Updated: Apr 8
Before starting, I would like to apologise for my discontinuity in posting in the last weeks.
I had a very stress full period at work due to the current situation: the shop changed trading hours last week but eventually closed in the weekend until further notice so I didn't have the time to write. But the good news is that I have got tons of time for it now that I will stay at home!
Today I would like to talk about rest and sleep.
How hugely important is it? I know for personal experience how difficult is to face a day with just a couple of hours of sleep or none at all. Long periods without sufficient rest can lower our immune system and make us more prone to get ill. It is absolutely crucial to keep your body and mind healthy.
I am not an expert but I have struggled with insomnia in the past (sometimes even now) so I have got a couple of tips for you that have worked for me. The majority of them are actually healthy habits that will be good for you in the long run anyway!
Write down what makes you anxious in a diary and plan you next day ahead
I am a rather anxious creature. I need to have always my stuff under control, otherwise I can't relax. It has happened to me quite a few times to wake up during the night (usually around 2) because I felt I was forgetting something. Then instead to go back to sleep, my mind had started to brood about what I would have wear the next day and to check if my alarm was on or if I didn't forget to lock the entrance door and stupid things like that.
I found profoundly helpful to plan and organise everything before going to bed: what to wear the next morning, what to eat, what time should I leave the house, my journey and so on. I know it sound ridiculous probably but these shallow things piling up in your mind will make you tense and they will cause you anxiety if you don't deal with them in advance. We are very busy on a daily basis so trying to organise as much as we can it will be beneficial overall in productivity terms as well.
This method is vital especially during a stressful period or when I have something that concerns me. Instead of thinking about that particular issue constantly, I prefer to write it down in a sort of "anxiety diary". It is super effective I swear. Just allow your mind to go wild, listing everything that can possibly go wrong and add also the possible solutions to said problems (if there are any) and then when you close you diary try not to think about it anymore. I found it very therapeutic. It literally cleanse my brain.
Make you room dark
I usually wear an eye mask as light really disturb my sleep. It is surprising how many sources of lights we actually have in our rooms while we are trying to sleep: computer, mobile phones. tablets, TV, street lamps outside, devices on charge. No. It is very disruptive for your brain which struggles to relax because nature made it sensitive to it: we are programmed to wake up or stay in a sort of alert mode when there is light around us, even a small one. Shut everything down (yes, directly from the plug!) and use a normal alarm clock instead of your phone. Invest in some thick dark fabric curtains. You will see immediate results, I promise.
Wear noise canceling ear plugs
If you live in a big city or somewhere noisy, invest in some good quality noise canceling ear plugs. You won't regret it. They make a huge difference and they are also very useful if you are commuting or traveling very often.
Temperature of the room
"Your body heat peaks in the evening and then drops to its lowest levels when you're asleep, so a cool 16-18°C (60-65°F) is thought to be an ideal temperature in a bedroom. Temperatures over 24°C (71°F) are likely to cause restlessness, while a cold room of about 12°C (53°F) will make it difficult to drop off." I am quoting what the sleep council recommend. The best thing to do is to set your heating in the winter like so: warm the room up in the evening but switch it off before going to bed.
In the summer when it's too hot, make sure to air the room properly but don't keep the air-con on during the night: it will dry your skin and your nose and chances are that you will catch a cold.
Do some yoga or stretching before going to bed
After a long working day, take a few minutes to stretch your muscles to get rid of the accumulated tension: it will calm down your mind too.
It is a scientific fact: working out in a consistent way helps your body and your mind. This is what I learned from sleepfoundation.org
"Although the exact mechanisms are unknown, there are many possibilities for how exercise may reduce insomnia severity. One way may be by the body-heating effects of exercise, especially when performed in the afternoon or later. Exercise triggers an increase in body temperature, and the post-exercise drop in temperature may promote falling asleep. Exercise may also reduce insomnia by decreasing arousal, anxiety and depressive symptoms"
Disclaimer: don't do a high intensity workout right before bed. Unlike some mild yoga and stretching, it will mess up you sleep.
Take a hot bath
One of my favourite self-treats after a tough day in the cold months and a well-known sleep remedy. The warmth of the water will literally melt your tension away, especially if you add some epsom salts or essential oils such as lavender. I literally sleep like a baby after that.
Listen to an audiobook or read
It's not a new thing that reading will increase your chances to fall asleep and it will also improve also the quality of your sleep. 1 year and a half ago, I started to read a few pages every evening while in bed. Not only my written English level is much better than it used to be, but it really helped me to relax and therefore to sleep through the entire night without waking up. If reading is not your cup of tea, try audiobooks. They are as effective as the actual book. I sometimes have itchy eyes in the evening so when I can't focus on a real book, I just listen to it.
