Sleepless nights mean joyless next days. Why should babies have all the fun? Here’s how to get some serious snooze time.
Sleepless nights – nothing worse. The pressure of tossing and turning while worrying about not sleeping only makes it worse.
I simply have to get to sleep or tomorrow will suck. Sleep you fool, sleep! Don’t think of anything, actually think of something…sob.
Poor sleep brings plenty of undesirable after-effects. Shocking performance at work or school (or even worse – the bedroom). Lack of energy, depression and anxiety, irritability. Driving off the road into a river as you finally succumb to slumber.
Whatever unimaginative dope came up with the idea of counting sheep as a way to nod off wasn’t thinking hard enough.
We all know the basics: get some exercise, avoid naps, don’t drink coffee at night, etc.
These of course all ring true but there are plenty of other ways to hit the sack effectively, without relying on medication.
If some don’t work, others will. These are tried and tested.
Get some sun. Daily.
Firstly, if you’re reading this in Northern Europe in winter then you may want to read on. Apologies.
Sunlight is often overlooked as aiding sleep but studies have shown it can be a great help. Exposure to the sun results in the brain releasing the chemical serotonin which us humans love. Serotonin relaxes the mind and body and produces a feeling of calmness.
This doesn’t mean lying in 40c heat for 3 hours, nor do you have to worry about what time of day you’re exposed to sunlight. The serotonin will be going to work when it’s bedtime.
This is fairly obvious although trying not to exercise too close to sleeping is better. Your raised heart rate and nervous system could make it tricky to nod off.
Any exercise is good and aiming for at least 20 minutes a day is ideal. Find the time. A brisk walk, jog, weights circuit – whatever tickles your fancy.
One of the great things about exercise is it reduces anxiety and stress which are famous for bringing on insomnia. This alone can put you in a better frame of mind when you go to bed.
Eat for sleep
As with the serotonin gained from sunlight exposure the same benefits can be found in several foods.
Bananas are an excellent source of serotonin as well as magnesium. Magnesium relaxes the muscles and serotonin the mind. Bananas are an ideal pre-bed snack as you’ll also feel full, preventing the ole 3am hunger pains.
Nuts, especially almonds are another great snack at night. Firstly they’re packed with magnesium (see bananas) and are a great source of melatonin. Basically, melatonin helps control the 24 hour body clock. It’s released throughout the body according to the time of day, for example keeping us alert in the day and feeling drowsy at night.
Sweet potatoes rule for many reasons, one of them being their high levels of potassium and magnesium which help to relax the muscles. There are dozens of ways to eat them too – with rice, in a curry, a salad or you can just gnaw away on one while on the couch.
Chamomile tea is famous for helping people get to sleep. It relaxes you, decreases anxiety and has a unique antioxidant called apigenin which causes drowsiness and induces sleep. Yes please!
Nice warm bath
If you’re not really a fan of baths then maybe it’s time to try. If you don’t have one then maybe it’s time to buy one on Amazon or something.
Baths are known to help us relax which is obviously good for sleep. Fascinating science alert – hot baths actually reduce our body temperatures which is ideal for sleep. For the same reason exercising too close to sleeping can keep you awake.
Surely baths raise your body temperature, and yet no! They bring our core body heat (which controls our temperatures) to the surface via our hands and feet. Yes, we’re nice and warm after a bath but when your head hits the pillow you’ll have prepared your body clock nicely.
This is my sleep space
Thinking about your sleeping environment can be useful. Do you need a new or more pillows? Is your room sufficiently dark at bedtime? If you keep your phone near the bed then turn it off. We dare you. If you use your phone in bed, then for shame. The blue wavelengths from devices unleashes cortisol which keeps us alert.
Remember books? Try one, they’re great! If you can, try to avoid watching the movie “Insomnia” before bed.
Podcasts can also help but be careful of the wavelength stimulus. If you go for a podcast, a laid back chat or news show is often good, with a dulcet-toned announcer, (think a BBC documentary about butterflies or the building of railways).
These are some of the most effective ways to ensure your eyes shut and stay shut. Yes, drinking 2 bottles of red wine after dinner is also effective in aiding sleep but probably not every day.
The main thing is to try a few (or all) and find the most effective. When you start getting a good regular sleep it becomes a welcome habit.