I am by no means a sleep expert but I am a sleep enthusiast. In fact, creating a restful sleep has become an obsession! Finding the perfect pillow, bed, temperature, etc. has become my part-time hobby because of how important I know sleep to be. I need 8 hours, I am that person and it is not always possible. Work schedules, commitments, snoring puppies or a disruptive partner are all to blame at various times. So creating a calm, relaxing environment and to make my sleep as quality as possible, is key.
Here are my tips for creating a restful sleep!
1. turn offThis might be the hardest of all my tips but definitely the most needed. We are so reliant on our devices (phone, tablet, etc.) that we often head to bed with one or more in tow. I often use mine as a wind down technique to switch my brain off but I am well aware, this is not the best option. Mindlessly getting lost in the sea of Instagram photos or worse yet, getting caught up in work or emails while in bed, is a recipe for a later night and/or a restless sleep. You are better to switch off your phone at least an hour before bed and keep it out of reach! Airplane mode is a good way to keep Wi-Fi signals and accidental noises out of the bedroom, especially if you use your phone as an alarm. Lights, especially ones that blink or are set off intermittently (by an email notification, etc.) are very disruptive to your sleep patterns and often pull you out of a sound sleep, even if only for a second. Turn around devices, clocks, televisions, etc. or block the lights with duct tape, blankets or anything else to can think of to keep the bedroom as dark and stimulant free as possible. (see below for another handy tip to block out lights)
2. block it out
Quiet, dark rooms are the best space for a restful, undisturbed sleep. Blocking street lights, daylight or room lights out by using a sleep mask is my favourite tip that I've been using routinely. Bonus tip, silk eye masks help restore youthful eyes by reducing wrinkles and under-eye bags! Ear plugs are another option to help block out noise (such as traffic, buses, neighbours, etc.) but some varieties can be uncomfortable and even painful. Swimmer ear plugs are a more comfortable option, as are smaller versions (although they often block less sound). Sound machines can be another great option to create white noise in the room and drown out traffic, city noises in the bedroom- as long as it doesn't distract you or disturb your sleep. Everyone is different but taking the time to find what works for you is the best thing you can do to create an optimal sleep environment.
3. wind down
Reading a book, meditating or just taking time to go through a nightly routine before bed (wash your face, brush your teeth, put on face creams, etc.) are all excellent ways to get your body ready for sleep. Your body will also get used to it and start to know when it is bedtime by your routine; this can be helpful for people who work shift work or different hours and cannot go to bed at the same time every day. Try to begin your wind down routine after you've put your devices away for the night (about an hour before bedtime) and that way, when you are finished your bed will be calling, not your phone!
Sure sleeping pills are a thing and yes, I've had to reach for them in the past due to extreme stress/ personal problems (like when my father passed away). That said, they can become a crutch and even addictive in some cases. Luckily there are loads of natural remedies that can help reduce stress, initiate calmness and encourage sleep. My go-to aid at bedtime is valerian root, taken in liquid form with water. This is an acquired smell to get used to but thankfully the taste is minimal. Again, everyone is different but I do feel sleepy and fatigued about 15 minutes after taking this sleep aid. Melatonin is another aid that can be used to help reset your sleep cycle and is especially useful for jet lag or shift work. It is NOT recommended to take melatonin regularly as it can disrupt your sleep patterns long term. I found Webber's Naturals chewable Super Sleep tablets and this is the only version of melatonin I have personally found effective. Often melatonin does not work for me. This version contains 5-HTP also, which helps in melatonin production and is often used for symptoms of depression. This is not me saying "use this product", I want to be clear! This is me saying, "here is some information on these supplements but find what works for you". The final supplement that can help aid in restful sleep is Magnesium. This mineral is useful in muscle function, calcium absorption, bone health, heart health (your heart is a muscle!) and also has natural relaxing properties. It is recommended to take magnesium before bed and has been proven to aid in a restful sleep. Again these are guidelines and tips that work for me, I am not an expert in your body, nor do I definitively know what your body needs!
5. tire yourself out
I am a napper; it may even be my favourite past time. That said, I cannot nap every day or I'd never fall asleep properly. It is important to tire yourself out and be ready to actually fall asleep! Waking up at the same time and going to bed at the same time is important, being active throughout the day, eating properly, and limiting late day caffeine are all excellent ways to naturally fatigue the body. However, exercise is the best way to ensure a sound sleep! Exercise has more than just muscular benefits or to look good, it helps with circulation, stress, digestion, bowel movements, tissue lubrication, aches and pains and ease of movement. Your body is a magical thing and it needs to move every day (even if only light, easy stretching) to keep its balance or homeostasis and to create a natural and restful sleep.