Sleep and I have a funny relationship. I personally need at least eight hours of sleep to feel rested and function properly. When I get into the territory of nine to 10 hours sleep, that’s when I feel my absolute best. But, I often fall short of this target (although, don’t we all).
For full disclosure, I’m not a parent, so my sleep isn’t interrupted by little people who need my attention. And, my two dogs, who are 11-years-old, are rarely the cause of sleep disturbance. The thing that stands behind me and nine hours of lovely sleep is my brain and it’s non-stop busyness.
I’m one of those people who feels terribly tired just before bed but can then lay there for three hours straight while my mind swirls and darts between things on my to-do list. Oh, and of course, all while reliving that embarrassing thing I said/did five years ago. In order to take control of my sleep, instead of letting my mind control it, I’ve recently implemented a number of steps to clean up my sleep hygiene.
If you’re not familiar with the term sleep hygiene, it basically refers to creating a bedroom environment and routine that promotes consistent and quality sleep. In order to achieve this dream sleep, this is what I’m doing.
Using the Headspace app before bed
I was first introduced to Headspace a few years ago when I was experiencing a particularly intense bout of anxiety. I used the app religiously for about a year and then, as things do, it became less of a priority and my usage waned.
Given how anxiety-inducing 2020 has been, I jumped back on the Headspace bandwagon a few months ago and I’m happy to be back. There have been a few updates made to the app in my absence, including the inclusion of a female narrator but I’m still extremely loyal to Andy, the original narrator with the dreamy (pun-intended) voice.
Over the last few months, I have tried to meditate using Headspace once a day and have found an improvement in my anxiousness. But, in an attempt to help my sleep patterns, I have recently started listening to sleepcasts — an audio experience designed to make you sleepy with the combination of a wind-down exercise and soothing narration.
I have only recently introduced the sleep meditation exercise and so far, it has helped to slow down my brain just before bed. Coupled with a 10-minute meditation exercise during the day, I’m hoping this will help me on my journey to be more mindful.
No longer using my phone as my alarm
My phone is never far from my side and this is something I’m hoping to change. My phone usage at night (read: scrolling through Instagram in bed) is terrible and definitely adds to the busyness in my mind, given I’m taking in so much information right before going to sleep.
So, in order to reduce the reliance I have on my phone, I want to stop using it as my alarm. To do this, I have ordered this alarm clock. This isn’t any ordinary clock, it’s actually a clock that wakes you up naturally with light that mimics the sunrise, which in theory, should be more gentle to the body than a blaring alarm sound.
It is also programmed with seven natural sounds, which can be used as your alarm or you also have the choice to be woken up by the inbuilt radio as well. I have yet to receive the clock (it was a very recent purchase) but I’m very much looking forward to seeing how I fare with it.
My plan going forward is to set the clock up on my bedside table and my phone charger will live in the corner of my bedroom. Once I enter my room to go to bed, my phone will be popped on to charge for the night and I won’t be able to touch it and the only options I will have is to read a book or sleep.
Diffusing a sleepy essential oil every night
The hype around essential oils, and the connected pyramid schemes, are most definitely not my style. But, I was gifted an essential oil diffuser from my sister several years ago and simply love using it for the delicious smell it provides.
While studies on essential oils are pretty lacking, research has shown lavender oil to have positive benefits on the quality and duration of sleep. So, as part of my sleep plan, I have started popping lavender essential oil into my diffuser half an hour before bed to reap these sleepy benefits. While it’s still early days, I am enjoying the drifting off to sleep in a room filled with the calming scent.
Ditching technology an hour before bed
When you’re struggling to sleep, the recommendation is always to limit the use of technology before bed. And, it’s one I’m starting to really enforce. I have recently stopped using technology at least an hour before bed, which means saying goodbye to my phone (and Netflix) at a similar time every night.
I always read a book before bed but I’ve made a concerted effort to switch technology off earlier in the evenings in favour of reading, which means I’m less wired by the time I attempt to go to sleep (and I’m getting through my stack of books at a faster rate, which is also a win).
All of these changes are relatively new (I’m talking in the last week) so while I’m yet to experience any long-term benefit, I have noticed a positive change so far. Over the next few months, I’m hoping to test the effectiveness of these changes and tweak or add in other steps if needed.
Preparing for sleep is a personal experience and what works for me might not work for you. But, if you’re also well acquainted with a brain that just won’t quit, incorporating some of these steps into your nighttime routine (or simply creating a routine to begin with) might prove helpful. Wishing you deep, long and refreshing sleep.