The single biggest factor in so many of the things that are important to us - our mood, health, productivity, happiness and appearance – is getting enough sleep.
For all the productivity and mindfulness apps available, it’s the much more lo-fi, and frustratingly difficult to control, ability to get enough good quality sleep that will really form a foundation on which you can build the rest of your day.
The one that’s the most difficult to control is sleep. Almost everybody I know complains to some extent about not getting enough good sleep. It seems that we are living in a world where everyone is hyper busy, and nobody is getting enough sleep. I’ve delved into a lot of research into sleeping patterns and spent years finding my own balance for sleep. Here are my top tips for getting the Z’s you need.
1. Don’t worry about it.
One thing guaranteed to give you trouble sleeping is anxiety. And we all know that anxiety that comes from worrying that you’re not getting enough sleep. It’s a vicious cycle. Lying in bed counting down the number of hours sleep you can still get as the clock ticks away.
Try to bear in mind some basics about sleep. Eight hours is a generous amount. Most people need somewhere between six and eight hours, and quality is better than quantity. Research shows that almost all of us actually sleep more and better than we believe, and sleep app data supports this. Stop worrying about not sleeping enough. You probably are, and if you’re not, worrying or trying to “put sleep in your schedule” will certainly not help.
2. Be more boring.
We all love some night time stimulation. But actually, the trick to a bedtime routine is to be really rather boring. Those of you who like me have young children will know that it’s really important to slow down at the end of the day, making things quieter and calmer and gearing down towards bedtime. But weirdly we don’t apply this rule to ourselves.
Screen time is all good, but before bed, you need to ease off on the entertainment. A nice long bath, some meditation; anything that helps you wind down and relax is great. The more stimulated your mind is, the more difficult it is to get to sleep.
3. Be sleep conscious during the day.
The time to think about how and when you are going to get enough sleep is not the last thing at night. The trick is to think about what you can do differently during the day. One thing is making sure you eat well and do some exercise so your body is ready for bed.
Being realistic is also important. You can be as aware as you like about sleep cycles and routines, but life doesn't always work that way. Be prepared to drop the caffeine, and maybe have a tactical nap if you can. Power naps are a great way of revitalising your mind and body, and you can train yourself to take them. Twenty minutes is optimal, more and you wake up even more tired.
As with so many things in life, the Mediterranean way is so often the best! Treat yourself once in a while to a siesta!
4. Take a deep breath.
I might have mentioned this before, but I am a bit of a fan of essential oils. Have I mentioned that? The thing with plant and herb oils is that they work on so many levels. Their aromathpraeeautic power is something that can really be harnessed when it comes to mental wellbeing and, crucially, sleep.
Having an evening routine (I’m a big fan of evening skincare, rather than morning) which involves essential oils, gives you a relaxing moment of reflection and calm, massaging the oil into your skin, as well as an aromatherapeutic experience that can help you unwind, relaxing your mind and muscles and helping you to get all lovely and sleepy.