Modern day life seems to be busier than ever, placing so many demands on our mental and physical health. Rushing to and from work, ferrying the kids around, trying to fit in all the errands, have a social life…and find time for exercise, often leaves us exhausted. All of this is made much worse if we don’t get enough sleep. When we’re stretched in every direction something has to give, and in my case it’s usually sleep.
As you probably know, I’m a freelancer in the TV industry as well as a blogger. Not having a regular work pattern, coupled with 5am starts and long days often makes it difficult for me to even get six hours sleep. And boy do I feel the consequences! Sometimes I’m so tired I have to go for a nap in my car because I’m on the verge of faceplanting my keyboard. Trust me, kipping in a cold multistory car park huddled under a big coat is not very restful!
I’ve realised lately that frequently going without adequate sleep is having a negative impact on my quality of life. When I’m really tired I become clumsy, grumpy and find it hard to concentrate. However, I’ll freely admit that I’m my own worst enemy because instead of being disciplined enough to stick to a set bedtime, I’ll find myself editing photos or checking Instagram late at night. That’s the life of a blogger though, right?
I know what I should and shouldn’t be doing, it’s just having the discipline to stick to good sleep habits. It’s time to make some changes and make sure I look after myself a bit better. So I’m sharing my 8 tips for a good night’s sleep, and I’ll definitely be taking my own advice!
I love my cups of tea and coffee but after about 6pm I try to stick to decaff. It can take several hours for caffeine to fully leave the body, making it harder to drop off if you drink it later in the day. Alcohol can also disrupt sleep and reduce the amount of REM and deep sleep. So although it may make you feel sleepy, it results in a poor night’s sleep, which will only make that hangover worse.
Being active during the day can help improve quality of sleep as well as time spent in deep sleep, the most physically restorative sleep phase. Deep sleep helps to boost immune function, support cardiac health, and control stress and anxiety. It also reduces stress and anxiety levels, resulting in a more peaceful state of mind. However, the time of day you exercise can make a big difference. Strenuous exercise in the evening can make it harder to drop off. Falling core body temperature contributes to feeling drowsy; exercising too close to bedtime can reverse that downward shift in body temperature, and keep you awake. This week I switched my evening run for a morning one and it made a huge difference; by early evening I was feeling sleepy and looking forward to bedtime.
When it comes to creating the ideal sleeping environment the main things to consider are comfort, temperature, lighting and noise. We spend a large proportion of our lives (or at least we should do) in bed, so investing in a good quality mattress and pillows is a must. A saggy or lumpy mattress can play havoc with your back (I speak from experience!) which impacts on your daily life. It’s so important to ensure your mattress provides adequate support and keeps your spine aligned.
Last week I changed my mattress and it has made a massive difference to my quality of sleep. My old one had become lumpy due to the springs sticking out, so as a makedo we’d bought a mattress topper. It worked to an extent, but was only a temporary measure. When I first sprawled out on my new Casper mattress it was a eureka moment. It’s so comfortable, that combined with some lovely new bedding I feel like I’m in a luxury hotel every night. It has won several consumer awards, and it’s easy to see why. The open-cell foams have tiny pores to let excess hot air escape to keep you cool and comfortable, while the four layers of premium memory foam supports pressure points.
Casper mattresses come packed in a box to save space, and they expand when you remove the plastic wrapping. No more manhandling a double mattress up the stairs. Clever, don’t you think? Casper offers a 100-night risk-free trial plus free delivery…more reasons to sleep easy.
So a comfortable bed is the first step to getting a good night’s sleep, but creating a peaceful and relaxing bedroom means paying attention to lighting, sound and temperature. If you have a bedroom that catches the early morning sun, black out curtains will help you to stay asleep for longer in the Summer months. Sharing a house often means other people putting lights on and stepping on creaky floorboards, so ear plugs and an eye mask can prevent unwanted disturbances. Ear plugs are also a good idea if you have a partner who snores (my husband can’t be without his!).
Knocking the heating down a notch at bedtime will help you get to sleep. When you begin to fall asleep your body temperature naturally begins to decrease by 1 to 2 degrees. If the bedroom is too warm it can make it hard to drift off. During hot weather place a fan in the bedroom – it has the added benefit of creating white noise which can be very relaxing.
Most of us can’t seem to live without our devices, but using them at night can make it difficult to switch off. The blue light emitted by screens tricks the brain into thinking it’s still daytime. This delays melatonin production, which we need to fall asleep. Modern day life is centred around screens of one sort or another, but having a curfew an hour before bedtime will make for a more restful night’s sleep.
Rich, fatty and spicy foods can play havoc with the digestion if you indulge late at night. I’m sure we’ve all had a yummy late night takeaway, only to regret it when the acid reflux kicks in at 2am! Citrus fruits can also cause heartburn, so go easy on them in the evening.
Getting outdoors and exposing yourself to sunlight can be enormously beneficial. It helps to regulate our circadian rhythms and keep us energised during the day. This in turn helps to make us feel tired in the evening. If you can incorporate a workout ouside, even better. If the sun’s shining you’ll get a healthy boost of vitamin D too.
My regular Saturday afternoon nap is a bit of a joke in our house. By the end of the week it all seems to catch up with me and I have to have a post-lunch snooze. While catching 40 winks can be just what you need to recharge the batteries, having too much sleep in the day can have the opposite effect. If you fall into a deep sleep, chances are it’ll limit your sleep at night. If you do need a quick nap, set an alarm to avoid staying in the land of nod for too long.
We all know that having a bedtime routine is essential for children, but it’s also really important for adults too. We are creatures of habit, and establishing a regular pattern in the lead up to bedtime sends all the right signals to the brain that it’s time to wind down and relax. Ditching the tech, having a warm bath and reading a book can all help us to have a peaceful night’s sleep.
Disclaimer: I was gifted the mattress in exchange for a review. All words and opinions are my own.