1: Setting the right temperature– Studies have shown that the body naturally reduces its temperature around early evening to attempt to induce sleep. Our temperatures fluctuate a couple of degrees during the day; we feel more energised and alert when our temperature is above or close to 37° and come the evenings, when our temperature regulating cells start to drop, we feel drowsy (Sleep.org). The reduction in body temperature is important in getting to sleep. That’s not the sole focus thought, once asleep it’s then important that the rooms temperature should not become too hot or too cold as this could disturb our sleep.
Try installing a thermostat into the room and monitor the room’s temperature over the course of a week and take action to get it to the desired 15-19° in order to get to and stay asleep- This may mean turning the heating on to bring the temperature up if your house is particularly cold (especially in winter) or opening a window in the bedroom to bring the temperature down.
Personally, I keep a ceiling fan on it’s lowest setting to circulate colder air around the room, I find this particularly beneficial as my partner is like a radiator and find that really helps to regulate the room’s temperature. What’s more as I’ve done this for several years now, I find that slight noises (such as cars going past) do not disturb my sleep. Also, when I was recently in New York we were so close to Times Square that the sound of sirens and traffic was still apparent from the 19th floor even at night. As I’ve become use to the sound of a fan at night, we just put the air conditioning fan on through the night and we couldn’t hear a thing!
2: Bathing is a great relaxor, especially with some essential oils! Although bathing is known to increase your body’s temperature which isn’t the direction we want to go in, once we step out of the bath, our bodies kick into rapid cool down which aids relaxation. When you’re feeling more relaxed, you’re more likely to be able to drift off to sleep.
Aim to bathe around 45 minutes before your desired sleep time so that your body’s temperature can reduce fully. Once out the bath, avoid stimulants such as TV and phones and pick up a book, ideally with a cooler breeze on you. You should be ready to sleep in no time at all. Prefer a shower or don’t have a bath? This is just as effective! Top Tip: Don’t try and fool your body into cool down with a cold blast of water before leaving the shower. This acts as a shock to the system and instead of relaxing you, it’s more likely to kick start your body once more and you may find it’ll take a lot longer to get to sleep.
We recommend! We recently got to try Aromatherapy Associates Deep Relax Bath and Shower Oil this is a blend of vertivert, camomile and sandalwood which is a heady combination. Either pour a capful into the tub or else smooth over your body before stepping into the shower. Even after a bath or shower, the oil resides on the skin allowing it to penetrate into the deeper levels of skin to increase its effectiveness over time. Through several tests we did notice an instant difference; we felt more relaxed and noticeably more sleepy after a Deep Relax bath. We weren’t the only ones to think it’s amazing, the customer reviews are raving! What’s more, Aromatherapy Associates oils are all natural so it’s immensely good for your skin and the environment. Geraldine Howard, Co-Founder of Aromatherapy Associates says ‘People often think that lavender is the best sleeping aid, however vetiver and chamomile are the very best given their therapeutic benefits. I often call vetiver the ‘knock-out oil’ as it really slows down the active brain, and when combined with chamomiles soothing, relaxing and calming properties, this blend is very effective. Massage the temples with Aromatherapy Associates Deep Relax Balm before going to bed, or massage the back of your neck and the base of your skull. Alternatively, have a bath or shower with Deep Relax Bath and Shower Oil. You can also put some drops on a tissue and tuck it inside your pillowcase before lying down or put a teaspoon of Deep Relax Bath and Shower Oil in a bowl with hot water to inhale. Guaranteed to set you a peaceful night’s sleep.’
3: Try Sound! Music is extremely powerful; you’ll know from experience how one song can make you feel melancholy whilst others are uplifting and can re-energise you. You’re also bound to have a collection of songs that make you feel relaxed and which ease anxiety. When we sleep we’re not adverse to the effect of noises externally whether natural house noises or noise from neighbouring houses, the street etc. most people will be startled by this noise but find it easy enough to drop back to sleep without difficult and may not even remember it the next morning. For those of you that find the slightest sound disturbing and disruptive may find, much like me and the fan, a constant sound source such as music, background stories etc. can aid in constant sleep because you’ll your body will be unable to distinguish the music from other sound sources and therefore sleep through.
Try experimenting with different sounds sources such as music, fans, stories etc. at different volumes and determine what works best for you. If you find yourself singing along to your favourite chill songs, try something without lyrics, or a relaxation story which you’ll probably concentrate on initially (especially the ones that encourage you to tighten then relax muscles around the body) but eventually you’ll have trained your mind to recognise the ‘track’ as a sound to induce sleep without having to listen to it fully. TOP TIP: Although YouTube is a great resource with an abundance of relaxation based videos, ultimately, you’ll want to transfer a similar sound to a non-light-emitting source as this could disturb your sleep. Personally, I can set a track or playlist on my iPad on repeat and then close the casing so no light comes out but still have the benefit of the sound.
