A lack of sleep can severely compromise health and wellbeing, sleep enables the body and brain to function properly. Take away a quality sleep and the system will start to fail. Emotionally we become irritable and relationships can become strained.
The worry of achieving an adequate amount of sleep each night can bring with it an additional stress. Insomnia is defined by the Sleep Foundation as having a disrupted sleep at least three times a week over a period of three months. Disrupted sleep can include trouble getting to sleep as well as trouble staying asleep.
Some sleep problems can be attributed to a change in lifestyle habits, such as the pressures of work. If this is the case then there are positive changes that can be made to your bedtime routine.
How to create a bedroom perfect to sleep in
Your bedroom needs to be a place that entices you to want to sleep in it. Remove clutter from your room if its presence is acting as a distraction. Having a constant reminder of things that need to be done will not help you to relax fully.
2. Nice objects
Stick to just having the bedroom essentials in your room. Choose ornaments and pictures that make you happy. If it shouldn’t be in the bedroom then don’t let it anywhere near. This is your room, it is a place for you to recharge your body and mind and fundamentally help you to support your wellbeing. You are looking to achieve a place of tranquillity that you want to go to each night to fall asleep.
3. Correct temperature
Along with making your bedroom a relaxing haven you also need to ensure that it is the right temperature. Too hot or too cold and you’ll feel uncomfortable. Go for an optimum temperature of between 18-21 degrees Celsius.
4. Say no to bed socks
If you are prone to being too cold in bed try adding a hot water bottle rather than wearing extra layers. It is easier in the middle of the night to take your feet off a hot water bottle than it is to remove items of clothing.
5. Banish light
Having a dark bedroom will help trigger the notion that sleep is ready to occur. Invest in black out blinds or an eye mask, whatever helps to achieve a dark room.
6. Noise levels
Listening to calming music before you go to sleep may help with the relaxation process. As long as the music is not disturbing and is kept at a low level. If you are looking for calming music my personal favourite is the sleep selection from Headspace. If you are looking for free meditations and music, Insight Timer also offer a range.
Guidelines from mattress manufacturers suggest changing your mattress every 8 years. If you can’t get comfortable in bed or wake up with aches that you didn’t have before you went to sleep, you may want to consider changing your mattress.
No matter how much you love your pet they shouldn’t be allowed in the bedroom whilst you are sleeping. Animals have a different circadian rhythm to humans and therefore do not have the same sleep patterns as us.
What to avoid before sleep
9. Smoking | 10. Alcohol | 11. Caffeine | 12. Heavy Meals
Relaxing at night prior to sleep does not mean having a full three course meal washed down with a glass of wine and an espresso. Nicotine, caffeine, alcohol and heavy meals are best avoided in the hours leading up to bedtime.
There are certain foods that may be beneficial before bedtime but treat these as a snack rather that a meal. Melatonin is a natural hormone that we release based on our circadian rhythm. Our melatonin levels rise just after dusk. This hormone communicates with the brain that night time is coming and the body needs to start preparing itself for sleep. The presence of melatonin acts as the signal to the other areas of the brain and body to start the preparation process of sleep, it doesn’t however make us fall asleep.
By eating foods at dusk that naturally contain melatonin may help in enhancing this preparation signal to the brain. These natural enhancers may be particularly useful if suffering from jet lag. Foods such as cherries, bananas, oranges and pineapples are thought to help increase melatonin levels.
Have a regular bedtime and wake up time
Many people have a regular wake up time due to the need to get up for school, work, deal with young children, but how many people set a regular ‘going to bed’ alarm too?
Sleep should be viewed as a natural remedy for many issues and problems, which is why getting a good nights sleep is so important and can often be overlooked. Getting into a regular routine i.e going to bed at the same time each night and waking up at the same time each morning is a good practice to get in to.
Throughout the night we go through cycles of NREM and REM sleep (non rapid eye movement and rapid eye movement). Both are equally important. The NREM in effect helps us process the majority of the previous days information whilst the REM does the fine tuning, working on the intricate details of this processing.
Thanks to our personal circadian rhythms we already have set the times for the NREM and REM to take place. Although we all live by a 24 hour clock, my circadian rhythm will be different to yours. 30% of the population are classed as night owls, they naturally fall into a pattern of waking later and going to bed later. Morning larks on the other hand are morning people and naturally wake earlier and go to bed earlier. Morning larks make up around 40% of the population. The remaining 30% are somewhere in between the larks and owls. (Source: Why We Sleep: Matthew Walker) Whichever type you are having a regular sleep pattern will ensure that you get the correct balance of NREM and REM sleep.
There is a mix of NREM and REM sleep throughout the night, with the majority of NREM sleep happening during the first half of your sleep. The NREM works on processing the larger stuff. The fine tuning that is carried out by the REM tends to occur more at the end of your sleep once the larger stuff has been processed.
13. Set a bedtime alarm
Going to bed and waking up at the same time each night means that you get all your required NREM and REM sleep in.
How to relax before bedtime
Relaxing before sleep means that we can begin to calm the mind and switch it off from the day.
14. No exercise
Exercise throughout the day is perfect but not 2-3 hours before bedtime.
15. Calm activities
Taking a hot bath with relaxing essential oils will help in two ways. Firstly the use of calming aromatherapy products will have a therapeutic effect on the mind. Secondly, before we sleep our body temperature naturally falls. This drop in temperature helps us to feel sleepy. After a hot bath your body will naturally drop in temperature and can encourage that sleepy feeling.
Try focussing on calming activities that allow your mind to gently relax into the evening and focus its attention on to sleep. Reading a book can be very relaxing as can listening to a meditation (try this free 10 minute one if you’ve never tried meditation before).
17. Aromatherapy for sleep
As mentioned earlier, aromatherapy can help to relax the mind and body before sleep. Use calming and supporting essential oils such as lavender, chamomile, sweet orange and neroli. If you want to see how aromatherapy can fit into your nightly routine this blog post on How Can Aromatherapy Help You To Sleep Better covers this topic in more detail.
If you want to use aromatherapy in the bedroom then the Peaceful Moment collection has a range of products to naturally support you at night
18. Have a relaxing drink
Drinking a relaxing drink such as chamomile tea may also help to calm the mind. Avoid over drinking though if you are prone to nightly visits to the toilet. Once you’ve got to sleep you don’t want to disturb it by a trip to the loo.
Often our minds can be consumed with thoughts from the day. These may be worries of past or future events or they simply be a list of activities that we need to complete. By writing these thoughts down before bedtime gives our minds permission to let go of these thoughts.
Whilst it may be tempting to have one last glance on social media or one last check on your emails do these glances prevent you from a good quality sleep?
I discussed earlier how melatonin triggers the brain into preparing the body for sleep. Melatonin starts being released at dusk when the light fades. The use of phones brings an artificial light that stops this trigger. If you struggle falling straight to sleep when switching the phone off it may be because the melatonin flow has been interrupted.