We’ve heard it all before, the same old advice on how to cure insomnia or get better sleep. But what happens when you’re already unwinding 2 hours before bed, you’ve already had a bath, and you’ve tried putting lavender on your pillow? It’s exhausting when you feel like you’ve tried everything but you still just can’t sleep. I’ve pulled together some different changes I’ve made in my lifestyle that I can whole-heartedly say, it works.
I’m no doctor (so far from it, you wouldn’t believe) but after a ton of trial and error, these are some techniques that work for me. Everybody is different, and it’s worth seeing your doctor if you feel like it’s really bad. If you’re struggling to sleep, I suggest you try the basics and then give some of these alternatives a whirl, until you find something that works for you.
- Get yourself into a sleep pattern by going to bed and waking up at the same regular hours each night.
- Switch off your phone, and all technology for that matter, 1- 2 hours before you plan to go to sleep.
- Avoid drinking caffeine 6 hours before you plan to go to sleep. I just always drink decaf – it’s easier.
5 ways to get your to the land of nod a little quicker:
Switch to alcohol-free
If you follow my blog, you’ll know that I don’t drink. I just celebrated 500 days sober, and I can honestly say giving up drinking is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life. Personally, I could give you a hundred reasons why going booze-free is great, but thats for another post *note to self*. Notably, since cutting booze our of my diet, my quality of sleep has improved dramatically. I studied neuroscience in university and learnt a little bit of smart stuff in my sleep science class…
It’s not just stumbling in at 4am that upsets your sleeping. Drinking alcohol can interrupt your circadian rhythm so although you might pass out quicker when you’re drunk, you don’t get a better nights sleep. When you’ve had a skin-full, the production of adenosine in your brain is increased, allowing for a fast onset of sleep. But once it subsides as quickly as it came on, you’ll find yourself waking up before you’re fully rested. Alcohol blocks REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, too. REM is considered the most restorative type of sleep.
The less REM sleep you get, the more likely you are to wake up feeling groggy and unfocused. Not to mention, since I gave up drinking I don’t wake up at 5am gasping for water or needing to go to the bathroom. It’s not just from all the extra liquid your drinking… Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it encourages the body to lose extra fluid though sweat too, making you dehydrated. Yuck! So there you have it, scientifically proven to have better sleep if you don’t drink alcohol.
If you’ve had a few drinks, give your body time to process the alcohol you’ve drunk before you try to sleep. On average it takes an hour to process one unit, but this can vary widely from person to person. Alternatively, you want decrease your alcohol intake. When I quit booze I started drinking Seedlip, a non-alcoholic botanical drink.
It tastes gorgeous and I completely forget I’m not drinking alcohol but I have zero hangovers – win win. You can buy it online here (100% more a sponsored or affiliate link), personally I love 2 shots of Sweet Pea Seedlip in a large gin bowl with a splash of tonic in a large glass.
Write away your worries
Switching my brain off and not thinking about the million and one things I have to do is probably a familiar feeling for most people. I run a small business so it’s not easy to switch off from work – I’m constantly thinking about cashflow, the sales pipeline and everything else. The root of the issue is that I feel like I have so much to do the next day. I begin listing everything that I need to do and going over and over it in my mind. Instead of doing mental gymnastics that eventually amount to nothing except feeling anxious and awake, I put aside a set amount of time to work through these thoughts.
I don’t overwhelm myself by opening up Asana and looking at our business plan as a whole, that would be crazy. Instead I just reflect on some bitesize chunks that I keep in my Zelo planner in the top draw of my bed. This doesn’t take me more than a couple of seconds to do, and I try to do this as soon as I begin winding down, not just when I’m about to fall asleep. This way I can begin unwinding without feeling hindered by looming anxiety from work. The great thing about the Zelo journal is that it gives me a line of when I need to stop writing. It stops me scribbling pages of to-do lists and planning, when really I should be getting ready for sleep. It’s clear and concise, and I’ve formed a habit to write in it every single day.
Perhaps you anxieties keeping you awake at night are different to mine though. Not everybody has the stresses of running a small business but most people have something on their mind. Whatever it is, find a solution that works for you. If you find yourself getting anxious or overthinking something, try writing it down and getting it out of your system. If you haven’t tried this before, it could revolutionise the way you handle your anxiety. If I’m anxious about a specific situation, I try writing down what’s the worst that can happen. I then write down what the most likely outcome in, and how I’d deal with those scenarios.
Add a couple drops of CBD
CBD is all the rage right now, with a former Coca-Cola exec declaring it the “new avocado toast” thanks to its popularity among millennials. It’s estimated that the market for CBD products will hit $22 billion in the next four years.It took me a little while to join the CBD bandwagon. As somebody that’s near enough teetotal, the thought of having anything that was close to an illegal drug didn’t interest me. I don’t drink, smoke or take any illegal drugs, and I wasn’t planning on introducing anything like that now. I was aware that CBD oil wasn’t illegal and that it was being sold on the high street, but something about it didn’t sit right with me. All that change when I started educating myself and using it to combat anxiety and insomnia.
Conscious of my ignorance, I decided to read up more about CBD after a good friend said her mum swears by it. Here’s just a couple of (surprising) thing I learnt:
- Unlike THC, it is not psychoactive. This means that CBD does not change a person’s state of mind when they use it. A common misconception.
- CBD oil can be used to treat pain, acne, diabetes, anxiety, depression and insomnia. That’s just the half of it, there’s tons of other CBD health benefits.
- The majority of users don’t experience any negative effects, however, there are possible side effects and it could interact with common medications.
While there’s still more scientific research to be done, preliminary studies have been in favour of CBD oil as an effective natural remedy for insomnia sufferers, thanks to the way it interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system. It promotes refreshing REM sleep (discussed earlier!) to reduce excessive daytime sleepiness. Aimée Shunney, a naturopathic doctor and medical advisor notes “people don’t sleep because they’re anxious or because they can’t get their brains to quiet down,” and it’s this particular kind of sleep problem that responds best to CBD.
Plug in and play
Dropping off to the land of nod is usually the hardest part for me. Once I’m out, I usually sleep like a log and it’s difficult to get me out of bed again. It’s not uncommon that I’ll be lying in bed starring at the ceiling at 4am though. Once I begin listening to something (usually meditation), my mind becomes distracted and I begin falling asleep. I share a bed with my better-half, so I can’t play anything through the speakers, and sleeping with headphones is crazy uncomfortable. Instead I use my beloved music pillow.
The soundasleep music pillow is the only piece of technology I actually recommend keeping in the room when you’re trying to sleep (you’ll need your phone or some kind of MP3 player at the very least for this, too). It’s really simple, yet effective. Just download a podcast or an app like Head Space to your phone and plug it in to the pillow. It’ll play through a mini speaker snuggled inside the pillow stuffing. You can’t feel the speaker, and it’s a really good quality pillow as well. I can listen to my relaxing music, or whatever else I want, without the worry of distracting my partner in the middle of the night. There’s also a pretty awesome app that goes with it!
I found this particular brand far more effective than others that I’ve used in the past because its a plug and play system, as opposed to trying to sync up an unreliable bluetooth option. There’s no need to charge it or anything like that, it’s just quick and easy to use. It’s completely affordable, too which is a real surprised based on the quality of the sound. I would undoubtably recommend this to anybody exploring meditation or relaxing music to ease insomnia. It’s best to put a sleep timer on your phone, so that once you’ve drifted off your phone will automatically stop playing the track after a set period of time.
What’s your secret to getting a better nights sleep?