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.

Breathing exercises

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!
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24 comments

  1. I'm so guilty of being on social media before bedtime and I'm not a great sleeper!

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    1. Ah ... that will do it, Angie! Whenever I check Instagram or Twitter right before bed, I end up being awake for HOURS, even if I feel perfectly relaxed!

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  2. Jaime! first, rushing over to the White Company right now (and hoping you were referring to those grey pillows in the first picture...GORGEOUS.

    Two tips I have to add:
    First, lavender! I have a lavender sleep balm by Badger Balm that I keep by my bed and take with me wherever I travel. I put it everywhere (wrists, under my nose, temples, ON my lips, around my eyes, wherever). It has a light scent and is very moisturizing and helps me nod off faster. I also own a huge bottle of lavender essential oil (Amazon has the best prices Ive found (Majestic Pure lavender Essential Oil, Therapeutic Grade) that I put on my rug, pillows, and eye mask which essentially drugs me into a lavender-induced sleep.
    Second, similar to your breathing exercises, I have a meditation app called Breathe. There is a specific meditation called 'Falling Asleep' that I listen to while laying down (in no proper meditation pose) with my sleep mask on. It helps to calm my mind. I like the 'Welcoming the Day' one as well, which I listen to when I wake up before getting out of bed when Im feeling particularly anxious about the day.

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    1. Oh my gosh - SO looking up that Breathe app; thank you for the recommendation! Maxine from WeLoveHome said she uses a lavender linen spray before bedtime ... I'm definitely thinking of incorporating some kind of lavender into my routine!

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  3. I'm always inherently jealous of those 'before my head hits the pillow' types. I struggle to nod off, wake up regularly and am up with the lark without fail. An aside: I don't know anyone who says 'up with the lark' in the real world.

    An eye mask was a complete game changer for me, blocking out that bit of light has helped me stay asleep much longer, until my body feels like waking in fact. I do need to do more before bed though, I sometimes go through a short meditation on YouTube, they can be incredibly relaxing. I'm a big fan of the pre-bed bath too. I guess in the same way as the teeth brushing I do get a lot of relaxation out of hair brushing before bed. Even better if the husband gives in and does mine for me (rarely I hasten to add)!

    I do like the idea of yoga before bed, so thanks for that suggestion. The idea of wringing out the toil of the day is a lovely one.



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    1. My husband struggles a lot with sleeping and gets annoyed that I can drop off so easily. That is so sweet that your husband brushes your hair!!! Mine will sometimes dry my hair for me while I flop off the edge of the bed, haha! I hope the yoga helps a little bit ... it makes me feel all nice and physically relaxed when I climb into bed.

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  4. These are some handy tips Jamie, thanks for sharing. I'm particularly intrigued by the podcast, I saw you mention it on Twitter too. I'll definitely give it a try if I have trouble falling asleep. Like you, I'm typically good at passing out. Admittedly, scrolling through my social media has more than once ruined my sleep so I try to stay away from my phone when in bed (doesn't always happen, but I try). My best insomnia remedy is very old school - reading real (not kindle) book. It has never failed to put me to sleep. Although what I really struggle with lately is the quality of sleep. For example, last night I slept for eight and a half hours straight, but hardly woke up filling tired, as if I never slept! Not sure how to "cure" that. xoxo, nano

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    1. I'd be interested to see what you think of the podcast, Nano! John said it was too funny so he couldn't sleep to it. Ha! Real reading before bed is also great! I end up losing my place in books because I doze off and it just falls to the floor. I love falling asleep while reading on vacations! It feels so indulgent. Hmm ... I wonder what would help with restful sleep! Maybe you have too much on your mind?! xoxo

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  5. I never make my bed and my husband and I are always on our phones before bed..... which is not only bad for us, for our time together, but I know how bad it is for sleeping. And he is a terrible sleeper! After reading this I am going to start trying to get off the phones before bed and actually make my bed. I always thought making the bed was a waste of time but if it helps us sleep better I'll try it!

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    1. I think just making one of those changes would be really helpful, Carolann - maybe just the bed making? See how it goes! I'm really bad at making my bed and, in fact, the other night, I only made it a few minutes before we got in! But it still made a difference ... sometimes I go one step further and iron my sheets and pillowcases ... the ultimate!

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  6. Fear not, I've just impulse bought that toothbrush after reading this. My current one is so loud and it makes my whole head vibrate which is not pleasant - it was time to invest in something nice.

    I talked a lot about "sleep hygiene" with my doctors cause I'm a rubbish sleeper and lots of these points are things that I'm trying to do. Audio books, making the bed, a little stretching before bed - I have physio exercises to do anyway - are so helpful!

    But the biggie has been keeping my phone and iPad away from the bed. So difficult but it really does work so well.

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    1. I hope you like that toothbrush! I absolutely love mine, and even John's convinced. "Sleep hygiene" is such an interesting concept - I like the sound of that! I need to work on not looking at my phone ... so hard!

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    2. Just reporting back to say I LOVE THAT TOOTHBRUSH SO MUCH. It's so gentle on my gums and so soothingly quiet. True convert. Plus it's gorgeous in my bathroom... not that that should matter, but still.

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    3. HAHA! I love that you love it! I find it so relaxing to brush my teeth now! Downside: the brush heads are SO expensive. :(

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    4. I bought 8 on Amazon which will last me two years (!!!) and they only came out to about £3.80 each cause I had a voucher. Not too bad! Just so long as it lasts that long. :D

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  7. I'm quite a light sleeper and it takes me a while to sleep so going on social media really doesn't help, I'm trying to stop it! And I'm straight on it as soon as I wake, it's such a bad habit haha
    I've always considered an eye shade, think I should invest in one x

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    1. An eye shade really helps! I'd recommend one that's silk, if possible, as they're really light and you can barely feel them ... if they slip off in the middle of the night, you won't be disturbed. I'm the same with social media - I check it at soon as I wake up as well, which is so bad, especially if I wake up early on the weekends! x

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  8. Nice. I wish I can get a long sleep as needed. Although I tried a lot, but until now I always wake up 3-5 times while sleeping. But after reading your post, I think I should try one more time. Thank you a lot

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  9. This is so inspiring! I love the post:)

    irenethayer.com

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  10. Such great tips! I've been struggling with sleep lately so I will try some of these out. I completely agree re your social media point - it's important not to go online as you're getting into bed otherwise your brain starts whizzing at 100 miles an hour. I'm definitely going to try a silk eye shade - I've tried none silk ones before and have found them a little irritating but will definitely give this tip another go! xx

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    1. Let me know if you find a good one, Maggie! I love the Liberty eye shades (though I know they're a splurge) but I think Aroma Home (or something of a similar name - I can't remember and I'm too lazy to look it up on Amazon!) make some really nice ones that are filled with lavender. The straps are padded with silky fabric, which are gentle on the back of your head and don't leave a mark on your hair!

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  11. I'm with you on the already-made bed. It's just one of those little things that only take a minute in the morning, but make any bed-time routine so luxurious... A bit like staying in a hotel.
    x Sandra Cake + Whisky

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  12. I am a significant gentle sleeper also it requires me personally some time in order to rest therefore happening social networking truly does not assist, I am attempting to cease this!

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