At least once per day, I have a conversation with someone about how to have healthy sleep. See, I’m a Psychologist, Clinical Trainer, a friend and a mum. Whether the conversation is with a client, a group I’m training, a friend or colleagues who is juggling that work-life balance, or with my own kids, I feel like I’m constantly talking to someone about sleep.
I’m really good at helping other people get their sleep hygiene and bedtime routine in check, and I love doing it. Sleep is one of those things that seems like it should be so easy to do: you just lay there and shut your eyes, right? Yet so many of us struggle to do just that. There are a lot of reasons as to why this might be the case: stress, anxiety, medication, pain, illness, dysregulated cycle… the list goes on. But I’m not here to ponder the ‘whys’. I want to talk about what we can do about it, and how a few simple changes to your routine can make a massive difference to not only your sleep, but the rest of your life too.
I want you to really think for a second about sleep. Were ‘supposed’ to have approx.8 hours of sleep a night –that is a third of the day and, across our lifetime, a third of our whole life!!! To be healthy human beings, we need to sleep for at least a third of our life. That is 121.7 days per year. If someone told you that you had to do something for 121.7 days this year to keep yourself healthy and happy, I imagine that you would give it a fair bit of your attention. And yet, when it comes to sleep, we don’t give it much attention at all. That’s the first thing I want you to do: give your sleep the respect it – and you – deserve. Make your sleeping space somewhere you actually want to be. Invest in a good mattress, good pillows and a good Manchester. Wash them regularly. These simple things can make you more inclined to invest in your sleep.
Ever stay up late to finish a project, a report, or one last episode of your favourite show? I want you to consider what happens when we introduce activities that aren’t conducive to sleep into our sleep space. It’s true that COVID has made it really difficult to delineate or compartmentalise the various spaces of our lives, but we can work around it. Set yourself some realistic boundaries. Do you want to be in bed by 10 pm? Don’t start that next episode; it will be there tomorrow, I promise. Take things out of the room that keep you awake… that’s T.V.s, laptops and phones. At the very least, move them as far away from you as possible. This also makes your phone alarm much more effective in the morning because it’s suddenly not so easy to hit the snooze button.
A solid sleep routine will help re-introduce you to good, solid sleep when things inevitably go awry. I want you to look at your night-time routine as a transitional exercise. This is about telling your body and your mind what is happening, and subsequently getting it ready to shut down for the night. A strong sleep routine should start in the morning. Get up at the same time each day, make sure your choices during the day support a healthy night’s sleep. For example, I am a keen coffee drinker. Unsurprisingly, this doesn’t help me get a good night of shut-eye. And so, I have recently swapped to I Can’t Believe it’s Not Coffee from MentaliTEA. A friend sent it to me as a gift, and to my surprise, my sleep immediately improved.
Start the clock at least one hour before you go to bed. This is a time of quiet transition. Warming your body slightly will help slow your brain and body down, so I recommend a warm shower or bath. Follow this with a quiet activity, such as reading or completing a simple word puzzle. I’ve always been a tea drinker, and after trying I Can’t Believe it’s Not Coffee, I ordered some more teas from MentaliTEA. I’ve since discovered a lovely tea that I drink at night to support sleep: Snooze Tea. This herbal blend of Chamomile flowers, Lemon Balm leaf, Passionflower, Lavender flowers and Skullcap leaf helps not only to lull me to sleep but also assists in managing any stress or anxiety I might be experiencing.
Lastly, I want to share with you just how important healthy sleep is to our mental health. It scaffolds our physical and mental well being. So, if you are struggling with your mental health and experiencing stress, anxiety, or depression, invest in a good night’s sleep. It may seem like a small thing, but if you give yourself the space to nurture a consistent sleep routine, I promise that you’ll begin to notice a difference.
*Written on a beautiful morning after a great night’s sleep.