If you’ve been following me on Twitter, you may have noticed me talk about #HillarysWeekOfSleep over the past week. This was part of a campaign, organised by Hillary’s blinds, for National Sleep Awareness Week. Myself and a few other bloggers, were challenged to take on some of their tips (+ the use of a FitBit device) to see if we could improve our sleep.
Throughout this challenge, I wore a FitBit, which helped me track what time I was sleeping, waking up and how restless I was during the night. I was able to see how using the tips below improved my sleep considerably – and of course I felt the benefits too! Scroll down for my top 8 tips that really helped me improve my sleep…
Avoid screens before bed.
Completely. At least an hour before sleep, give your eyes a break from all screens – no phones, no ipads, no laptops! Keep them out of sight, if possible, putting your gadgets in a draw on the other side of the room.
Instead, read paperback books or use an old e-ink device (which is not backlit) such as the old Kindle. Not in the mood to read? Try playing a game of solitaire, filling in a Suduko puzzle or listening to music or a radio show – iPod shuffles are a good, affordable option for this as there is no screen to distract you!
Set a routine.
It’s amazing how our bodies respond to routines, habits and rituals. Making an effort to go to bed at the same time every night (whether or not you go to sleep straight away) and waking up at the same time every morning means your training your body to follow these cues and sleep more efficiently.
If you use your phone as an alarm, try buying a really cheap old fashioned one or use the FitBit which gives you a gentle vibrate to wake up. Sunrise alarms are another good option, if you have the budget.
Fact: We sleep better in the dark. We can be sensitive to the smallest amount of light, such as the standby light from a monitor, or street light peeking through the side of the curtains so using a blackout blind and ensuring all plugs are switched off is essential for a good quality sleep.
Sleep masks can be helpful but they’re not altogether effective as our skin is also receptive to light, meaning our bodies can still pick up that we’re not in a dark environment. If you can’t stand the thought of sleeping in complete darkness, at least use a low-blue light.
Get some morning sunlight.
Get in tune with your natural wake-sleep cycle by exposing yourself to morning sunlight, even on a grey day! Make walks outdoors part of your morning routine and spend more time outside during the day. If you work in an office, try eating lunch outside or taking a walk on your break. You can also use light boxes to boost your exposure to light during the day, which is particularly useful during the Winter months.
Exercise during the day.
Just as little as 20 minutes exercise today is proven to improve sleep. I’ve made walking my dog for 30 minutes a day part of my routine. Don’t exercise too strenuously before bedtime though, as this can wake you up too much. Try yoga before bed to help your relax and wind down.
Eat lighter in the evening.
Heavy meals are hard to digest in the evening and can cause indigestion. Don’t eat 2 hours before sleep so your body has a chance to digest your food fully.
Create a sleeping sanctuary.
My favourite tip… Give your bedroom a mini makeover to create a relaxing environment for sleep.
Ideally, your bedroom should be just for sleeping (and sex) so remove anything that may be distracting such as TVs and laptops. If you live in a studio flat or need to use your bedroom as a workspace too, try using a room divider to separate your work environment from your sleep environment. I use Ikea’s Kallax shelving to divide the space between my work space and bed. It’s like having two rooms and makes such a difference!
Make your bed look enticing by using comfortable bedding, pillows and throws. Dress it every morning so it’s ready for the evening. Perhaps light some candles, sprinkle some essential oils onto your pillow and play some relaxing music. Whatever relaxes you!
I’ve made massaging my skin with magnesium oil before bed part of my night-time routine. You can also supplement in tablet form but it’s absorbed well by the skin and the act of massaging aids relaxation too. This mineral is proven to help with stress and improve sleep but a lot of people are deficient so it’s worth checking out. I also find herbal teas, such as Pukka’s Night Time tea, a nice way to wind down and benefit from the sleep-boosting herbs.
Of course, it’s likely I won’t be sticking to these guidelines strictly. I have night-owl tendencies and will sometimes stay up late and perhaps let myself fall back into some bad habits but now I know how to fix it when I need to. And it’s quite easy when you know how.
Doing this challenge has definitely given me a sense of control, knowing what helps me sleep better. It makes such a difference to your every day quality of life so why not focus a bit of attention on how you can improve your sleep?
Disclaimer: I was commissioned to write this post. All words, images and opinions are my own!