If you struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep, give these practical tips a try.
Create your own calming evening routine
Quiet time, candles, book, bath. Whatever helps you relax and unwind (other than wine!). Plan to spend the last hour of your evening doing activities that truly serve you – whether that’s switching off in front of the TV, reading, journalling, meditation, or quality screen-free time with loved ones. What will make you feel best and most relaxed before bed?
Brain dump your thoughts
If you’re anything like me, lying in bed is when you have an idea that gets you excited, or remember something you must do tomorrow. Thoughts start whirring in your brain and suddenly you’re wide awake. Something that’s helped myself and many of my clients is keeping a notepad by their bed. Anything that pops up, offload it onto there ready to deal with in the morning.
Go to bed at the same time
Preferably around 10-10.30pm. If you’re far away from this time, gradually moving yourself closer to it in 15 minute chunks can really help. Our bodies thrive on routine, and a bedtime around 10-10.30 is ideal for a healthy circadian rhythm. Sticking close to this at weekends could work wonders for your sleep and energy levels too.
Keep your room cool and as dark as possible
It’s amazing how much impact blackout blinds, darker curtains, or an open window can make. If it’s noisy outside or a really warm night, we’ve found having a fan running in the bedroom really helpful, both for a breeze and background ‘white noise’. I can also highly recommend an eye mask – makes a huge difference if there’s any light in the room. Just the act of putting it on also signals to your body – it’s time to sleep now.
Preferably before the evening, so your body has time to unwind. Two to four sessions of fun, higher intensity activity that gets your heart rate up over the week can have an enormous benefit to sleep, as well as physical and mental health. Particularly when much of your day involves sitting, any extra movement gives your body more reason to enter deep sleep so it can work on recovery. If the evenings are the only time you can exercise in the week, a walk or yoga session are two great options.
Eat protein and carbs in your last meal
Yep, carbs can be good before bed! Both protein and carbohydate foods provide tryptophan – precursor to serotonin, which helps you relax and get to sleep. The best type of carbs would be natural high fibre options, so the digestion is slow and steady. Sweets have a different and less beneficial effect (sadly). Helpful carbs include boiled or baked potatoes, rice, oats, quinoa, beans and pulses. Great sources of protein include chicken, turkey, meat, fish, tofu, eggs, greek yogurt and whey protein.
No screens before bed
In an ideal world, we’d all stop using our phones and tablets after 9pm, then have a calm conversation with someone we love, journal, read a book and go to bed. If you do still use your phone, it’s helpful to set the blue light filter on that and other gadgets to come on at 9pm. This minimises the blue light that can play havoc with our body’s sleep signals. Another positive step would be to use a pair of amber glasses, which you can buy online for as little as £10.
Supplement with magnesium
Magnesium is a mineral found in foods including spinach, whole grains, quinoa, nuts, seeds, avocado and dark chocolate (win). It can help reduce aches, pains and anxiety, boost relaxation, and reduce migraines, so it can be worth trying a supplement if any of these are an issue. Magnesium citrate absorbs better in the gut than magnesium oxide (which is cheaper and often used in multivitamins), so seek out the citrate form, and take it 1-2 hours before bed for best effect.
Try listening to a meditation app
I’m a huge fan of the Calm app, which has sleep stories (great way to distract your brain) as well as short meditations and calming sounds to listen to. Headspace and Insight Timer are two other great meditation apps worth checking out. Put your phone into flight mode and switch the WiFi back on to minimise signals and radiation when it’s close to you at night.
Get outside in natural morning light
As well as boosting your mood and energy for the day ahead, standing outside (without sunglasses) exposes your eyes to natural UV light that helps to calibrate your internal body clock. On a warm sunny day you’ll get a boost of vitamin D too. At least 20 minutes in the morning is ideal, but as with pretty much everything – something is better than nothing.
I hope this helps – pick one or two of these tips, give them enough time to take effect, and let me know how you get on 🙂
Below is an infographic with 8 of these 10 tips – feel free to screenshot for a reminder and reference, and as always if you have any questions or would like to enquire about online coaching, get in touch with me HERE.