Tuesday, August 9, 2016
5 Tips and Tricks For The Best Sleep Ever
Last week, I went to the launch of Heal's new sleep studio, where I heard blogger and interior stylist Maxine of We Love Home share her tips for a good night's sleep. I loved it so much, it made me think of my own sleep routine and what I did when I struggled with a short period of insomnia last week.
I'm usually the type of person who can drop off to sleep quite easily; the type of person who'll boast, "I'm asleep before my head hits the pillow!" Of course, that is, when my husband's not away for travel (or there's at least a friend sleeping over in the guest room on the floor below) and I'm not feeling particularly anxious or worried about an upcoming event. In those situations, I have a terrible time falling asleep and often don't drop off until about 1 or 2 in the morning, waking up feeling groggy and in a totally bad mood (which is no surprise, since this 2012 survey conducted by Sleepio showed that you're twice as likely to suffer from low mood and struggle to be productive if you've had a bad night's sleep).
Last week, I had one of those weeks, and I kept waking up between 2:00 - 4:00 a.m. In the throes of insomnia, I ended up buying an expensive electric toothbrush (because it was on Amazon deals, y'all and because - let's be honest - it was the "rose gold edition") and watching episodes of Gilmore Girls until I dreamt that Rory was my friend and Lorelai was my adoptive mom. You get the picture.
On the fourth night, I finally had enough of this and found some ways to help me get some restful sleep. I thought I'd share this with you because, in talking to friends, I've discovered that insomnia and sleeplessness are more common than I thought.
So, here are five things that help me get to sleep when I need it:
The 'Sleep With Me' podcast
I stumbled upon this podcast reviewed in The New Yorker and became instantly hooked after it worked the first night I tried it. After that, if I was feeling particularly anxious, listening to it helped me drop off to a restful night's sleep and - more importantly - it helped me stay asleep through the night. Billed as, "The podcast that puts you to sleep: a lulling, droning, boring bedtime story to distract your racing mind", I initially thought that Drew Ackerman's rambling stories delivered in his upstate New York accent would irritate me and, worse, keep me awake. But I soon found out that they were perfect for falling asleep to because you can drop in and out without feeling like you're missing out on any crucial aspect of the "story", if you know what I mean. I'll focus on his words and follow them half-way, before spacing out, then dropping back in, and, before I know it, I'll wake to sunlight streaming through my windows. It's that good. I usually put it on my phone on medium-volume on my bedside table after I've turned the lights out.
A mini-yoga routine after brushing my teeth
I recently bought the Philips Sonicare Diamondclean toothbrush (ahem, the very item I bought when I couldn't sleep) and now brushing my teeth is one of the most calming things ever. Unlike other electric toothbrushes, it's very quiet, and feels like my gums are being massaged! But anyway. I digress. Sometimes after brushing my teeth, I like to dim the lights, unroll my yoga mat in my room and treat myself to a little 10-minute routine. Nothing energetic like chaturanga or bow pose, but just simple things like lying on my back in a restorative position (or with my legs up the wall) and stretching/doing a few twists. For me, twists release so much tension in my back and body; I literally feel like I'm "wringing" out the stresses of my day. John watched me do this from the bed once and was so curious, he tried it on the next night and said he felt much better too!
Avoiding social media (or my phone at all) at bedtime
I know you're not supposed to have electronics in your bedroom at all, but I always keep my phone next to me since I live far from my family and I'm always worried about getting a call in the middle of the night (knock on wood!). I'm really bad at resisting the urge to check Instagram, Twitter or Facebook right before bed and on the nights that I do, I go to sleep feeling agitated or with my mind racing. I've already turned off the notifications on my phone for these platforms (which has significantly decreased my feelings of anxiety throughout the day), but I find it's best to avoid them completely if I want a good night's sleep. It's kind of easier said than done, though, especially as a blogger (I'm sure at least a few of you can relate?).
Jumping into an already-made bed
Okay. I'll hold my hands up to this one: this is 100% me. John leaves the house a full two hours before I do (yep, he leaves for work at 6:00 a.m. or earlier every single morning) and I am terrible at making the bed everyday, even though we have gorgeous, huge decorative cushions from The White Company that you'd think would encourage me to do so. Nope, I just leave them plopped on the floor/armchair while the bed looks like Tracey Emin's masterpiece. But entering into a room with an unmade bed just draws my focus and attention to the disorder and chaos of the rumpled covers and pillows that are askew. Lately, I've been making more of an effort to smooth out the duvet, plump up the pillows and prop up our lovely cushions from The White Company before I leave for work. It feels much calmer and almost like a treat to crawl into that bed at night!
Wearing an eye shade
If I really have trouble sleeping, I'll wear an eye shade like this one . Our street is relatively quiet, so I don't have a problem with noise. We have blackout blinds in our room, but during the summer when our windows are open, some ambient light gets in and I'll start trying to make shapes out in the room when I'm attempting to drop off to sleep. My friend made a lovely eye shade for me using beautiful Liberty fabric and I love wearing it. It's very light and silky, so I can barely feel it when it's on (unlike the heavy-duty one I like to use on the plane) and it doesn't bother me if it slips off in the middle of the night (which always happens) and I find it at, you know, at the foot of my bed or something.
When I had a more regular yoga practice, I'd be instructed to engage my ujjayi breath in flow classes and we'd often do breathing exercises at the beginning or end of a class. There's so much emphasis on "finding your breath" in yoga, which is a great reminder for me as I'm quite an anxious person by nature, so I find myself shortening my breath throughout the day. My favorite trick is something I learned in class, which is to inhale for six counts - briefly pausing at the top of the breath - before exhaling for six counts. I felt myself getting close to having a panic attack the other day when I was squished in a tube carriage on the Central Line on one of the hottest days in London ... I felt like I couldn't breathe and there were bodies pressed into mine, but we were passing through a tunnel, so there was nothing I could do. I quickly changed my focus to my breathing, counting to six each time I inhaled and exhaled. I made it all the way to my destination this way - counting each time the tube went through a tunnel, and it worked, just as it works when I'm trying to fall asleep.
So, those are the five things that work for me. Do you have trouble sleeping? What works for you? I'm curious to know!