There are 101 things you can do to try and sleep better and if you read the blogs of any of the big ‘health gurus’, you likely already have an exhaustive sleep regimen that involves eating spoons of honey, lying on pressure mats and wearing special sunglasses (yep, these are all real sleep strategies!).
In fact though, there is no need to make your sleep habits that complicated. While all of these tips probably can work and probably do have some merit under the right circumstances, there is no need to resort to such drastic measures. Often these tips will have such a marginal effect as to not be worth the effort. In fact, overcomplicating matters will likely only hurt your ability to get to sleep as you end up overthinking the process rather than just relaxing.
Instead, focus on the big ‘fixes’ that can improve your sleep and leave it at that. Here are a few things to focus on that will encourage healthy sleep. The rest just comes down to getting into a routine, maintaining your environment and encouraging good general health (going for long walks for instance).
Take Half an Hour to Decompress
If you only do one thing to improve your sleep, it should probably be this. If you go straight to bed after a busy and stressful day at work, you’ll find that your mind is still racing and that your heart rate is likely doing the same. This makes it very difficult to switch off and let yourself drift to sleep and as such you should consider taking some time to just unwind and decompress in the evening.
During this time, you should try to avoid anything that will get you worked up and anything that your brain might mistake for sunlight. Looking at phones and computer screens as you likely know can trigger the release of cortisol in the brain. What’s more though, we associate these devices with being awake, alert and distracted – they are terrible for getting to sleep.
Instead of wearing blue blocking glasses then, try instead to have half an hour in the evening to read a book by a dim light before bed. This will help your mind to relax and switch off and it will give your brain chemistry a chance to recover from all those screens and beeps. This technique can even help you to improve your mood and to combat stress, because you’ll have a sacred time at the end of the day when no distractions and no work will be allowed. A difficult day at work is much easier when you know you can relax and read a book later!
And if you get this right, you will start sleeping much better. You may even find your eyes start getting heavy before your half hour is up!
Open the Window
Evolution has designed us to sleep best in cool environments. In the wild we did not have central heating or thick duvets and instead we would sleep outside with minimal shelter. As such, this is still how we sleep best. If you live in a warm-ish area, then keep the window slightly open and use your covers to stay warm. This way you’ll also benefit from getting fresh air which is good for you and helps you to sleep better.
Note that this technique doesn’t work as well if you are allergic to pollen – in that case try using air conditioning or even a gentle fan instead.
Take a Warm Bath
Before your half an hour of reading, you can also try taking a warm bath. Don’t have that long to indulge yourself in the evening? Then have 15 minutes of reading and 15 minutes of bathing, or alternatively take a shower instead.
Not only is a warm bath an activity that forces you to relax (you can’t type on your computer in the bath!) but it also helps your muscles to relax and it encourages your body to start producing growth hormone and melatonin for a deep, anabolic sleep.
Taking a warm bath just before bed can do much more for your ability to sleep soundly than any amount of valerian root and it’s much less expensive too!