A good night’s sleep! Do you remember what that felt like? Maybe not, you might be too young. Sleep was that amazing rejuvenating thing we all used to do at night before stress, Netflix and smartphones came along to overstimulate our poor brains.
Advances in medical science have produced an Everest-sized mountain of research proving that not only does sleep make us better at everything we do, not getting enough is killing us.
Individuals who regularly get less than seven hours sleep a night have an increased risk of becoming obese, developing diabetes, suffering from raised blood pressure, heart disease and even cancer. And the list of potential risks isn’t just physical, it’s mental too. The sleep-deprived have much greater risks of suffering from anxiety, stress, depression and even committing suicide.
If you suffer from poor sleep, don’t despair. There are a whole host of things you can do, from changing what you eat to doing a little more exercise. You can also improve your pre-bed routine with our top five sleep-inducing relaxation tips below.
Set the Scene for Sleep
We all know that looking at screens, especially our phones before bed is terrible for our sleep. If you’ve been living under a rock and this is news to you, then I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but it’s kind of common knowledge.
Firstly, there is the interactive element of devices these days, all that is swiping, all those gamified apps, it’s just like catnip for our brains, and the result is an overstimulated mind come bedtime.
Secondly, the light emitted by all screens plays havoc with our circadian rhythms. But it’s not just the light from screens that cause problems, so too does unnecessarily bright overhead lights in our homes. One incredibly effective tip to improve your sleep is to dim the lights in your home a couple of hours before bed. A little mood lighting can really set the scene for sleep.
Get Your Yin On
Engaging in the exercise of any kind during the day will dramatically improve your ability to sleep. Not all exercise is created equal, however, and some things are particularly good for encouraging a good night’s rest. Yoga is one.
The combination of deep breathing and stretching is the perfect pre-bed choice to de-stress both the body and mind. Yoga has been proven to slow the heart rate, reduce blood pressure and improve respiration, three things that have an amazingly somnambulatory effect.
One piece of advice, maybe opt for a slower form of yoga in the evening, a gentle Hatha or yin practice tends to be more relaxing than a more blood-pumping ashtanga.
Make a Nightly Date to Meditate
Have you ever laid down in bed to sleep only to have your mind instantly taken over by random worries and anxieties? This is your monkey mind. The solution – meditation.
Meditation is no longer the preserve of shaven-headed Burmese monks or sandal wearing hippies in sandals. Nope, mediation is mainstream now, and with good reason – it works!
The practice of sitting quietly and focusing on your thoughts may sound a little bit pointless to the uninitiated, but it turns out to be an incredibly effective form of relaxation. Once you realize the endless stream of thoughts that past through your mind’s eye is just the random chattering of your monkey mind, you start to attach less importance to them. While they never fully disappear they do lose some of their power over you.
For more sleep-related hints and tips the team over at https://www.sleepadvisor.org/ have a mountain more worth checking out.
Soak into Sleep
Oprah swears by this next tip, and if it’s good enough for O, then it’s damn sure good enough for you and I. The pre-bed bath.
Ahhhhh, is anything more relaxing and indulgent feeling, yet guilt-free, than a nice long soak in the tub before bed. Not only does the warm water ease away the aches and pains of a hard day sitting a desk or standing behind a counter, but the process of taking a little time for yourself, away from the distractions of the real world outside the bathroom door does also wonders. It’s like your own private spa holiday.
Get a Little Floral
Now, I’m not about to get into a debate over the scientific integrity of my last tip, all I can say is that it works for me. This could, of course, be a pure placebo effect but if it is, then give me more of that sweet placebo, please!
Before bed each night I sprinkle two drops of lavender essential oil on my pillow and when I lay my head down it’s like laying down in a beautiful flower-filled meadow on a summer’s day.
Well, there you have it, my sleep-craving friends, five relaxation tips to help you improve your odds of a good night’s sleep. Sweet dreams!