Can’t sleep? 6 healthy habits to wake up feeling refreshed
Updated: Nov 24, 2020
“If I fall asleep right now, I can get a good 5 hours… Well, actually, after I’ve been to the loo again for the umpteenth time, I suppose I’d get 4 hours and 40 minutes. And that’s if I drop right off…”
More and more of us are having trouble sleeping and not getting enough kip each night can contribute to general fatigue, poor concentration, low mood, increased inflammation in the body and a host of other health problems.
There’s nothing worse than lying wide awake hour after hour, only to fall asleep 18 minutes before your alarm rudely wakes you up again.
You might have heard of ‘sleep hygiene’ which means adopting healthy habits and putting yourself in the best possible position to have a good night’s rest.
The majority of us need between 7-9 hours of sleep a night to function at our best, and this does vary person to person. Even if you don’t feel the effects of chronic sleeplessness right now, it can catch up over time.
Luckily, there are some simple but extremely effective ways to improve your sleep.
How to get more sleep tonight
1. Have a calming bedtime routine
Electronics off or out of sight at least an hour before bedtime, yes everything. I mean your phone too.
The blue light interferes with our delicate natural rhythm and suppresses your body's production of melatonin, which is crucial for sleep.
Read a book or have a bath. You could even try a short relaxation exercise (Try this one) in bed to help you wind down.
Ideally, put all electronics outside the bedroom. A brilliant alternative to your phone alarm is a light alarm clock, which wakes you up with gradually brightening natural light. A regular alarm wakes your system up with a bang, making the body release adrenaline on waking, and you may feel disoriented, groggy or even anxious.
2. Set up your bedroom for (snooze) success
Clear all the clutter from your bedroom, even the things that are stashed under your bed.
Even though you can’t see it, you know it’s there and I promise that you’ll sleep easier when everything is neat and in its place.
Neutral colours and symmetry in the bedroom are known to be relaxing to the mind – think about the space you have now and whether it could be more conducive to relaxation.
Block out as much sunlight and internal light as you can. Get rid of any ‘dots’ of light in the room – stick blue tack over your alarm clock or TV lights. It might sound obsessive, but any light can impact melatonin levels. Using an eye mask is a great help too.
3. Stick to a routine
Our bodies have an internal clock and the more you can stick to the same sleep and rising time (ideally within half an hour of the same time each day), the more likely it will be you fall asleep quickly and wake up feeling refreshed.
Ever heard someone say they’re off to get their beauty sleep? That really is a thing. While we sleep, the body increases secretion of growth and repair hormones, repairing the damage done by stress and inflammation.
These hormones are particularly prevalent during the first few hours of kip, so sticking to a regular routine and aiming to get to bed around 10pm will help you make the most of your natural anti-aging treatment!
4. Combat the 3am wake up
As the temperature in your bedroom and your body temperature fluctuates through the night, overheating is a normal reason to wake up. Try wearing breathable clothing in bed and sleeping under a sheet, only pulling up the duvet if you get chilly.
Use ear plugs to reduce the chance of the Number 92 bus (or the dreaded snoring partner) disturbing you.
Get your 6-7 glasses of water through the day to keep you hydrated but don’t drink excessive water (small sips is fine!) an hour before you head to bed.
5. Take a pause in the day
A big reason we are culturally sleep deprived is due to the amount we pack in to our days and the levels of stress we have.
You race from activity to activity, only to fall into bed at the end of each day exhausted, yet your mind is still reeling from that passive aggressive email your colleague sent, the electrician you need to call tomorrow etc etc…
Giving yourself one, or a few, pauses through the day, to take a couple of deep breaths or to meditate, will help clear your mind so that all the stresses of your day don’t suddenly crop up to haunt you when you lay your head on the pillow.
The benefits of meditation and deep breathing are cumulative. If you can practice even for 5 minutes each day, over time you’ll gain distance from your thoughts and feelings, relax your nervous system and easier sleep will follow. Meditation apps, like Headspace, are fantastic resources.
6. Reduce sugar and caffeine
Poor blood sugar control from eating added sugar can contribute to disrupted sleep and waking up in the middle of the night.
Looking at what you eat and swapping that afternoon chocolate bar for a naturally sweet snack high in fibre to steady blood sugar levels (try a handful of dates or chopped up banana or apple with nut butter) can help control it.
No caffeine after midday. If you’re sensitive to caffeine, you might even want to switch to decaf or naturally caffeine free herbal teas, to remove it from the equation completely.
Your commitment to healthy habits will pay off
As with everything, it’s progress over perfection. Commit to taking one step consistently. Celebrate every small improvement you make and over time, sticking to a good routine will pay back in dividends.
I know from experience how chronic health problems can play havoc with your sleep and how frustrating this can feel.
If you're struggling with sleep, try my free 3 Day Energising Meal Planner to reduce sugar in your diet, balance blood sugar levels, and see the impact it could have on your sleep.
I’d love to know how you get on and if you have any top tips for better sleep, feel free to leave a comment!