Does your mind start racing as soon as you get into bed then you struggle to go to sleep?

Read on to find out how wind down and help you to prepare for a full 8 hours.

About 1 in 3 people have sleep problems at any given time and almost everyone has experienced one at some point. Usually these disturbances are short lived, but that doesn’t make it any less unpleasant. Poor sleep can affect mood, interpersonal relationships, energy levels and concentration the next day. This means that knowing how you can wind down and prepare for a good night’s sleep is very important.

Recently I had the opportunity to take part in a sleep course. I had been having trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep for about 6 months- I’d wake up anywhere from 3 to 5 times per night, sometimes for up to 2 hours. Not a good thing for my health or my bank balance (…anyone else find themselves browsing amazon when they can’t sleep?). Through the course I have seen great improvements in my sleep pattern and I have slept right through the past four nights. That might not sound like much but I am really happy about it! So what helped me to do this?

Chester my sloth teddy

Chester my sloth teddy

4 ways to prepare for bed

1. Make time to wind down.

Making time to relax and wind down before bed is essential. I find its better to spend even 15-30 minutes relaxing than 15-30 minutes awake in bed, even if it means I go to bed later as a result. Ideally you should stop high energy or stressful activities around 60-90 minutes before you want to go to bed. This gives you enough time to get things organised for the next day (e.g. make your lunch, put your alarm clock on), get ready for bed (e.g. put your pj’s on, brush your teeth) and take part in a relaxing activity.

2. Take part in relaxing pre-bed activities.

There’s a massive range of relaxing activities. You might find some work for you and others don’t. For example, I love colouring, but my friend gets annoyed when she goes out the lines so for her that activity is arousing. You might like to try active or passive activities, physical or mental. My favourites include

  • going for a walk,
  • stretching or yoga,
  • taking a long hot bath,
  • listening to music,
  • doing a suduko,
  • talking to my housemates.

Turning off your laptop (or at least wi-fi) and switching your phone to flight mode is also important to avoid any unwanted messages and notifications that could increase your stress or arousal.

3. Have a herbal nightcap

No, I’m not suggesting a quick whiskey or port to send you to sleep. In fact, alcohol (and caffeine) are enemies of a good night’s sleep. Instead, try camomile or valerian root tea, which are known for decreasing anxiety and helping sleep. If those don’t appeal to you there are also a whole range of ‘sleep’/ ‘night time’/ ‘bed time’ teas in the supermarket so you’re bound to find one you like. My favourites are Dr Stuarts Valerian Plus Teabags, Clipper Organic Sleep Easy Tea and Pukka Organic Night Time Teabags. I’d suggest drinking a cup (max 2) before bed. Too many and you will be waking up and running to the bathroom all night- which isn’t the goal!

4. Eat if you’re hungry

In my experience going to bed on an empty stomach is likely to make it harder to fall asleep. And in my experience waking up in the middle on the night with a rumbly tummy is likely to make it harder to resist a good rummage in the fridge or freezer. The solution- eat if you’re hungry.

It’s better to have a snack that isn’t too high in calories (<300) or fat. Good options are cherries because they contain melatonin- a hormone which helps you sleep better. Bananas, which contain magnesium and potassium to relax muscles, as well as tryptophan, which promotes sleep. Or sweet potatoes, another good source of complex carbs and potassium. These foods will also help you get in one of your 5-a-day!

Hopefully if you put these tips into practice you will be sleeping like a sloth in no time.

What do you do to prepare for a good night’s sleep?


Disclaimer: This article is based on my personal experience and the information that I received as part of the OASIS study.

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