Thursday, 24 March 2016

My Guide To Better Sleep

As a child, falling asleep was never an issue for me. I slept in cars, on trains, at friends' sleepovers and (of course) my own little bed with problems. Even as babies, apparently my twin and I were surprisingly good at catching our forty winks...

But, like so many things, my sleep pattern altered throughout my teenage years. I am naturally a night owl; leave me to my own devices and I will gravitate towards increasingly late bedtimes, as my biggest bursts of energy and creativity tend to occur after sundown.

What's more, I have found that in serious bouts of stress my sleep is what goes first. My longest bout of insomnia occurred during my first year of uni, when over a period of a few weeks I rarely managed anything more than three hours a night.

I consider myself incredibly lucky that I never had to take medication for this issue, and while I cannot claim to be any kind of expert, being the world's lightest sleeper means I've had to become pretty disciplined about this part of my life... However, if your problems are persistent and affecting you on a long term basis, it might be worth considering professional guidance.

Even if bad nights are a rarity, I still hope you'll find something in this post to help improve your quality of sleep.

Let's dive into it...


Eating early is something I swear by; digestion is a pretty intense thing for the body and we all know that feeling of lying in bed after a late dinner, waiting for our tums to calm down and just chill. I typically go to bed sometime between 10 and 11 but aim to have eaten by 8 at the latest.

I also love the German approach to mealtimes; there's an expression I adore that says, "Frühstücken wie ein Kaiser, Mittagessen wie ein König und Abendessen wie ein Bettler" - in English, eat breakfast like a Kaiser, lunch like a king and dinner like a pauper. Essentially it involves having your biggest meal portions at breakfast and your smallest as your evening supper. It takes some getting used to but makes total sense to me!


Confession time... My room always used to be a hot mess. "Hovel" is describing it somewhat kindly. Now it may not be Kinfolk-perfect, but it is a damn sight better than it used to be, let me tell you. Marie Kondo was the person who concisely explained why I found having a less chaotic space so much more relaxing, when I couldn't figure out the connection; she argues that our brains have less to be distracted and stress out by, letting us unwind more effectively. I couldn't agree more. Even a natural messy kid like myself will learn to love it, I swear.


For some people the best way to offload is a journal or diary; if you have been here a while, you might already know that I am a huge fan of meditation. Whatever your preference, I recommend choosing an activity and spending time letting your worries go just before sleep. I just discovered the Insight Timer app and I've been blown away by its quality, given that it is 100% free. If English isn't your native tongue, you may be happy to hear it offers guided meditations in a variety of languages, so you can pick what you prefer. I simply choose a guided meditation, hop into bed and drift off to sleep considerably quicker.


Even with all the blue light filter apps in the world, spending time on your phone or computer is still a sure fire way to mess with your body's natural melatonin release. What's more the act of being sat with a gadget that offers the potential of endless distraction, cleverly designed to keep you browsing, means you're likely to get lost in the depths of the internet. Aim to down electronic gadgets a good hour before bed and try reading instead; I'm also a fan of knitting as a wind-down activity too.

Take things a step further and never use your phone in bed. It's a rule that I've recently introduced and really recommend. In the mornings I end up scrolling and not getting up on time; the same goes for the evenings, where browsing through Instagram distracts me from falling asleep. I've also heard it said that if you are too tired to do anything but play on your phone, you are too tired for anything full stop. It's something I come back to a lot.

Put your phone on a surface you can't reach in bed and leave that guy alone. 


Sometimes we can't sleep simply because our bodies aren't physically tired enough. If you lead a pretty sedentary lifestyle like me, you'll know the need to factor activity into your day. I typically go for a little daily yoga first thing, with evening classes dotted into my week, which seems to work well. I do have to remember that dance parties before bed are fun but not conducive to sleep (something that is saddening to hear if you love dance parties like I do). A hefty work out wakes the body up just when you need to be taking it down a notch, so again, take it easy.

If you liked this post you may want to check out my guide to becoming a morning person and also my more mindful approach to technology post - both touch on things I've mentioned here and might be of interest!

In the meantime, what are your favourite tips for better sleep? I am always on the lookout for things to improve, so do let me know in the comments below...


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