If you struggle to sleep, you’re not alone – according to Aviva, there’s 16 million of us in the UK. That’s a quarter of the population who don’t know how to get to sleep.
Research by the National Sleep Foundation has found that the most common reason for sleeplessness is anxiety. Dr Lisa Meltzer says “If you’re anxious and worried, it’s very difficult to relax and fall asleep. When you’re not sleeping well, you’ll be more anxious and you’ll have a harder time regulating emotion. It feeds on itself.” Not being able to sleep can become a vicious cycle that can have a catastrophic effect on your health and your life.
So, what steps can we take to tackle our sleeplessness and help us to sleep better?
How To Get To Sleep: 4 Steps
51% of us don’t do anything to try to help get to sleep. But the behaviour you have just before bed does affect the quality and duration of your sleep. It’s known as sleep hygiene. Good sleep hygiene is maintaining a regular bedtime and keeping the bedroom at the right temperature. Bad sleep hygiene is drinking caffeine late in the afternoon and drinking alcohol late at night. Worryingly, 13% of us use alcohol to help us sleep, but alcohol in our system causes unrestful nights.
The age and gender breakdown of people in the UK who struggle to sleep. (Dreams, 2016)
So what can you do to have good sleep hygiene? Here are the 4 steps that you can take to get to sleep quicker and better.
Switch off your phone
Avoid screens in the hour before you go to bed. 95% of us watch TV and check our phones before we go to bed, but the blue light from their screens can trick our brains into thinking its daytime. This stops us producing melatonin, which is the hormone that controls our sleep.
- Keep to a bedtime routine
Keep the hour before bed the same every night. Changing what time you go to bed, what you do before you go to bed, and what time you wake up disturbs our body clocks. Sticking to a routine trains your brain to recognise bedtime.
Avoid heavy foods and drinks
Try not to drink caffeine after 4 pm, or alcohol at night. Caffeine can stay in our system longer than we can feel its effect, so steer clear of it late in the afternoon. What and when we eat can also disrupt our sleep, so try not to eat heavy meals in the 2 hours before bedtime.
- Limit daytime napsTry not to nap more than 20 minutes in a day. Long naps can cause us to enter a deep sleep, which can affect our body’s natural rhythms. Keep your deeper, more restorative sleep for nighttime when you can sleep for longer periods.
What If You Still Can’t Sleep?
If you have good sleep hygiene – you have a routine, you limit screen time, and you avoid daytime naps – but you still can’t sleep, then there are a few things you can do.
A vicious circle of insomnia (Mind, 2018)
Try these 4 tips if you still can’t sleep.
It sounds counter-intuitive, but if you are restless 30 mins after getting into bed, get up. Walk around your house, read a book, or make a warm drink until you feel tired again. Just avoid screens.
Wash Your Face
Although it doesn’t sound very relaxing, submerge your face in cold water. It can help to reset your nervous system, which can help if you are feeling anxious or stress.
Blowing bubbles is both hypnotic and helps to control your breathing. You may not have a bottle of bubble mixture lying around the house, so try the 4-7-8 breathing technique instead.
It divides many, but actually wearing socks in bed could help you to sleep. Swiss researchers have found that warm feet widen blood vessels in your extremities, which supports the action of melatonin.
Sometimes, our minds are so active that we can’t fall asleep no matter how hard we try.
Reducing the stress of daily life can seem like an impossible task, so a natural or herbal remedy can sometimes help. Magnesium is an essential mineral, which can help our bodies to relax. 5HTP is a precursor to the ‘happy hormone’ serotonin, which plays a part in our sleep too.
Both are in our special blend, Beauty Sleep, which is designed to support natural, healthy sleep.