Sleep – we love it, we need it, but boy, sometimes is it tough to get. You may be stressed out, working late or looking after little ones… and despite your head hitting the pillow, you’re laying there, anxious and wide awake. If this is sounding familiar, please do not despair – here are 6 strategies to handle these situations – so next time it arises, you know exactly what to do.
1. Practice a quality bedtime routine
For those with little kids, you’ll know – a night without a quality bedtime routine is chaos, to say the least. And, although we aren’t kids ourselves, we are governed by many of the same principles, especially when it comes to routines. Following a set of steps prior to bed provides psychological cues to indicate that it’s time to sleep, and help your brainwaves move from a highly active beta state to a slower, calmer theta state. On the other hand, if you simply arrive into your bed without an unwind process, your brain is still in beta, feeling like an inability to switch off.
2. Diffuse some essential oil
Help your body relax that little bit easier with aromatherapy – it naturally helps the body unwind and is a valuable tool in your sleep kit. While lavender is of course, our hero sleep scent, a blend with a few calming components can help you feel more at ease from multiple angles – so may be more effective for you. One brand offering this is Bosisto’s in their Sleep Oil, with an aromatic blend of lavender, banksia and nerolina. Note – Note, this is ideal both before bed and through the night alike.
4. Have a hot chocolate
If you’re finding it hard to unwind and feeling peckish, you may worry – what can you eat that doesn’t ruin your sleep? While yes, eating within 1 hour of bed can double the likelihood of waking through the night, as noted in this research paper, if you are smart about it, this doesn’t have to be the case. In fact, if you seek out a low sugar, magnesium and zinc rich beverage, such as The Collagen Co’s Collagen Dream Advanced Sleep Formula, you’re likely to improve your sleep, rather than impair it. This is especially important for me at the moment – with my recent ski injury, my body needs all the healing it can get, and having a collagen sleep drink helps with exactly this. Collagen sleep support?! I am here for it!
3. If you haven’t fallen asleep within 20 minutes, get up
This may sound counterintuitive; but in fact, by forcing ourselves to get out of bed, we are able to return to sleep with greater ease. Essentially, when we are laying in bed ruminating, our brain comes to associate cues in our environment, including our bed, with rumination itself. And, by removing yourself from the space, you change your cues, and consequently change your behaviour – including mental activity. Of course though, you need to occupy your mind with an alternative activity to occupy your mind, and ideally, that is not using a phone – my number one recommendation is below.
Meditation can be our greatest ally in the middle of the night – it can slow our brainwaves down into a theta state, helping us feel more calm. Founder of Meditate Now Sabina Vitacca notes the practice can “act as a buffer from intrusive thoughts, helping us feel relaxed”; akin to advice from founder of Mr Meditate, Tomas Jajasnica: “meditation can be helpful for those with anxiety – even for those who are new”. The research reflects this too: this clinical trial found meditation can lower cortisol, an awakening hormone, that can otherwise contribute to light, unrefreshing and broken sleep.
6. Reframe the situation
In complete honesty, given that we are humans, not machines, sometimes we aren’t going to have a great night’s sleep – and that’s ok. What’s important to know here is that it’s completely normal to have a bad night’s sleep once in a while, and it says absolutely nothing about your success or failure as a person. While it may require a recalibration of your schedule; and potentially an email to postpone your first meeting; recognising that this is just part of life can be helpful. However, it’s a consistent problem, do not hesitate to reach out for support to your trusted health professional – you deserve to feel well rested and refreshed; and often, the solution is easier than you think.