This week I thought I would write a post offering 12 tips to get a better night’s sleep. The last few months have been a bit of a struggle for me, sleep-wise. For one reason or another, I find myself tossing and turning into the early hours. And then of course comes the frustration, which in turn leads to more tossing and turning.
Don’t you just hate that feeling of counting down the hours, knowing you only have a handful left to get some shut-eye but sleep still eludes you?
I worked through all of lockdown (bar a week). The stresses of working through a strange time is bound to have an effect on all of us on one way or another and with me, it really impacted my sleep. Throw in my chronic back pain, which flared up a lot over the last few months, and that was the perfect combination for a far from perfect night’s sleep!So I started doing lots of research into sleep – reading advice and tips and looking into ways to improve my sleep environment to help me doze off quicker and sleep more deeply.I was already doing some of the things I’m going to list here and yet there are others which are so obvious, that I just wasn’t doing. It doesn’t mean I do everything on this list every night but I try to combine a few of things to help drift off.
Combining a few methods has really helped. I’m finally starting to sleep better again. I guess some of it has to do with the fact that I’m on leave at the moment so I’m able to put some of the tips I wasn’t utilising before into practice. And now that they’ve become habit, I’m sure I can easily incorporate them into my nighttime routine.
So here are 12 tips to get a better night’s sleep.
1. MAKE A TO-DO LIST
I’m one those people who use the time when I should be sleeping, making lists in my head, making plans, remembering tasks that need doing. My mind should be calm but it’s buzzing with thoughts and that’s a sure-fire way to push sleep away!
So I’ve started making a to-do list for the next day before I even go up to bed. And if it’s not an imminent task, I jot it down anyway and then address it the following day. This helps to ease my mind at night so I can doze off quicker.
2. NO CAFFEINE BEFORE BED
I always need a cuppa after dinner and (dare I say it?) I’m not a huge fan of fruit or herbal teas. I like a good ol’ English cuppa in the evening and switched to decaf a few months ago. I couldn’t figure out why I’d never done that before. This way, I still get to enjoy my steaming hot mug of tea but it only has a small percentage of caffeine so it doesn’t affect my sleep as much.
3. TAKE A WARM BATH
I don’t do this every night – who has time for a long, leisurely bath every evening? But I do try to fill up the tub and have a soak at least a couple of nights a week.
On the other nights, I jump in to a nice hot shower. Not much else helps to bring on a relaxed sleep as much as a nice bath. Throw in a few handfuls of lavender salt or a few drops of lavender oil and you’ll probably have a good night’s rest.
These are the ones I use. The salts were gifted to me by a friend a while back and now I make sure I never run out of stock. I alternate between the bath salts and oil.
4. AVOID BIG MEALS IN THE EVENING
I’ve been doing intermittent fasting for the last few weeks and it’s been working out well for me. It means my body is getting the break that it needs from trying to break down food all the time. I eat my meals between 12-8pm.
It’s not a diet at all – more of an eating pattern. I’m still getting enough food in my belly and plenty of fruit and vegetables. But please DO NOT ever try anything like this unless you have run it by your GP first.
My main point here is that because I am eating during fixed times, my evening meal isn’t a huge one. You can still follow this tip with a regular eating pattern. Make sure your stomach isn’t too full when you’re trying to sleep.
5. SLEEP IN A COMPLETE DARKNESS
I’m one of those people that needs it to be pitch black when I try to sleep. Any kind of light disturbs me, so I close my blackout blinds full and the hallway light must be off too. Sometimes even that isn’t enough for me, so I bought myself a sleep mask which took a bit of getting used to at first.
But now I can’t do without it. It completely blocks out the light and it has other benefits too – like protecting the skin around my eyes and preventing puffiness or wrinkles. Here’s the one I bought…
This one is the best I have ever had. It has a 3D contoured bulge so I can blink and when napping in the day it means I don’t ruin my eye makeup either! It’s super soft and it blocks out the light better than any mask ‘Ive ever bought.
