Leading hypnotherapist Leah Larwood (www.themoonlab.net) lays out some techniques in improving your sleep
Easy ways to kick start good sleep hygiene
As humans we need good sleep to function. Not only does good sleep help us to repair and recover both psychically and mentally, it helps the brain to process our experiences and ensure we function well in the waking hours too.
Firstly what is sleep hygiene?
A good way to approach good sleep is to have good sleep hygiene and what that means is making sure we have a good sleep routine with things that are going to aid sleep rather than hinder it. Sleep hygiene includes both environment and habits, and it can pave the way for higher-quality sleep, and just better general health.
Because while we sleep, our brain strengthens our memories and reorganises them. Sleep also has an impact on our ability to use language, sustain attention, understand what we are reading, and summarise what we are hearing. If we don’t get enough good sleep, it can impact our day-to-day performance, relationships and mood.
Good sleep hygiene means having a bedroom environment and daily routines that support undisturbed sleep. It’s important to be free of disruptions and to follow a relaxing routine before you go to bed. Plus, building healthy habits during the day will also help you to have better sleep hygiene. Basically, good sleep hygiene is all about putting yourself in the best position to sleep well each and every night.
Before we get into the art of creating that sense of cosiness before sleep, it’s important to create a good sleep routine, and understand a few things about what helps us or prevents us from sleeping.
How to Create a Sleep Routine
Wake Up: Decide the best time for you to wake-up - and stick to it. Many experts agree that a set schedule is an essential part of your day, having a fixed wake-up time regardless of the weekday or weekend, as fluctuating schedules are said to keep you from getting into a rhythm of consistent sleep.
Avoid Naps if You Can: Naps can throw off sleep at night. Try to avoid this where possible or try to keep naps to around 20 minutes in the early afternoon.
Make Adjustments: If you want to tweak your sleep times, don’t try to do it all in one fell swoop because that can throw your schedule out of whack. Instead, make small, adjustments of up to an hour (two hours max) until you’re into into a new schedule.
The Ideal Go to Bed Routine
- Keep Your Routine Consistent:Following the same steps each night, including simple things like putting on your PJs, washing your face and turning off all the lights, which can reinforce in your mind that it’s bedtime.
- Budget 30 - 60 Minutes for Winding Down: Do the things that relax you like soft music, mindfulness or light stretching
- Dim Your Lights: Try to keep away from bright lights because they can stop the production of melatonin (this is a hormone to facilitate sleep)
- Stretch it Out: If after 20 - 30 minutes you haven’t managed to fall sleep, get up and stretch, read or do something else calming in low light before trying to fall asleep again.
Things to avoid to help your sleep
- Don’t Smoke: Nicotine stimulates the body in ways that disrupt sleep, which helps explain why smoking is correlated with sleeping problems
- Reduce Alcohol: Alcohol might make it easier to fall asleep but the effect wears off and then disrupts sleep later in the night.
- Avoid Screen Time: Build in a 30-60 minutes pre-bed buffer time that is device-free – the blue light from devices can decrease melatonin production.
- Reduce Caffeine: Caffeine can keep you wired so try to avoid it later in the day.
- Don’t Eat Late: Avoid a late, big, heavy, or spicy dinner otherwise you’re still digesting when it’s time for bed. In general, any food or snacks before bed should be on the lighter side. If you need to eat within a couple of hours of bedtime, have light snacks low in sugar and with a source of protein like nut butter on an oat cake.
- Noise: Some people like to block out any traffic noise with a white noise app or a fan to drown out sounds.
Things to encourage to help your sleep
- More Daylight: Spend time outdoors. Sunlight is one of the key drivers of circadian rhythms that can encourage quality sleep
- Be Active: Regular exercise can make it easier to sleep at night and also provides lots of other health benefits
- Journaling: Downloading your thoughts before bed into a journal can be an excellent way to clear your mind
- Breathing Techniques: Many experts suggest using breathing techniques such as the 7-11 breathing or coherent breathing as ways to soothe and relax before bed
- Try Different Ways to Relax: Meditation, mindfulness and other relaxation approaches can put you in the right mindset for sleep.
How to use Hygge to Boost Sleep
One way to make sure your sleep hygiene is at its optimum is to create that lovely sense of relaxation and cosiness before you go to bed. Why not try adopting the mindset of Hygge, a Danish and Norwegian term that’s been popularised here in the UK over the last few years.
So what is Hygge?
Hygge is about creating a mood of cosiness and comfortable conviviality. It cultivates a feel-good factor and the ultimate goal is to do with wellness and contentment. But what does hygge mean exactly? Hygge, pronounced "hoo-ga" can’t be translated to one single word but it encompasses a feeling of cosy contentment and wellbeing through enjoying the simple things in life.
If you've ever enjoyed reading a good book indoors on a rainy day or a cup of hot chocolate on a snowy day, you’ve probably experienced hygge without even realising it. And there’s no reason why we can’t take this concept to the folds of our duvet to ensure optimum wellness while we sleep. After all, getting a good night’s sleep is incredibly important for both our physical and mental health. Everyone, from children to older adults benefit from better sleep and the cosier, the better.
Create a Bedroom with the Hygge Factor
This Scandinavian way of life that is all about calm and warmth and champions health and happiness. A bedroom with the hygge factor emanates a happy tranquillity. Here are just a few ways that you can incorporate hygge into your sleep environment:
- What’s beautiful to you: Surround yourself with a calming and beautiful environment. Consider the colours you surround yourself with. Blue tones tend to have a calming effect on the brain.
- Splurge on a decent mattress and pillow: Your sleeping surface is incredibly important – make sure you have a good mattress to suit you
- Use excellent bedding: Your duvet or blanket is the first thing you notice when you get into bed. So find what you love. Silk pillowcases are often recommended – they’re lovely and soft and also are said to keep your skin and hair in better condition
- Keep it simple: Enjoy the simple pleasure of reading a good book in bed
- Be present and appreciative: Try some gratitude journaling before bed – a list of things you feel grateful for
- Create extra calm: Boost calm and avoid stress by listening to a mindfulness or relaxation session before bed
- Block out light: Use heavy curtains or an eye mask to prevent light from interrupting your sleep
- Try calming scents: An aromatherapy diffuser can always encourage a calmer frame of mind and cultivate a positive place for sleep.
About Leah Larwood
Leah is a hypnotherapist who specialises in dreams, anxiety, stress, self-esteem and confidence. She is also a lucid dream coach and a writing for wellbeing facilitator www.themoonlab.net