Top Tips For Better Sleep: And Why You Need To Get Some

Top Tips For Better Sleep: And Why You Need To Get Some

Some of us love our sleep. From childhood, we’re happy to go up to bed at the first yawn and get our 8 hours of blissful rest. Others of us have a more complex relationship with sleep. Maybe deep down we feel it gets in the way of other activities, creativity and in my case a fear of missing out. Or else we simply struggle to fall into sleep and leave the day’s stresses, worries or even happy thoughts behind. 

Difficulty sleeping is not always a sign of anxiety. Sometimes, our brains are just more active and take a little more focus to switch off for the evening. Even typically good sleepers can suffer from difficulty sleeping during times of upheaval or stress. Not to mention that bodily changes like pregnancy and menopause can make rest challenging. Yet, even for short-term problems, it’s important to find ways to get our needed rest.

Sleep for us is a lot like your computer software updating and backing itself up overnight. The purpose is to organise files, store information, run diagnostics and make any small repairs whilst we are not so operational. During sleeping hours we grow new cells, process information, carry out tissue repair and conserve energy. Much like a bad diet, lack of daily movement and other unhealthy habits, a bad sleep cycle can severely affect our physical and emotional wellbeing. It can cause severe depression, anxiety, and impact our ability to fight off disease. Protecting our sleep, especially when life is busy or potentially more stressful, is important because good health cannot be maintained without proper rest and a healthy lifestyle is key to enabling proper rest.

If you have persistent insomnia or are waking due to pain or severe stress then do consult your doctor. Meanwhile, here are some of our top tips for better sleep, which are excellent habits to form (or habits to lose) to encourage the best night’s rest for your body and mind. 

Top Tips For Better Sleep: And Why You Need To Get Some

Our Top Tips For Better Sleep

Finding it hard to get to sleep or waking up during the night can be extremely frustrating. Often, difficulties sleeping are to do with other things going on in our lives. Identifying and addressing the root causes can help to improve sleep. However, lack of sleep can also make these problems more challenging to manage. 

Establishing a healthy sleep pattern can give us the energy we need to be able to deal with all of life’s other worries, as our full-functioning selves. After all, it’s amazing what a difference a good night’s sleep (or a few) can do.

Getting Your Body Ready For Sleep

Less Alcohol And Late Night Snacks

As much as many hate to hear it, alcohol consumption does impair our sleep. Although it may help us drift off initially, the quality of sleep we get when we’ve had a drink is disrupted due to our body being busy trying to process the alcohol. Alcohol in the hours leading up to bedtime can increase the likeliness of sleep apnea and it’s not just during sleeping hours that drinking affects us. Drinking alcohol encourages the release of dopamines and serotonin, which is great, except that what goes up must come down. Therefore, when this chemical supply begins to diffuse we can be left feeling low and even anxious, especially if alcohol use is regular or particularly high. Naturally, these fluctuating feelings are going to affect our general wellbeing and therefore our sleep. Yet, according to research by a 2018 study in Finland, even one drink in an evening can decrease our sleep quality by 9.3%.

When we give our bodies too much work to do, it’s as if we’re a boss shutting up the factory for the evening but leaving the workers inside. Having worked through the night, they’re very unlikely to be as productive the next day. Late-night eating means that whilst we’re trying to sleep, our digestive system is having to stay up and keep working. This can cause a particular problem as we get older and we’re more prone to being woken up, even by our own bodies. Larger lunches and smaller dinners will allow your body to clock off and settle for sleep along with your mind. Furthermore, whilst we sleep our bodies already have a substantial to-do list that we don’t want them to neglect. Including essential cell growth and tissue repair which keeps skin healthy.

Relaxing Your Body For Sleep

As with many tips for better sleep, different approaches will work for different people and getting your body ready for sleep is no exception. Baths can work wonders for gently encouraging the body to let go of physical and emotional stresses. Allowing the body a buoyant rest in warm water can have immense soothing qualities and it’s the kind of relaxing experience that doesn’t involve television, alcohol or anything else that will affect quality of sleep as much as it can encourage it. However, there are others for whom baths hold no appeal at all and obviously if you don’t enjoy it it’s not going to soothe you for sleep.

meditation for sleep

Another method many successfully use to centre both body and mind before rest is yoga or similar forms of gentle stretching-based exercise. With breathing techniques combined into yoga, the practice is designed to rid the body and mind of tension and realign and restore balance and connectivity. There are many yoga routines and flows designed specifically to aid sleep and these can be found free of charge on youtube which allows you to explore and try out some different workouts in the privacy of your own home. As well as giving those muscles a final physical yawn before sleep, bedtime yoga also gives you a quiet, focused and dedicated 20 minutes at the end of the day to connect your body and mind. Keeping body and mind in tune with one another makes it easy for them to tune out together when it comes time to rest.

Getting Your Room Ready For Sleep

Our environment is so important both in forming and breaking habits. Creating the right setting for sleep is important because our minds link certain signals with certain activities. For example, we might associate coffee with working, or the smells of nature with peacefulness. These links can be created in an intentionally and constructive way to encourage sleep.

