Preparing for Sleep
It is unrealistic expecting to go from full speed to a standstill without slowing down first. You should prepare for sleep by giving your body the right signals. It takes time to produce the sleep neurotransmitters needed by the brain’s sleep centre to release the hormones that will allow you to sleep. Reducing stimulation in the evening before going to bed boosts the production of sleep hormones. Your body and mind need the opportunity to slowly de-stress and relax, so consider the following pre-bed ritual.
1. Turn Off the Tech
It is tempting to check your phone once more before bed, but the blue light given off by phones, computers, and TVs affects levels of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin more than any other wavelength. So, stop sitting in front of screens, finish working on your laptop or phone, and switch off all other electronic devices at least an hour before you hope to fall asleep. They are too stimulating to the brain and inhibit the release of these sleep neurotransmitters. Try reading instead to distract you from the day’s worries.
2. Quieten the Mind & Calm Down the Nervous System
Dim the lights an hour or more before going to bed, take a warm bath or shower, it helps the body to reach an ideal temperature for rest as well as being a relaxing activity in itself. Ramp up the sleep potential by using a lavender-based bath oil.
Listen to calming music or soothing sounds and remove any distractions (mental and physical) that will prevent you from sleeping.
Too much stress is one of the most common causes of sleep disorders so learning to relax is key. Many people can’t switch off their racing minds and therefore have trouble sleeping. Do some breathing exercises, restorative yoga – the stretching will help your body to relax too – or meditation. These will calm the mind and reduce the fears and worries that trigger the stress.
3. Nightly Rituals
Enjoy the ritual of bedtime. Luxuriate in a warm bath with beautifully fragranced bath oils. One of my favourite’s is Lola’s Apothecary’s Sweet Lullaby Soothing Bath & Shower Oil, Smell is one of our most powerful senses. A simple smell can immediately trigger a powerful memory, place, or person, and can impact our bodies via the nervous system as our olfactory nerve is connected directly to the brain. Soothing music and candlelight helps as well – Scentered’s Sleep Well Therapy Candle are excellent plus they are made with clean, non-toxic ingredients.
Indulge yourself with luxury skincare products bidding farewell to a dull, fatigued skin – I’ve found 001 London’s skincare products particularly effective and so lovely to use. Also optimise your sleep environment with a super comfy mattress and pillows, beautiful natural bed linens and gorgeous cashmere throws. Money spent in the bedroom will never be wasted so buy the best you can afford – you will soon be bouncing out of bed each morning!
4. Keep the Room Dark & Block Out Noise
Our bodies need complete darkness for production of the important sleep hormone, melatonin. If your bedroom is not pitch dark when you go to sleep, it interferes with this key process and disrupts your circadian rhythms. Even the tiniest bit of light in the room can disrupt your pineal gland’s production of sleep hormones, disturbing your sleep rhythms. So, look around your bedroom for glowing indicator lights on any electronic devices and try to remove or cover them and consider blackout blinds on the windows if they expose light. To ensure you have complete darkness treat yourself to a luxury silk eye mask.
If noise from the street, an upstairs flat or a snoring bed partner is a problem, try using earplugs or an electronic device that makes “white noise” to drown out the surrounding sounds and if that fails to mask a bed partner’s snoring suggest that your partner moves out to the spare room, albeit on a temporary basis!
5. Keep the Room Cool
Lowering ambient temperature sends a feedback signal to the brain’s sleep centre that it’s night time, and that it needs to release more sleep hormones. A sleeping temperature of 60 to 65 degrees is best for most people, even in the winter. You don’t need an excuse to invest in some new gorgeous natural sleepwear guaranteed to keep you warm in winter and cool in summer, so try either cotton, linen and silk pjs.
6. Avoid Making an Issue around Sleep
Just thinking about sleep can affect your ability to fall asleep. It can become a vicious cycle of worrying about not being able to sleep which leads to worsening sleep problems. So, let go and just go with the flow. If you can’t fall asleep, don’t fight it—instead try to do something that will help you relax, and then try again. Try deep-breathing techniques borrowed from Yoga classes. And if the clock ticks towards morning don’t let negative thoughts take over. Accept that a couple of sleepless nights in a row won’t have a huge impact on subsequent days.
Falling asleep is only half the battle for a lot of people, myself included, staying asleep can also be a real problem. If you find yourself tossing and turning or waking in the early hours, experts suggest you get up. Go to a different room and do something relaxing in a dim light. I read, others I know do the weekly ironing or listen to the radio, whatever works for you. Make yourself a calming herbal tea. If something is distracting you mentally, write it down to clear the mind, get the anxiety out of your head onto paper. Remember that sleep needs to become a natural rhythm like breathing, something that comes automatically to you.