Stop obsessing over sleep and free yourself from the old rest rules to get the shut-eye you need…
Poor sleep can mean many things – short, broken, inconsistent or unrefreshing. Either way, it adds up to feeling low, looking drained and generally succumbing to the belief that you’re just not up to meeting the demands of the day ahead.
Maybe you feel exhausted at 4pm but come bedtime, simply can’t drop off? Perhaps you’re asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow, but wake up at 4am and toss and turn for hours? You could even be a classic “Sunday nighter” – someone who generally sleeps well but enters an end-of-weekend state of anxiety and spends all night worrying about the week ahead.
Yet, while most of us are familiar with the over-used phrase “sleep hygiene”, following these guidelines obsessively may merely make you worry more. How many of us lie awake feeling the minutes turn to hours, desperately trying not to check what time it is?
So here’s how to stop stressing and start sleeping…
Give yourself a break:
Many of us have been conditioned to believe that we must get at least 8 hours sleep – but often this is counter-intuitive. We worry if we fall below the mark – we toss and turn and fret so much that we enter a vicious cycle and make sleep even less likely. We know from our different skin types, dietary requirements and body shapes that not all humans are created the same – so it may be that you simply need less than the average 8 hours. Find your sleep sweet spot and feel comfort in the fact that 6 hours of good quality sleep is far more beneficial than quantity.
Find your cycle:
If the amount of time we need is personal, it makes sense that when we sleep varies from individual to individual too. We know that “larks” love to rise early and go to bed earlier – whilst “owls” tend to do both later. Try making your bedtime an hour or two earlier or later than usual every night for two weeks and keep a sleep journal to see how you feel each day. It may just be that your poor sleep pattern is due to bad timing.
Ever since childhood, many of us have been told to count sheep if we can’t sleep. But what you really need is something to distract your mind from the fact you can’t sleep. Skip the TV and laptop (the light will only make you more alert) – and instead, listen to an audiobook. We find children’s books are often just interesting enough to make us follow along – but not so gripping you’ll stay up to hear the end.
Our bodies require a fall in temperature to help us fall asleep. So if you can’t nod off, stop beating yourself up about it and make sure your bedroom is completely dark and has a window that’s ajar. Then take a warm shower before you get in to your invitingly cool bed.