From exercising to routine, our Lifestyle Editor Sorcha O'Connor gives you her top tips and tricks to help you get a good night's sleep.
“Ugh, I had such a bad sleep last night!” is a complaint I think we have all either heard or uttered to ourselves at some stage or other.
It might be when we are that bit more worried than usual or have a lot on our mind that we find our sleeping pattern falls out of whack and the day ahead looks a lot longer than it should.
Of course, there are many other simple reasons for getting a bad night’s sleep other than a worried mind – your room might be too hot or too cold for example or you could be disturbed by a yowling, inconsiderate cat in the back garden (which has happened to me, a lot).
Many people are of course also disturbed by nightmares.
Whatever the reason for it, failing to get a good night’s sleep can be detrimental for both our physical and mental well-being.
One night isn’t going to do much harm – you might feel a bit sluggish and only want to nap for the whole next day.
However, if disturbed sleep or entirely sleepless nights become a routine, we need to take action.
Interestingly, as I researched for this post, I found that with a disturbed sleep – one which we lie awake for periods of time – we are actually getting more sleep than we would perceive.
Usually those stretches of time can be whiled away by worrying about life (or indeed, worrying about not sleeping) and are consequently made feel longer than they actually are.
Nights with little or no sleep can leave a person feeling low, unenergetic and unenthusiastic. This can culminate in a depression.
Further still, our body can get into the habit of not sleeping, culminating in the person suffering from insomnia.
As I have mentioned, sleepless nights are caused by numerous factors; being overly anxious, consuming too much caffeine during the day and rumination (thinking about something over and over, but coming to no resolution) to name a few.
So what can we do to improve our sleep? Well, the answers are pretty simple and hopefully, if you are struggling with getting some quality shut-eye, the following tips and tricks I have gathered/ used myself will help you out!
Spritz a bit of lavender oil onto your pillow or burn some in your room over a candle (you can buy candle holders specifically for this) before you go to bed. Lavender smells beautiful and aids sleep – just be sure to blow out the candle before you drift off!
A new mattress
Is an uncomfortable bed the issue? Investing in a new mattress could be the way to go.
Stop using electronic devices an hour before bed
Your brain is too alert and active to fall asleep if you are staring at a screen and absorbing information just before you go to sleep.
Wake up and go to bed at the same time every day to get your body clock back into routine. On the weekend try not lie in until 2pm no matter how tempting it may seem!
You might think your body needs it, but you are probably better off sticking with your sleeping pattern to ensure you can fall asleep soundly again the following night.
Only use your bed for sleeping and sex
Never study in bed or eat in bed so your brain associates bed with sleeping.
Don’t drink caffeine in the evening
It is actually recommended not to drink it after 12pm as caffeine stays in your system for up to 12 hours, but if that is too hard and you enjoy a coffee, at least try to avoid it after 5pm.
Watch your eating habits
Do you eat just before bed and feel full and bloated? This can lead to a bad night’s sleep. Try not to eat after 8pm unless it is a special occasion.
Deep breathing exercises
I used these exercises before (Relaxation Breathing & Insomnia Progressive Muscle Relaxation) and found they really helped when I was anxious.
A good book
I’m a bit of a self-confessed nerd and have always loved reading. If ever I can’t drift off, I turn to a book.
Getting into the habit of reading before bed helps you switch off from your worries as you become absorbed in the story. I always find that this helps me – the pages are falling out of my Harry Potter books at this stage, they’ve been read so often!
Nightmares can be very distressing and it would seem that talking about what you have nightmared (is that a verb?) about with someone you trust can really help. You can get to the root of the problem – is the nightmare caused for a particular reason, for example. Counselling can also help the situation.
Take a bath before bed
Forget the water charges for an evening and treat yourself to a nice, relaxing soak in the bath at the end of a long day to relax your muscles.
Exercise in the evening can really help sleep, even just a walk around the block or a nice cycle can work wonders. However, don’t exert yourself after 9pm as it can have the opposite effect and keep you wired.
Sleep is a rather complex thing and understanding it is something that can also aid us getting a better quality sleep each night.
I hope this has helped in some way, I know it can be tough when you want to sleep but your body just can’t seem to do it.
Best of luck!