To find out more about sounds and sleep, take a look at the Hear article on Sleep Foundation, it’s very illuminating.
4: Comfort is key. That includes what you wear and what you sleep on. This may or may not be an easy fix. Sometimes it can be about experimenting. We reported last week that 1 in 5 thinks they could improve their sleep by changing their bed. Did you know you should be changing your bed every 7 years? When was the last time you changed yours?
Choosing a new bed can be mind boggling though. Do you go for sprung mattress? memory foam? gel? fibre? Then if you decide on sprung do you go for pocket sprung? coil? or continuous? Selecting a bed suitable for you is extremely important and a no-expense spared purchase. You spend around 1/3rd of your life sleeping so ensuring you get plenty of it, and more importantly, good quality sleep, it sound command a lot of your attention. The only sure way to make an informed decision though is to go and try as many different kinds as you can. Here are some considerations when purchasing a new bed:
- You can get mattresses that come with different tensions each side so if you have a different preference to your partner, this can be really beneficial.
- Determine where you believe you need most support e.g. hips and ensure that the mattress is suitable for your weight and build too!
- Lie in your normal sleeping positions and lie for a while. This is the only way to get a true sense of what the bed offers- if you’re concerned about people looking at you, head out nearer closing times when the shops are generally quieter.
- Consider your bed as a whole- how the base works with a mattress and vice versa.
- A larger bed is more likely to give you more comfort. If you are someone who struggles with sleep a little distance between you and a partner can be really beneficial. Though if you’re going for a super large bed, check whether this can be delivered to your home and into your bedroom with ease. Some large beds cannot be accommodated up the stairs and this can break the bed, despite it being handled by the delivery team the store will see it your responsibility as to whether it can get up the stairs or not.
Pillows and clothing are just as important. Like beds, there are many pillows available on the market. Although there is some advice and guidance on what should/could be suitable for you, it’s again a try and see method as everyone is completely different. However, we’ve found a handy resource in the Pillow Advisor which is well worth looking at. Perhaps we’ll explore this in detail in another article! As for bedding and clothing, cotton is best. As a natural material, it is lightweight, breathable and soft. Though of course do experiment with different materials as you may prefer something a little warmer if you have a fan on you all night. Silk is also a good fabric as it is generally cool to the touch. A silk pillowcase can also reduce the appearance of wrinkles- though not everyone agrees with silk as it can ‘scratch’ against dry skin and to some feel extremely uncomfortable. You may in fact prefer to sleep in nothing at all. If you’re someone who does feel a little chilly though and/or always find you have very cold feet, do wear socks! Many do not realise the effect cold feet has on your feet but even covering your toes can make all the difference! Sleep.Org have another great article on this.
5: Shut out the light. Try complete and utter darkness. Ensure all lights are off, devices are shut-down and/or appear off, do not even allow standby lights and put up blackout blinds/curtains. You could even try and go one further and put on an eye mask (silk is best).
Last week we talked about ingrained patterns and behaviours we’ve developed since the beginning of time. ‘Seeing’ light is another one of these ingrained patterns. We have a gland called the pineal gland which produces and releases melatonin, the hormone which regulates sleep. As night falls, this hormone is released to induce sleep and eases off with sunrise to allow us to be alert and ‘awake’. This is a pattern so ingrained that our brain, determined by time, is capable of releasing this hormone. Though artificial lighting (it has been suggested of any kind) can actually prohibit the release of the hormone, the quality released and essentially mess up our the body-clock. Apparently it is a hormone that can only truly be released in the dark (Sleep Foundation). So even if you perceive the room to be dark, light is able to pass through eyelids. Therefore any light exposure has the impact to affect the melatonin production.
Not only should we try total darkness when we go to sleep but in the evenings switch from stark lighting to softer lighting such as table lamps/dimmer switches as a way of encouraging the release of the hormone which occurs, generally around 9pm. Don’t forget: We touched on last week how 10pm is the most optimum time to be asleep.
Some other considerations to light:
- If you’re someone who really struggles to sleep, exposure to light is as important in the day as total darkness is at night. Regulating your exposure to light (natural where possible or as good a substitute) will retrain your body to recognise the right times to release melatonin.
- If you’re someone that works during the night and has to sleep during the day; establish sleeping routines to avoid falling asleep in direct artificial lights
- Again for those that really struggle. Have a cut-off time for TV and electronic devices to allow your body to go into shut-down.
6: Remove distractions– Keep your room clear. Consider it a space for sleep and for sleep only. If you’re easily distracted, remove clocks, devices, books, magazines etc. from your bedroom. This way if you wake up or struggle to even get to sleep you’ve nothing to focus on but trying to sleep.
If you’re a thinker and can’t seem to switch off. Try putting a pad and pen by your bedside and write down any thought that occurs to you. Psychologists suggest that by writing the thought down, whatever it is, it’ll be eliminated from your mind. This is especially effective if it’s a task to do, which generally nothing can be done about until morning anyway.