10 tips for good sleep
If you are reading this article, you know how truly stressful it can be when you struggle getting to sleep. Just the thought of not being able to fall asleep can make you panic because you know that sleep contributes to mental and physical wellbeing. You start anticipating the consequences your lack of sleep will have the next day, and panic leads to obsessive anxiety, halting the sleep process and leaving you in a really vicious circle. Luckily there are a few tactics you can use: here are ten tips for getting good sleep.
Tip 1: The bedroom is for sleeping!
This may seem obvious, yet it is common place for people to listen to the radio or music in the bedroom, read books, browse e-mails… Stop!
Beds must be dedicated to sleeping, love and the night time.
Your bed must be a place where you feel good, where it is not possible to assimilate negative thoughts. “When I go into my bedroom, I get into bed and I go to sleep.” There has to be a kind of conditioned reflex for your body.
Anything that can thwart this engrained pattern should be banned.
So only go to bed then, to go to sleep.
Tip 2: The night begins… in the daytime!
Now here is an intriguing piece of advice for getting to sleep… This recommendation is actually linked to the idea that restorative sleep is always an extension of the preceding day.
So for sleep to be well-balanced, your waking hours must be so too: getting a good night’s sleep begins when you wake up the previous day!
Physical and mental activities as well as rest must be spread out across the day: expose yourself to the daylight in the morning, don’t take any naps after 3 pm and don’t do any sports or take hot baths after 5 or 6 pm.
The human organism works in synch with the circadian rhythm. It is controlled by our biological clock and all clocks require consistency.
It’s the reason why you should try to stick to roughly the same routine all week long… including on Sundays!
Getting restorative sleep is also about having a healthy lifestyle.
Tip 3: Follow the sun
It is important to imitate the curvature of the sun, both physically and symbolically.
Our internal clock is in fact directly linked to daylight: the sunrise wakes us up and the sunset puts us to sleep.
There is also another metaphor worth noting: the sun follows its course in a crescendo until it reaches its zenith, then it slowly comes back down.
Your activity should follow a similar bell curve and slow down towards the end of the afternoon: no excitement, no stress, no stimulants (coffee, tea, alcohol…).
This is also why using screens is so strongly discouraged at night: not only does it create unwanted stress (even positive stress), but the blue light also sends a “daytime” signal to our internal clock.
How will you internally know when it’s time to sleep?
Remember this: follow the bell curve!
Tip 4: Sleepers eat dinners!
As an old saying goes: sleepers eat dinners.
But the opposite is just as true.
After a meal, the digestion process ups the metabolism leading body temperature to increase by up to 1.8°F… Sleep requires the exact opposite: a lower metabolism and a temperature drop of 1.8°F.
This is why we are advised to eat a lighter meal in the evening, and avoid everything that heightens the digestive process: we should avoid foods which are rich in proteins, like eggs, meat or fish.
Preference should be given to foods which are rich in carbohydrates (pasta, rice), as they make us drowsy. These foods actually stimulate the synthesis of the hormones which go in hand with restorative sleep: serotonin and melatonin.
Serotonin is synthesized with tryptophan, which is contained in pulses, wholegrains, bananas and almonds. This is why we recommend eating these foods in the evening, to give yourself a little natural «shot» of serotonin!
In a nutshell, eat light so you sleep heavy.
Tip 5: Keep to a routine
Love may loathe routine, but sleep adores it! It is possible to avoid difficulties falling to sleep by arranging a little evening “ritual” that you do every night.
The idea is to factor in an activity which helps you wind down and adopt the right actions and reflexes automatically. Obviously you should choose something relaxing like reading, drawing, listening to music or drinking herbal teas.
Yoga, meditation and breathing exercises can also be part of the process of getting to sleep: by relaxing we can effectively evacuate the stresses of the day so that we don’t mull them over once we’re in bed. Sort yourself out with an evening relaxation ritual.
Tip 6: Listen when you are told it is bedtime
Although Mom and Dad may not be there to tell you it’s time to go to bed, you can still listen to your body and how you are feeling. Our organism is well designed and sends out early warning signs of sleepiness: we yawn, our eyelids droop and our eyes tingle. It’s time to go to sleep!
Ideally, you should head to your bedroom once you are tired enough to get your head down in less than 15 minutes. Going too early can be counter-productive, because sleep won’t come and we can get agitated internally.
If we miss the ideal sleep window, we can miss the boat.
Tip 7: Respect the environment
To get good sleep, your bedroom needs to be in a welcoming state: neither too hot (66.2° maximum), nor too dry, nor too noisy nor too lighted.
Even if you don’t think you are especially sensitive to noise and light, it can be worth doing a test to find out: try using ear plugs and an eye mask for a few nights and see how they modify your sleep. Don’t forget to check the state of your bed linen as well, and make sure you have a decent mattress.
Your bedroom should be like a protective cocoon where you can wrap yourself in the arms of Morpheus.
Tip 8: Don’t think about insomnia
The worst thing you can do is to focus on your insomnia: you keep looking at the alarm clock (because you’ve been good and switched off your phone!) You count the hours and get het up because you’ll never get the recommended 8 hours (or less for some individuals). Don’t make it matter now.
Rather than fighting to get to sleep now, you can fight to stay awake tomorrow, and maybe make time for a little nap or even try power napping.
This tactic simply allows you to hold the pressure off until tomorrow and allow yourself to enjoy a little peace in bed.
Simply keep this in mind: you will eventually be able to get some sleep and rest.
Don’t guilt trip yourself, save the fight for tomorrow!
Tip 9: If sleep just won’t come, flee your bed
Remember that we said that beds were made for sleeping? So rather than staying in your bedroom when still awake after 30 minutes, get up and go to another room to do an activity which doesn’t stimulate you. Wait for the signs of fatigue to come back before you head back to bed. Sleep always works in cycles.
Don’t force yourself to stay in bed if sleep won’t come.
Tip 10: Test some gentle methods
There are dozens of methods for getting to sleep fast… which is proof that each of us must find the method which suits us the best.
That’s why you have to test them, even if those based on a placebo effect.
Here are a few entirely harmless techniques:
- Phytotherapy: valerian root, passiflora, hawthorn and melissa are all known for their calming and sedative effects.
- Relaxation and breathing practices can help you find your own nocturnal rhythm.
- Acupuncture and self-massage can help you get to sleep.
- Meditation, sophrology, or even hypnosis can sometimes be of precious help.
Avoid taking sleeping pills as best you can.
We hope that these 10 "golden rules" will help you to get better sleep and achieve a better quality of life overall. Resolving problems getting to sleep and insomnia means reacquainting oneself with restorative sleep: it takes time, rigor, but most of all, no stress.