I have to say I am a massive advocate for sleep.
Getting a good night’s sleep is one of the most important things you can do for your overall health and well-being. Adequate sleep gives your body time and energy to recover from the day’s stresses, and helps you to stay sharp and focused throughout your day.
The night my husband died I remember coming home and laying in our bed alone thinking “right, I need to learn how to sleep without him“. I assure you there were many other thoughts racing through my head but this one remains ingrained in my mind.
It is funny how at the beginning of a marriage you have to learn to share a bed with someone else and then you become so comfortable with them that you find it impossible to sleep without them next to you.
So, on that night I made a promise to learn how to sleep. I can’t explain why this was important but I just had this feeling that sleep was going to be an important component of my well being.
As with everything in my life I researched the topic and decided to return to the routines and practices I used with each of my children when they were babies.
I actively decided to work towards becoming a good sleeper.
Here are 8 things that I use to ensure I sleep well:
1. Change your mind-set. If you believe that you are a bad sleeper then guess what? You will be. I began by saying positive affirmations reassuring myself that I was a good sleeper.
2. Get moving. I always ensure I do some form of exercise during the day from yoga to walking the dog to a rigorous cycle class. Regular exercise earlier in the day, promotes healthy sleep according to Susan Blum.
3. Eat a light dinner. I tend to eat a smaller meal at night time which is easily digestible and not too heavy. A good overall diet of food closest to their natural state (whole-foods) also assists in ensuring sleep is restful.
4. Hot beverages. I have never drunk coffee or any caffeinated drinks. I have always enjoyed herbal teas and at night I enjoy a cup with sleep promoting herbs – these include Chamomile, Valerian, Lavender, Lemon Balm, St John’s Wort and Peppermint.
5. Enjoy a soothing warm bath or shower. There is nothing nicer than winding down in a warm (not hot) bath or shower with soothing music, scented candles and reading an uplifting book. I know this is not always practical but it is worth making it a priority. A bath is also my secret weapon against stress. I add 2 cups of Epson Salt (which contains magnesium, the relaxation mineral) and 10 drops of lavender oil (which lowers cortisol) to a warm bath. A soak for twenty minutes is guaranteed to induce relaxation.
6. Going offline – At night I turn off all electronics including phones, wifi, computer and any other devices. Both the light from the screen and the stimulation from what you’re watching keep your brain in the on position. In our house we do not have the television on during the week which assists with homework completion and promotes a calmer environment. My children aged 15, 13 & 11 have never questioned this rule as it has been a constant in our household.
7. Select a new bedtime – Going to bed early and getting up at roughly the same time programs your body to sleep better.This also helps regulate your body’s internal clock. At the beginning I would go to sleep when the children went to bed because I found sitting on the lounge without holding my husbands hand unbearable. Over three years later I continue to go to bed early and wake up early feeling refreshed and revitalised. Don’t worry on social occassions I can dance and laugh way past this time but I always know that I will catch it up.
8. Relax into sleep – mediation, breathing awareness, guided imagery, music are all helpful to help my body and mind prepare for sleep.
Tonight I am up writing this (the old fashioned way with pen & paper) and am having a little trouble relaxing. So I thought it was a great time to revisit my practices. Returning to basics can sometimes be the perfect answer.