7 steps to better sleep
You’ve mentally shoved your 900th sheep over a gate – but still can’t get to sleep? Then read my guide to getting your Zs back on track in time for Sleep Day on 19 March.
I have a confession to make – I’ve turned into a full-blown lockdown insomniac. Until corona hit I swear I could fall asleep faster than an Olympic-level narcoleptic, but over the last 12 months, something strange has happened. I have joined a waking army of Z-zombies who are struggling to get to sleep, often lying awake for hours at a time, thoughts and worries swirling.
Even in normal times, approximately 30 to 35 percent of the population experiences acute (or short-term) insomnia, so it’s little wonder that our disrupted schedules and anxieties at this time have created the perfect storm of sleep problems.
We caught up with Kathryn Pinkham, Founder of The Insomnia Clinic and a consultant Sleep Specialist for the NHS for her tips on cracking sleepless nights.
KATHRYN’S TOP TIPS
1. Don’t spend too long in bed
The first thing we do when we can’t sleep is start going to bed earlier to try and increase our hours of sleep. Reduce the amount of time you spend in bed awake, go to bed later and get up earlier, this will encourage your body’s natural sleep drive to kick in. By reducing the time you spend in bed you will crave more sleep, fall asleep faster and find your quality of sleep improving.
2. Keep to a routine
Set your alarm and get up at your usual time. Resist the temptation to lie in, as this will affect your ability to build a drive to sleep the next night. If you’re self isolating, then try to stick with a normal routine. Don’t spend lots of time in your pyjamas or watching TV in your bedroom (especially the news!). Instead, as far as you can, keep your bedroom for sleeping.
3. Stop clock watching
It’s very tempting to look at the clock every time we wake up to monitor how little sleep we’re getting. However, this then increases the pressure to fall back to sleep and makes it less likely. Set your alarm for the morning, then avoid looking at the time again.
4. Don’t lie in bed awake
If you can’t get to sleep or have woken up in the middle of night, get out of bed. The longer we lie in bed trying to fall back to sleep, the more frustrated we get. This, in turn, means we begin to subconsciously relate bed to feeling stressed and being awake rather than asleep. Leave the bedroom and do something relaxing like read a book downstairs. Then, when you are tired, go back to bed.
5. Manage your thoughts
A busy mind is one of the most common culprits in keeping us awake at night, so start by writing things down. Make time to list what’s on your mind – this can be therapeutic, as it’s a way of getting things out of your head. Currently, you can’t solve this problem, but when you write down your worries in black and white, you can make a plan about what you are in control of. Ask yourself, how many of the worries are hypothetical (haven’t yet happened) and how is worrying about them affecting you?
6. Get outdoors
Following government guidelines, get outside when you can. If you have a private garden or open space nearby, get outside every day. You need the fresh air to keep you healthy, as being inside too long can make it hard to sleep well, and also affect your mood. You also need the daylight to regulate and keep your body clock in sync, so as a minimum make sure all curtains and blinds are fully open during the day.
7. Tap into a mindfulness or meditation app
You can also find help online – there are lots of apps for inducing sleep and reducing anxiety. (Muddy loves Headspace, the free version has “sleepcasts,” which are 45-55 minutes and are like adult bedtime stories, while Noisli lets you choose your favourite sounds – check out the reassuring murmur of a coffee shop!). The Insomnia Clinic offers a free sleep webinar too, which will provide further tips on improving your sleep.
Here’s my Muddy top 5 picks for a good night’s kip. Someone hit the lights, I’m off …
1. Joanies Silk Eye Mask, £20
Joanies, the newly launched luxury sleepwear brand in Berkhamsted, wants to make bedtime beautiful again. Their eye masks are made from 100% mulberry silk, so not only help to keep light out, but reduce lines to keep your peepers wrinkle free.
2. Cecily Spa Sweet Dreams Collection, £55
Containing a soothing mix of bedtime essentials, this box of bedtime treats – Overnight Hydration Therapy, Bath & Body Oil, Optimal Rejuvenating Night Booster and Soothing Candle – will help give your skin a boost and relax the senses. Also included is an eye mask to keep out light pollution (aka hubby’s phone).
3. Hide & Seek CBD Oil, £45
This mid-strength CBD oil from one of our fave Little Black Books, Hide & Seek, features a broad-spectrum hemp extract with a variety of phytocannabinoids (no, I can’t pronounce it either). A couple of drops is all that’s needed to target stress, helping you to switch off at night and get those much-needed Zs.
4. Otter & Moose Sweet Dreams, £45
Pop on the silky eye mask and rest your head in a field of lavender dreams with these sleep routine must-haves from Otter & Moose, another of our brilliant Little Black Books. The Pillow Mist and Bath Soak are full of organic essential oil blends to help you breathe, relax and drift off to sleep – and they soothe dry skin while they’re at it.
5. Hitchin Lavender Eye Pillow, £17.50
Filled with lavender from Hitchen Lavender’s fields, this eye pillow is perfect for use at bedtime or during meditation and relaxation. Along with its calming scent, the eye pillow provides a delish soothing feeling, and can be heated in the microwave or cooled in the freezer before use.