How to get a good night’s sleep

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Say goodbye to sleepless nights

Falling asleep is like knowing there’s a lovely, comforting safety net beneath you. And all you have to do is let go – and sink into it.

But letting go can be easier said than done.

The days are longer, the nights are warmer – and summertime can play havoc with your sleep pattern. Especially if you’ve got exams looming and your brain just can’t switch off.

More than a third of us suffer from sleeplessness or have trouble falling asleep, according to the Mental Health Foundation. Worrying about falling asleep can keep you tossing and turning, clock-watching, until daylight.

Breaking the sleeplessness cycle

But insomnia isn’t so much a problem, as a pattern. A habit you’ve fallen into – especially if you’ve gone through a period of high stress, or personal upheaval. Luckily, there are lots of ways you can reset your sleep cycle – some of them are universal, but others will be unique to you.

To start with, you can do your body a massive favour by avoiding certain foods or activities that over-stimulate – that includes big meals after 8pm, spicy foods, and alcohol. Most doctors recommend no caffeine after 4pm if you have trouble sleeping.

Get up and go to bed at the same time every day whenever you possibly can. You need to make sleep part of your natural rhythm.  Don’t pull revision all-nighters or stay up past your natural bedtime, to party harder. And no cheat-sleeping with naps!

Once you’re in bed, focus down on your breathing. Breathe deeply ten times, and exhale slowly; it lowers your heart rate and stress levels.

What’s the deal with ASMR?

Deep breathing not cutting it? ASMR – Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response is a popular talking point on social media, and widely accepted as an effective ‘sleep aid’. Around 75% of us do find that certain sounds or actions can have a positive impact on our stress levels and make us feel deeply relaxed. ASMR can be triggered by whispering, low level rhythmic noise, someone paying us personal attention such as gently combing our hair, or watching a person concentrate on a detailed or repetitive task.

It’s worth experimenting with ASMR videos to see if they help you relax or trying calming apps or ‘coloured noise’ playlists – there are lots freely available online.

Making a nightly wellbeing ritual

This is the fun part! Creating your own bespoke sleep routine at the end of your day gives you something positive to look forward to. Listen to yourself, not the sleep aid industry hype – if you prefer the scent of roses to lavender, spray that on your pillow. If camomile tea leaves you cold – choose your own favourite bedtime drink. Whatever makes you feel happy, and relaxed.

Make your bedroom your sleep haven

Feeling relaxed means changing your room ambience from daytime to dream time – softer lighting, scented candles, relaxing music. Dim the lights, put everyday clutter away. Turn off all your devices (that blue light slows the production of melatonin, the hormone that helps you sleep). Choose your nightwear with as much care as your daywear, so you feel comfortable when you climb in. Love your eye mask. And your ear plugs!

Pick up a pen!

Reading (this is not an excuse for cramming in some last-minute studying, or research) is a favourite pre-sleep activity, and simply drawing quietly for ten minutes is also a great way to wind down. Journalling and writing your to-do list for tomorrow helps you ‘let go’ of the day and feel better prepared for the next; hopefully meaning you’ll fall asleep more easily.

If it hasn’t been a great day, you can pour that pent-up frustration into your journal, not take it to bed with you.

Relax, follow your rituals, find your rhythm, and sleep will find you.

Quality of sleep, not quantity

It’s not necessarily how much you get, it’s how good it is. The last cycle of our sleep is our most creative – we’ve all woken up with ideas and solutions that seem to come out of nowhere. Director Christopher Nolan drew inspiration for his 2010 psychological thriller Inception from his own lucid dreams. Storylines for novels, such as Stephen King’s Dreamcatcher, the melody line for Yesterday by the Beatles; the lyrics in John Lennon’s #9 Dream; ideas for iconic characters such as Frankenstein – they all came from dreams. While you’re sleeping, your brain is resolving problems, rebalancing your life and restoring harmony, imagining brave new worlds.

Go and sleep! Free your mind and wake up feeling refreshed.