If you have difficulty sleeping or you’re waking up tired, then over the course of a week, take a note of your sleep patterns, your diet and your lifestyle. See if you can identify any correlations that could reveal what is causing the sleep issues.

Often, all it takes to sleep better is simple changes such as cutting back on coffee, not watching too much television, or not being on your phone late at night. This may sound obvious to some of you, but many people don’t notice the correlations.

But it’s also worth remembering that we change. Life evolves. And what was okay for you one month might affect you in different ways the next. Our sleeping requirements fluctuate in life, and there are many reasons for these variations.

What follows here is a list of practical tips for sleeping well:

  • Ensure you do some physical movement or exercise during the day, but not within three hours of going to bed. Some gentle stretching before bed can be beneficial, but nothing too vigorous.
  • Don’t have any heavy protein after about 7pm — no red meat, cheese etc. And it’s best to avoid having food or drink with high sugar, sweetener or caffeine contents after about 3pm.
  • Chamomile or lavender tea is very relaxing. Drink a mug full about two hours before bed.
  • Get ready for bed at least an hour before you intend to be asleep. So, perhaps, brush your teeth, put on pyjamas or a dressing gown and wind down for an hour before you actually go to bed.
  • About an hour or two before bed, you could have a warm bath with around 20 drops of lavender essential oil added and two cups of Epsom salt.
  • If your bedroom receives light pollution, install black-out curtains or blinds. If that is not an option, buy a silk or cotton blindfold (eye mask) to wear when you sleep. The less light disturbance, the better your sleep will be. If you are afraid of the dark, ensure your night-light is not too bright and is orange in colour.
  • Due to all the man-made light sources, sometimes our body and mind can lose a bearing on when the morning is and when the evening is. Another useful tip, is to go outside and look in the direction of the sun shortly after you get up in the morning. This helps to set up a beneficial circadian rhythm, so your body clock will then know when it is time to sleep.
  • It’s not recommended to watch television, listen to radio or spend time on electronic devices shortly before bed. It’s usually too much stimulation. And you’ll sleep best if you have at least an hour before bed where you are not experiencing any significant stimulus.
  • If you have to be on your computer or phone until late, make sure you have ‘night mode’ activated. Or install an app such as f.lux that will automatically dull the blue light and turn the screen more orange as the sun goes down. Blue light is very stimulating and orange is more relaxing.
  • Ensure your bedroom is quiet. Use earplugs if there is noise that disturbs you.
  • Don’t sleep with a mobile phone near your head. Turn off wi-fi and Bluetooth on all your devices. Unplug any electric blankets.
  • Ensure the temperature is right for you — not too hot and not too cold. Wool duvets regulate heat naturally. Yet, synthetic materials tend not to breathe well and can become too hot or cold. Ensure that any radiators in the bedroom are not set to make a significant temperature change during the night.
  • Keep the air fresh in your bedroom by regularly opening the windows.
  • Some people find standing on grass for a few minutes before going to bed can have a grounding and relaxing effect.
  • Make a simple spray with lavender oil and water, and spray your pillows shortly before going to bed. You could also use a diffuser with some lavender oil in your bedroom.
  • Dedicate your bedroom to relaxing and sleeping. So, in terms of furnishings and items, keep it soothing. Bright and vibrant colours can be over stimulating, but deep shades of either blue, green or red are usually conducive to sleep.
  • Wash your bedding fabrics only with natural, eco-friendly laundry products. The chemicals in mainstream products can often act as stimulants. The same goes for personal hygiene and cosmetic products that can also act as stimulants. Be mindful of what you use, especially if you take a shower or bath at the end of the day.
  • Buy a new mattress if you feel uncomfortable. Natural latex mattresses come in a range of firmness and are typically the least toxic and most comfortable mattresses.
  • You might be more comfortable using pillows stuffed with wool or kapok, instead of feather or polyester pillows that can cause over-heating. Also, consider the optimal firmness of your pillows. If a pillow is too firm or too soft, this can create discomfort and disturb your sleep.
  • You could try the old trick of eating a spoonful of raw honey with some Himalayan salt sprinkled on top shortly before bed.
  • Lower stress levels and induce calmness by practising relaxation techniques. You could do the body scan technique an hour before you intend to be asleep.
  • As you’re laying in bed, it can help to calmly repeat in your mind an affirmation such as, “With each new breath, I am drifting closer and closer to a deep and restorative sleep.”
  • You can play minimal soothing music or a nature sounds audio for an hour to assist you to drift off to sleep. Many people find the sound of rain to be soothing.
  • I don’t recommend pharmaceutical sleeping pills, they can be harmful and often disrupt important dreaming processes. Take natural Valerian capsules if you really feel the need.
  • Foods high in Tryptophan can assist with sleep. Also, ensure you are receiving sufficient levels of vitamin B6, zinc, calcium and magnesium.
  • Once in bed, go back through the day in your mind’s eye. You’ll probably find yourself pondering on certain events, and that is good, as you’ll process thoughts and emotions from the day. Often, you’ll fall straight to sleep once you’ve gone through the day in your mind, and this practise can also help to lighten the load for your dream cycles.
  • Some people prefer to write a journal or make an audio recording about their day before bed, and this will serve the same purpose as above.
  • If you are worrying about the next day, then run through in your mind what you are planning. Perform a mental checklist of the preparations you have made and anything you will need to do the next day. You can also visualise what you plan to do and what you want to happen, and this can put your mind at ease.
  • It can also be beneficial to say a prayer or to affirm your goals and intentions. Feeling inspired and reassured will put you at ease.
  • Sometimes, you can have ideas and inspirations as you’re drifting closer to sleep, and these ideas can ping you awake. If this is happening, keep a notepad and pen handy so you can make a note of your ideas. You will usually then be able to fall asleep soon afterwards.
  • You don’t want to keep reinforcing in your mind that your bed is a place where you do not sleep. So, if you can’t sleep after about one hour, it is best to get up, leave your bedroom and do something. Don’t eat anything, and do something mundane, so you’re not rewarding yourself for not sleeping and not creating any major stimulus. Mop the floor, organise the filing cabinets, read a dull novel — any mundane task that doesn’t create much excitement. Keep going until you are exhausted and have to sleep. Then, the key is, to always get up at exactly the same time, no matter how much sleep you’ve managed to get. Even on Sunday morning, get up at exactly the same time. Stick to this discipline, and it will help you to fall asleep at the time you want.

© Adrian Connock

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