7 ways to optimise your sleep
Sleep is one of our fundamental human needs - yet so many of us are so bad at it with over a third of adults struggling to fall asleep at least once a week and over 2 thirds of people saying they have disrupted sleep.
When we don't sleep well, we can face the next day feeling groggy and grumpy which in turn increases our stress levels - and guess what, that then makes it harder to fall asleep the next night and the cycle continues.
Here are seven ways to optimise your sleep so you can feel more rested and connected.
1. A good sleep starts with a good morning. Get sunlight on your face, even for just 10 -15 minutes whilst you drink your coffee in the garden, but if possible get a walk in somewhere you can see lots of greenery to give you a bonus boost of nature.
Sunlight on your eyes within half an hour of waking up helps to set your circadian rhythm and attune your body clock to the seasons. This helps your energy levels ebb and flow through the day and will contribute to you winding down in the evening ready for sleep too.
2. To sleep like a baby – treat yourself like one. Have a routine that signals it's time for bed. This could look like whatever you want it to do, as long as it's activities that suggest an easing off the pedal and winding down. Play with a few elements and see what works best for you.
A bath or shower if you have the time, or even just taking five minutes for a mindful skincare routine where you take time and intention for some self connection and soothing facial massage. I use La Belle Lune products as part of my routine and make it a lux feeling step of deep self connection.
3. Limit screen time. Yes, everyone says it and yes, it’s boring – but it also does work!
The light from our screens is similar to daylight and tricks our brains into thinking it's not night time.
Too much too late and you’ll have messed with your circadian rhythms enough that you’ll have trouble nodding off (and no doubt leaving you reaching for your phone and only making things worse).
If you do need to use your screen at night, make sure to use limit blue light exposure with the inbuilt settings most devices have, and/or use blue light glasses. Also check in with your intention for using the screen and is bedtime the right time for it? Do you even have an intention or is it simply habit and is it really helping you?
4. Remember it's actually very natural to wake in the middle of the night. The idea of 8 hours solid sleep every night is a very modern invention linked to the industrial revolution where the day was split into 8hr chunks for work, rest and everything else. Its also completely unrealistic target that many of us stress about not reaching each night.
Before this became an ideal standard, our ancestors (who also would have lived in tune with natural cycles of night and day not by a clock) would have often woken in the middle of the night and gone about simple, gentle activities such as chores; had conversations with others in the household, read a book, crafted, perhaps eaten before going back to sleep once they felt sleepy again .
This was so normal, it was hardly worth referencing in writings of the time so there are just a few written accounts of what would be called first sleep and second sleep (or biphasic if you want the sciency word for it).
So, if you are someone who wakes at 3am (like me) and worries about it impacting your sleep – you can now reframe that as your body’s clock doing what it does naturally. Worrying about being awake and trying really hard to get back to sleep is going to make it harder to drift back to sleep.
Play with what you can do in that time – reading, meditation, journaling etc – so that you can keep your mind in a gentle state that will help you ease back into a second sleep phase.
5. Find a natural sleep aid that works for you. For a long while when I use to have trouble sleeping, I used over the counter sleeping tablets. They did help me to get to sleep, but I often woke drowsy and not feeling truly rested – making the cycle of tired in the day, restless at night worse.
I have since swapped to herbal remedies to help me sleep and find I need to use them less often because of my other sleep habits, but when I do use them (for example when I travel) they are gentle and don’t leave me feeling drowsy when I wake.
I would suggest a herbal sleepy tea or this magic potion from The Well Woman Project (please consider your own health needs and check with your doctor before taking herbal remedies)
6. Make your bed(room) a sanctuary. Make it somewhere you look forward to being and spending time in. You want it to be supremely comfortable and welcoming, a place where your nervous system can sink into the feeling of relaxation. Buy the highest quality bedding you can and see this as an investment in your wellbeing, not interior design.
Have soft lighting that you can control from your bedside – a bedside lamp so you can feel cosy and not over stimulated. If you are sensitive to light (raises hand) then think about black out blinds/curtains as these will make a difference in the summer, or feel like a movie star and get yourself an eye mask.
You don't need to have a full on make over, just spend some intentional time looking around your bedroom and pick out 1-3 things that could make it more comfortable. That could even be zero cost things like making it a screen free place, or giving it a declutter so it feels more open and inviting.
7. Self connection for troubled times. The world is a crazy place, lots to feel anxious about, holding it in can leave you stewing on things – thoughts that then come in the night to steal your sleep and drench you in worry.
Talk about things, share your feelings, express them, understand them, move through them and hold them up to the light so they cannot come for you in the dark.
Building self connection and being in touch with your light and dark is a powerful way to support your holistic wellbeing – including your quality of sleep.
And if this is something you would like support with, then please reach out for a chat about how I can support you to not only sleep better, but optimise the other 6 types of rest, as well as feel more playful and creative too.
I hope there are 1 or 2 things there that will support you to get a good nights sleep, and to also inspire you to see what else you can tweak about your sleep habits that will help you feel more rested and connected.