Words by Emilie Marie
Getting the right amount of sleep and the right quality of sleep will make a huge difference to your sense of wellbeing and your level of energy but also to how well your brain performs.
So here are my 10 top tips to sleep better which I have gleaned from various mentors and a very special bonus: the secret to top quality sleep.
Tip #1 – Get your bedroom at the right temperature
Research shows that the ideal temperature of a bedroom is between 15°C and 19°C. I don’t go overboard with this one but this is how I deal with it:
In the winter, I keep my bedroom cool by turning the radiator on a low setting (I don’t turn it off completely, I just put it on the minimum setting) and close the door so it doesn’t affect the temperature in the rest of the flat.
In the summer, I keep the window open throughout the night
That seems to work for me.
Tip #2 – The importance of light
You want to keep the lights down between one to two hours before bedtime. This is because bright lights signal to the brain that it's daytime, and therefore time to be active.
So it is best to have lights around your place that you can dim.
Also, it is strongly recommended to avoid screens for about one hour before bedtime. I find this one quite tricky as my phone has become an extension of my arm. But now that I'm working on my bedtime routine (see below tip#10) it is becoming easier to avoid screens as my focus is turned elsewhere.
Tip #3 – Dealing with noise
Noise can disturb your sleep without waking you up and that will greatly affect the quality of your sleep. There are a few things you can do:
Sleep with earplugs
Listen to white noise
If you are living in a busy and noisy street it might worth investing in double glazing windows
Tip #4 – Move
I feel like a broken record… Please be kind to yourself and exercise! Yes, once again, exercising will help you sleep better, but watch out for the time you exercise. It is best to avoid vigorous exercise just before bedtime.
I personally exercise first thing in the morning (6am is definitely my favourite time to go for a run) except for yoga which I do in the evening. That said we finish with a nice relaxation session so that gets me ready for bed.
As always there is no need to go crazy. No need to run marathons. Little and often is better than a lot once in a blue moon.
Tip #5 – Meditate
Meditation can really help you especially if you are struggling to relax before bedtime. Even if you only meditate for 5 minutes in the morning or in the middle of the day, as long as you do it regularly, it will slowly but surely improve the quality of your sleep. Meditation works wonders for the brain.
Here is how to get started:
You can try an app, either an actual meditation app or simply a breathing app
You can listen to guided meditations on youtube
You can join an online programme – I tried the Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey one and loved it. I highly recommend it
Or you can simply sit down / lie down for a few minutes every day and focus on breathing in and out – yes meditation is that simple!
Tip #6 – Eat the right thing at the right time
This is one I learnt a few years ago from Deepak Chopra’s Perfect Health and I have never gone back as it has made such a big difference to my wellbeing. This is how it goes:
Finish your dinner at least 3 hours before bedtime to give your stomach time to digest
Your supper should be very light – personally I often just have a soup
Avoid alcohol if possible – more than 1 glass of wine with your evening meal will affect your sleep
Tip #7 – Get your thoughts out of your head
Have you ever felt tired and ready for bed but when you get there your head start thinking about a million things that you need to do tomorrow? The good news is you’re not alone.
When this happens your brain goes into hyperdrive. It keeps repeating the information again and again because it is trying to make sure that you remember it.
So next time this happens, get a pen and a piece of paper (not your phone – remember tip#2) and write it all down. This will give the message to your brain that you have safely stored the information somewhere you will be able to find it tomorrow and it will finally be able to relax.
Tip #8 – Read
So if you are not allowed screens for one whole hour before bed (see tip #2) what are you going to do? This is when reading old fashion paper books comes in handy.
But be careful. Do not go and read a practical or self-help book just before bedtime; It will have the opposite effect to the desired one as it will switch your brain into problem resolution mode.
So this is your opportunity to read a fiction.
Tip #9 – Make your bedroom a sanctuary
There are only 3 things that you should be doing in your bedroom: sleep, have sex or read a fiction book before falling asleep. That is it. You should not be using your bedroom for working or watching TV or anything else.
This is important as it will signal to your brain that when you are in this room, it is about sleeping. If you train your brain to be active in this room, it will find it harder to relax and go to sleep when you want to.
Tip #10 – Have a bedtime routine…
… so that your brain knows that it is time to sleep!
Here's my routine:
Bathroom routine: teeth brushing, face cleansing etc.
Read a fiction book
Visualisation exercise (this is a whole different subject – maybe for another post)
Turn off the light – I tend to naturally fall asleep by that point – but if not I move on to…
Relaxation exercise: think about your body from toes to head and think:
“I relax my toes”
“I relax my feet”
“I relax my ankles”
… until you have reached your head
And that’s it, I am usually long gone before I reach my head. If I'm not it's because an active thought has interrupted the process. By active thought I mean one of the thoughts I referred to in tip#7.
So if that happens, apply tip#7 and start the relaxation exercise again.
Bonus tip: How to wake up without an alarm
One of my mentors recently shared this with me and it is so powerful that I could not resist passing it on.
One of the things that will kill the quality of your sleep is your alarm. If it goes off at the wrong time during your sleep cycle it can damage the restful effect of the whole night.
This can be avoided by asking your brain to wake you up at the right time.
Have you ever had to catch-up a 5am flight and had to wake up in the middle of the night to do so? Did you miss your flight? Did you snooze the alarm? Or were you awake just before the alarm went off and jumped out of bed?
The answer is most likely the latter. That’s because:
you unconsciously programmed your brain to wake up on time to ensure you wouldn’t miss your flight
had something important to wake up for
So how to use this superpower every day?
Programming your brain
I am told the answer is in ‘Mindstore’ by Jack Black. I have yet to read this book myself. I have been told what the method is and I have tried it but I haven’t yet had a chance to read the book. So this is hearsay. However since it works for me I thought I would share it anyway.
This is how to proceed:
After you have finished the relaxation exercise in tip#10, think of a place where you feel really relaxed
Look around you and find a clock
Look at the clock and look at the numbers (if it is digital) or the hands (on a traditional clock)
Watch the numbers or the hands move forward in time until they reach the time you wish to naturally wake up tomorrow
Then watch the numbers or the hands move backward in time until they reach the time you wish to naturally fall asleep
This needs to be very precise. If you want to make up at 6.15am, make sure the hands are at 6.15 am.
This will take time as you need to train your brain. I am still working on this but I can see progress as I am more and more often waking up before the alarm and I feel a lot better for it.
Have a morning routine
The second part of this is to have something to wake up to. Half the reason this works when you have a plane to catch, is because you have a plane to catch!
So if you have a morning routine that you enjoy, it will be a lot easier to wake up for it because you will feel up for it.
I have no issue getting up at 6am, because if I do it means I have time to have my favourite start of the day (run, long shower, and homemade juice). And when I start the day like that, nothing can go wrong.
Do you have any other tips to improve your sleep? I’d love to hear them. Leave a comment!
Intellectual Property lawyer by day, blogger and life coach by night. Having suffered from depression on and off over 20 years, Emilie has done extensive research on the subject and worked out a system to manage depression without medication through having a healthy lifestyle. She shares her experience and tips on her blog https://memyhealthandi.org/
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