Wear something comfy or nothing at all
That should be common sense but I lately realised that people still don't understand how important is. I heard about people sleeping with their make up on, with their bra still on, wearing thongs or leggings. That for me is enough to know why you keep waking up during the night. If it's winter and you are cold, wear a cotton PJ and cashmere socks. If you are hot, a t-shirt or a vest is fine. I am aware that would sound unorthodox, but you should skip the underwear (except during your period obviously and in that case only super comfy big cotton knickers).
According to experts, the best practice would be to be completely naked to let our skin breathe and our body to naturally adjust the temperature. My gynaecologist suggested that when I had recurrent thrush and it has been life changing for me!
Use essential oils
Nature gave us some amazing remedies that too often we ignore. I bought an aroma diffuser device last year and I am very happy with it. Turn it on an hour before bed or while you are having a relaxing bath: the scent of the essential oils will definitely knock you down and you will feel refreshed the following day.
The most effective ones are:
Try a pillow spray
If you don't have time for all of the above, a quick way of ease your sleep will be to spray a specific mist on your pillow. It is usually made out of essential oils and therefore is natural. The best brand I have tried so far is Deep sleep pillow spray form thisworks. A true revelation. Another very effective one is by NEOM and it has relaxing proprieties.
Music or nature sounds
I remember when I first came in London I was sharing a flat with my landlady and she kept me awake in the night because she snore. I used to sleep with my ear cuffs on playing 8 hours nature sounds playlist from youtube. No ads = sleep guaranteed.
Sleep with someone you love and cuddle
Cuddles are essential for you wellbeing in general. It could be your cat/dog, your baby or your partner, it doesn't really matter. The important thing is for you to find the time for that. 15-20 minutes of cuddles in bed with the lights off. I don't think there is anything more comforting than that. Cuddling releases oxytocin, the chemical responsible that naturally lowers stress levels, so cuddling before or during the night can keep you feeling relaxed and sleeping soundly. Bonus: your immune system gets a boost.
Change your mattress or pillow
Don't be stingy on these two things. Choose good quality ones that will make you sleep better and improve your overall posture and health. The way you sleep at night should tell you which kind you need. Me and my boyfriend chose a firm memory foam mattress as it is recommended for who suffer from back pain. I usually sleep on my right side and I recommend this pillow which is specific and offers more comfort and support than a regular one.
No social media at least one hours before bed
This is key: it is proven that scrolling down your Instagram feed won't be beneficial for your sleep. Switch off your phone at least an hour before going to bed. Would you like to watch a movie? No problem! Just make sure you spare 20 minutes for reading and relax before actually sleeping.
Drink some herbal tea 2 hours before going to bed
Chamomile and Valerians are the most famous herbal teas for a good night sleep but if you don't like them there are other effective alternatives. Important tip: don't drink a giant mug of chamomile right before going to bed. You will wake up desperate for a wee wee. At least 2 hours before bed so you can pee it out.
Check what you eat at dinner
Sugar, coffee and alcohol are enemies of good sleep. Just avoid them in the evening and don't eat too much at dinner.
Go to bed always at the same time
The best rule to follow would be to wake up when the sun rise and go to bed when it sets but nowadays this is not always possible. Set you alarm at a specific time everyday and don't snooze! In the evening, stick to the same bed time. These good habits will play an decisive role as sleep is really affected by our habits. If you lack sleep, try no to go to bed too early because you are tired. Train your mind and body to follow the same hours and it will improve massively.
Another rule (not always easy to follow though) is not to work from your bedroom for daytime activities because our brain will associate your bed to action rather than relax time.
Avoid afternoon naps
My dad has the worst sleeping habits in the world: he always takes an hour nap right after lunch, goes to bed very early for waking up at 2, watch an hour or two of tv snacking and then go back to bed and sleep in the early morning. He had two strokes. The doctors said that this lifelong habit really didn't help.
I believe that afternoon naps are unhealthy for adults and they could be done as an exception to the rules (for example after a long travel to beat the jet lag) but it shouldn't be an habit. If you didn't sleep last night don't give up and try to stay awake during the day. It will be easier to go back on track in the evening.
Make sure you get enough sunlight
Exposure to sunlight is thought to increase the brain's release of a hormone called serotonin. Serotonin is associated with boosting mood and helping a person feel calm and focused. At night, darker lighting triggers the brain to make another hormone called melatonin. This hormone is responsible for helping you sleep.
Not exposing in the sun at all can cause a lack in vitamin D which leads to your serotonin levels to dip. Low levels of serotonin are associated with a higher risk of major depression and to bad bone health.
I hope you guys enjoyed my post and found some useful tips to sleep better!
Next post will be on Friday! Have a lovely start of the week and if you can please stay home and be safe!
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