When you’re having trouble sleeping, it affects you in more ways than you can imagine. There’s even been research that shows how poor sleep can lead to weight gain, increased levels of stress and if it goes on for long enough it can even shorten your life expectancy. As if insomnia isn’t bad enough on it’s own it’ll also make you die young. Great.
I’m generally a really good sleeper but every now and then I have a few sleepless nights and it totally depletes me. I’m also a giant sook about it – I get very, very cranky.
Here are a few things I do when I have trouble sleeping. I’ll usually do all of these things – I rely very heavily on decent sleep so I get desperate when it doesn’t work and I just double down and try all the things.
1. Avoid over indulging in alcohol
Having a big night on the booze is a sure fire way to THINK you’re getting a fairly decent nights sleep but it will destroy your sleep schedule for the rest of the week. It’s also not real sleep. Your brain thinks it is but has anyone ever woken up from a 10 hour booze infused sleep feeling well rested? Nope. Stick to two standard drinks per sitting and 4 to 5 alcohol free nights per week. Also make sure that you leave a few hours between your last drink and bedtime. Better yet, try not drinking for a full month. I have several alcohol free months every year and honestly, I never sleep better than when I’m going easy on the wine.
2. Make sure you’ve burned enough energy through out the day
Step tracking has been a life changing health hack for me. If I don’t make it to my 10,000 steps during the day I will not sleep well that night. Make sure you move every day. Enough to make yourself tired enough to have a decent night’s sleep. This is particularly important for people who work desk jobs who might not do enough incidental exercise. You may have to make an extra effort to walk more but it’s totally worth it. Even just half an hour around the block can make a huge difference.
3. Put your damn phone down
The blue light emitted from most screens increases alertness and prevents you from winding down. It’s also pretty difficult for your brain to comprehend that it’s sleep time when you keep flashing yourself in the face with light right before bed. I have totally banned screens from my bedroom a few years ago (except my Kindle which doesn’t count because it’s backlit and my eyes think it’s paper) and it’s been the best thing I’ve ever done. My phone isn’t even allowed in my bedroom at all anymore and my sleep has drastically improved.
4. Try sleeping minimally
I read an article in Reader’s Digest at the doctor’s office not long ago about a guy who did a minimalist bedding experiment. Basically he slept on a mattress with a fitted sheet, one flat pillow and nothing else. He was just comfortable enough to sleep but when he woke up in the morning he wasn’t in a delicious bed cocoon that was impossible to leave. He’d wake up at 6am and get up immediately, something he was unable to do when his bed was made up with lovely sheets and a big snuggly blanket. Try making your bed less inviting to make your morning exit less traumatic. It might not be the perfect solution for you but if you’re desperate, it might not be a terrible idea.
5. Choose the purpose of your bedroom
Not all sleep problems are created equal. Some people have no trouble falling asleep, but waking up proves to be a challenge. For some people it’s the opposite. If you struggle to wake up in the morning make sure your room is designed for waking up – make it light, bright and energising. If your biggest problem is falling asleep, make your room dark, cool and quiet. Let your bedroom be the remedy to your biggest sleep problem.
6. Make it chilly
As a general rule, you want to keep your room cool. Heat is the enemy of sleep so make sure you’re always a little bit chilly because it’s almost impossible to fall asleep without dropping your core temperature. Tip: Don’t let your feet get cold. Your core body temperature needs to drop for you to fall asleep but you can’t fall asleep with cold feet. Honestly lets all just be vampires okay? So much less hassle.
7. Start your wind down early
You should start dimming the lights, turning the volume down on any electronic devices and start mentally preparing yourself for bed a few hours before you intend on actually going to sleep. Your brain can’t switch from full on flickering and loud TV shows to restful sleep in the blink of an eye, so you need to let your body relax into it.
8. Keep your bedroom screen free
I know some people love their bedroom TVs but they’re quality sleep killers. Bedrooms should be for sex and sleep only, reading at a pinch if you need an in-bed wind down. I know how lovely it is to watch TV in bed – I LOVE it every time I’m at a hotel but it’s the treat element I love about it. If you’re having trouble sleeping, get the TV out of your bedroom – just give it a go. If it doesn’t help, put the TV back in but just try it. It might well solve all your problems.
9. Make your bed every day
100% cotton sheets with a season appropriate blanket (lighter for summer, warmer for winter) and a duck down pillow will make the world of difference. I’m serious about making your bed too. It takes 2 minutes and makes your bed a less scary place for poor sleepers. Do it. Tip: Try the European style of sleeping if you have a partner. Each person has their own single sized doona, heavy or light depending on what kind of a sleeper they are. Mr Smaggle and I find it doesn’t make much of a difference in summer because we sleep under a sheet, but we tried it last winter and it was awesome. Because he’s made of fire and my sleep is much better if his intense body heat is contained.