To begin with, you’ll want to ensure your bedroom space is not associated too strongly with other activities. Most who have wrestled with insomnia know that it's unwise to ever work from your bed, watch television in bed or spend unnecessary time in bed during the daylight hours. With the exception of a little before-bedtime reading and sexual activities, our beds should be reserved for sleeping only. This helps establish a relationship between setting and activity that allows the mind to make the transition into sleep smoother.

Tips For A Good Night's Sleep

In addition, you may add elements that, with practice, will let your mind know it’s time to rest. One of our top tips for better sleep is to use your senses to aid the transition. For instance, using a diffuser to emit lavender or a similarly relaxing scent into the room before bedtime can be highly effective. Pillow mist can also be used to create the same effect. Heavy music is probably not advisable, but using nature sounds or meditative music can help the mind drift off and the body relax. If you aren’t likely to be woken up by a full bladder as a consequence, some herbal teas contain plant extracts known to naturally aid sleep.\

One nightly ritual I have is giving myself a little foot massage. There are many pressure points in our hands and feet that stimulate or relax other parts of the body, so soothing the tiny muscles in our feet and hands can help our whole bodies to destress. Sleepy Joyce foot cream uses lavender, chamomile and ylang-ylang to soothe tired muscles and release oil scents well-known for encouraging sleep. Sitting on your bed, spend a few minutes rubbing the cream into your feet and envisaging all the day’s stresses fading away as the aroma fills the room and your muscles soften.

Tips For Getting Ready For Sleep

Another essential for your room, in my mindful opinion, is a salt lamp. Himalayan salt lamps are hunks of rock salt hollowed out to contain a heating element. They give a soft warm glow which is a much better light for before, or even during sleeping hours. In addition, their hygroscopic properties are believed to purify the air and assist in sleep, as well as boosting mood.

An Ideal Space For Sleep

Although a little chaos can be claimed to aid creativity, it’s most often order that helps us to relax enough to rest. A tidy bedroom that makes you feel calm and cosy coming into it has a lot to do with how we feel about sleep. Make your room, and particularly your bed, somewhere you really want to be. Perhaps invest in bedding that you really love, add cushions and blankets and make your bed a truly safe space that gives you all the good feels you need to slide into a happy dream world. It may sound shallow but these small aesthetic changes can do an awful lot to alter our perspective and assist our minds in resetting triggers to work for rather than against us.

Getting Your Mind Ready For Sleep

There are a few things, besides alcohol and late-night snacking, that we can do without in the hour before sleep. For many people, working before sleep can make it harder for the brain to move into a place of rest. For others, mental exertion helps to tire our busy minds. Working out which category you fit into is a trial and error exercise.

No Screens Before Bed

Phones and other screens can also be a deterrent to sleep. The blue light emitted from your phone screen throws our chemical balance off by reducing the release of melatonin, a hormone responsible for controlling your sleep-wake cycle. Too much screen time before bed affects the production of melatonin which can make it difficult to drift off to sleep.

Woman Looking At A Tablet Screen Before Bed

Late-night scrolling is a common habit for many of us but our attachment to our phones only increases anxiety. Try setting your alarm (if you use your phone alarm for waking) an hour before bed and don’t touch your phone after then. Not only will you be maintaining your chemical balance but you may feel more connected to the present and to your body. When we’re taking in information digitally, our minds are always focused on what is going on elsewhere, what might be happening in the future and what has happened before. We’re also constantly processing and reviewing the information that is being flooded into our brains and so it’s no wonder that our brains are still doing this for some time after we’ve put our phones or tablets down. Sometimes, scrolling through social media can feel like escapism, but in reality, it's keeping our minds very very busy. Hence why it’s not a good idea before bedtime.

Meditation For Sleep

With a rise in wellbeing practices, it's no wonder more and more people are using meditation to help them drift into pleasant dreams. You do not have to be a dedicated practitioner to benefit from using meditation to aid sleep. Recordings can be found on youtube as well as many mindfulness, wellness and fitness apps. Most will be between 5 and 15 minutes and will focus on relaxing the body and breath ready for sleep. Usually, you will be guided in clearing your mind of thoughts and anxieties so that you may be present and clear-headed for the night ahead. Many people find themselves drifting off during meditations, which is absolutely fine, and others still find falling asleep takes a little take but using meditation reduces the anxiety this can stimulate.

How To Sleep Better

There is no one way to sleep well and there are a variety of methods and techniques that work for different people. Establishing conditions that work for you can do wonders because, even if you still struggle to sleep, you will probably have relaxed your body and mind at least a little. Most of these tips for better sleep are good practices generally for wellbeing. Furthermore, good sleep practices are important even for those who drift off easily because they are effective as a preventative approach. Strive to create rituals rather than routines as routines can be restrictive and rituals are rewarding, as sleep should be.

Wishing you all sweet dreams.

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