6. NO GADGETS BEFORE BED
I was guilty of this night after night. I would reach for my phone to set my alarm and then found myself scrolling through social media apps, checking the weather and just general googling. But the bright light keeps your mind alert, no matter how much you bring down the level.
For the last few weeks, I’ve been putting my phone away at least 30-45 minutes before bed. By that time, I’ve already made my to-do list earlier, set my alarm and done any googling or checking of social media! I have noticed a difference already and I feel so much better for it.
7. TAKE A POWER NAP
I love afternoon naps as and when I can (usually on days off and at weekends) but sometimes I would get my head down for a lot longer than planned. That would in turn disturb me at night. It’s a vicious cycle because sometimes I wouldn’t sleep at night anyway and hence needing a nap the following day.
My way around it is to have a power nap, so that’s less time spent with my head down on the sofa or in bed. I set my alarm for 20 minutes and then do my best to get up. Sometimes it’s hard and I sleep longer than I intended to. I know some people swear against naps but the older I get, the more I need them! And personally, I think they help.
8. USE AN ACUPRESSURE MAT
A couple of friends recommended using an acupressure mat when I told them of my recent sleeping troubles. I didn’t even wait until the end of our zoom chat to add the item to my basket and click ‘buy’. Don’t you just love Amazon Prime? It arrived the next day and I gave it a go.
My friends advised me to just lie on it for 20 minutes in the evening in complete silence – or maybe with some relaxation music in the background. As I suffer from chronic back pain, I find the mat relaxes me and benefits me in the same way as an acupressure massage.It does take some getting used to you so use it regularly.
As with all of my suggestions, please do your own research too on whether a mat will benefit you and how to use it.
9. LISTEN TO RELAXATION MUSIC
I try to listen to 20 mins of relaxation music or sounds whilst I lay on the acupressure mat. This is usually in the evening. I know it’s slightly going against the phone rule here but as soon as I’ve turned it on, I put the phone face down and close my eyes in the dark whilst it plays soothing soundsYou can just find a piece of music or sounds you like by clicking on YouTube and doing a search. I love the sound of the sea or the rainforest. There are also plenty of sleeping aid apps you can download on your smartphone.
10. USE A SLEEP SPRAY
I recently bought a sleep pillow spray and it’s been working wonders for me these last couple of weeks.
Here is the one I bought. It’s a mix of lavender, camomile and vetivert. I spray a light mist over my pillow before I sleep and when I get my head down, I immediately feel relaxed just by the scent of it.
It doesn’t help me nod off any quicker – or maybe it does – but I find myself less restless and actually sleeping deeper than I have in a long time. I also feel more refreshed in the morning and I’m not lingering as much in bed.
11. EXERCISE DURING THE DAY
Since I’ve been on my break, I’ve started working out 4-5 times a week. This has done wonders for my sleep. There are plenty of scientific studies out that say exercising during the day helps you to sleep better at night. I also know there are studies which say the opposite.
I’m only talking from personal experience. I do a 20-minute home workout (usually a Jillian Michaels one) and I find I sleep more comfortably on the days I have worked out.
Here’s one of the workout routines I do…
12. READ A BOOK
Now that I’m saying goodnight to my phone a lot earlier in the evening, I reach for a book instead. I’ve recently started reading a lot again and have zipped through eight books in the four weeks I’ve been off.
I have a lot of books stored on my Kindle but I only read these during the day. No phones means no devices with light. I much prefer to read an actual book, especially at night to help with the winding down process.
While you’re here, why not check out my recent post recommending great books to read?
So there you have it. 12 tips to get a better night’s sleep. I’ve been sleeping a lot better after some troubled nights in recent months and I put it down to a combination of all the the things I mention in this post.
As I mentioned earlier, I don’t use all of the methods every single night but I try to combine as many as I can. Now that I’m used to practising a few of these every night, they have become habit.
If you have any other tips for me, please comment below and let me know. Or if you try any of the tips I have suggested or buy any of the products I’ve recommended, let me know how you get on with them.
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