of other ‘more pressing’ priorities: that one last email before bed, that one more episode on Netflix or that one last scroll through your social feeds that actually turns into an hour long marathon. Our society has drilled into us the belief that we can survive on less and less sleep (and often need to do so in order to be successful – Margaret Thatcher famously said she survived on on four hours shut-eye,) but actually a quality and length regular sleep doesn’t just help us look our best, but it’s vital for maintaining good mental and physical health.
A good night’s sleep allows the brain to take in new information and
strengthen our memories, as well as having a positive impact on our
mood, energy level and ability to concentrate. However, if we don’t get a
good rest every night it can affect our work, cause relationship
problems and make it difficult to complete even simple tasks. (If you’ve tried and failed to even make a cup of coffee when you’re running on empty, you know what I mean!) It’s crucial to
our health that we learn to sleep well and take the time to recoup from
our busy lives when the sun goes down, both for immediate and long-term benefits. As someone that would happily work all night and sleep all day if she could get away with it, over the years I’ve learned a lot about sleep and my relationship with it – as well as how I can ensure I need to get a good eight hours when I need it most.
SWITCH OFF AN HOUR BEFORE BED
This has been the absolute key for me and the one tip I would give anyone struggling with their sleeping patterns: turn off all your gadgets and gizmos and hour before you go to sleep, allowing your brain to gradually slow down and get into the right state for slumber. Our smartphones, tablets, laptops and even televisions emit light that tells the brain it’s daylight and therefore time to stay alert; removing these from your immediate surroundings (instead swapping for a good book or listening to a podcast) is the best way to prepare mentally and physically. It’s hard, but it’s worth it. You simply can’t get a good night’s sleep when your mind is still churning away.
CREATE A SPACE THAT’S ALL ABOUT SLEEP
If your bedroom is a space in which you eat, work, socialise, relax and sleep it could be confusing your brain. When you slip between the sheets it doesn’t know whether to expect a Gilmore Girls marathon, a chicken korma or an eight hour sleep – so creating a space that’s just all about relaxation and sleep is really important. Although if you’re in shared accommodation or renting just a room this is difficult, it’s not impossible; little changes to the layout of the room and even keeping work to a desk can go some way in helping to at least associating your bed with sleep and sleep alone. When I moved into my own place it was a priority to keep my bedroom a place to sleep and get dressed, and that was it… I don’t work in bed, I don’t eat in bed and we only watch an episode of something in bed when we’ve specifically gone to bed a little earlier to do so.
SCENTS CAN HELP YOU SWITCH OFF
It’s well known that scents including lavender and chamomile can have a calming effect and help your mind to switch off from the hustle and bustle of modern life. They relax the senses and help to transport you to a place that’s all about breathing deeply and forgetting the stresses of the day. I’ve been a big fan of pillow sprays and body spritzes that contain those essential oils for a long time (hello This Works!) but I’ve recently been embracing candles and fragrance diffusers that offer the same benefits, as well as body lotions and soothing pampering oils. Feather & Down (pictured) are a great new brand that’s super affordable and super effective, so if you want to create your own bedroom haven they’re a fab place to start. Lighting a candle, spritzing your pillow and massaging in some oil can go a long way to helping you switch off.
HAVE A GOOD RELAXING PAMPER
For me, the most effective way to ensure a better night’s sleep is to have a really good pamper before I snuggle up with my duvet. A steaming hot bath, a relaxing face mask, a fabulous book and a post-soak body massage with my favourite oils and lotions really helps to get me in the mood to chill out. Although it’s not possible to embrace this routine every week (let alone every day!) I do take elements and undertake them within a mini pre-bed ritual – including massaging in a luxuriously textured body product and overnight treatment. Even the motions and few minutes pre-bed help to rid myself of the stresses I was thinking about ten minutes before, signalling to my brain it’s time to get ready for sleep.
EMBRACE EAR PLUGS
They may not be glamorous, but silicone ear plugs have literally changed my life. Although I’m not a light sleeper, I do tend to wake up multiple times in the night and seem to hone in on sounds around me; focusing on the click of a clock, the engines of cars outside or even my hamster nibbling on her food can prevent me from getting back to sleep until I hit the point of exhaustion, so popping in my earplugs just before I close my eyes has become an essential part of my routine. It helps to block out any annoying sounds and keeps your mind clear, made even better with a face mask to block out the light come the next morning. (I’m not a morning person and I have no inclination to arise with the sun, thank you very much!)
Sleep is so very important for all of us and should never be compromised in the long-term. It allows our bodies to refresh, our minds to kick-start and our complexions to look bright – who wouldn’t want all of that from an eight hour slumber?
What other tips, tricks or learnings do you have about sleep?
The Feather & Down range is available now from Boots, priced from £6.00.
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