This week I will cover sleep hygiene: the behavioural and environmental changes that you can make to overcome insomnia. Just as the causes of sleeping problems vary from person to person, so do the best solutions. You won’t necessarily need to try everything listed below, just start with what you think might be most beneficial for you and, if that doesn’t help, move on to something different.
Tips for good sleep hygiene:
- Establish a routine – try to go to bed and get up at the same time every day, giving yourself time for the amount of sleep that you feel you need
- Make your bedroom as sleep-friendly as you can with: the right mattress, pillow and covers for you and the time of year; lined curtains and/or black-out blinds to keep out the light (or wear a good quality eyeshade); noise kept to a minimum; a comfortable room temperature (neither too warm nor too cold).
- Gentle exercise such as yoga, pilates, tai chi and qigong can help relax body and mind for sleep – stretches are especially helpful, as is tensing and releasing muscles (for my Wiltshire clients I can recommend Emma Lovell as an instructor and for my Berkshire clients Karen Pounds)
- A hot bath an hour before bedtime can help induce sleep if you have difficulty drifting off – it is the drop in body temperature that triggers drowsiness
- Try dissolving a dessert spoonful of Epsom salts (magnesium sulphate) in the bath, as it is a muscle relaxant
- A relaxing essential oil, such as lavender, in the bath, a candle or diffuser can also help
- Set aside time before you go to bed to write down what is on your mind (e.g. problems and possible solutions or a ‘to do’ list)
- Reading just before bed can help take your mind off what might otherwise keep you awake
- Listening to calming music or a guided meditation can help you relax at bedtime, or if you are wakeful in the night
- Yogic breathing exercises are also calming (but not for anyone who may be able to hear you practising them in the middle of the night!) - try three-part breathing, alternate nostril breathing and bee breath
- White noise can help mask unwanted sounds and calm the mind
- Regular exercise helps relieve stress and can improve the quality of your sleep
- Relaxing treatments such as massage and shiatsu may also help you sleep better.
In next week’s post I will cover what to avoid if you want a good night's sleep.