Sweet Dreams – The Problem With Good Sleep
Let's talk about sleep. Until I entered full-time employment, I doubt I was even aware of sleep disorders – yes, I was convinced I was suffering from insomnia after drinking too many energy drinks to finish my dissertation or worrying about my university projects, but I never really suffered from it. Yet, in the past two years, I seem to have developed a somewhat unhealthy tendency to work through my stress at night – cue sleepless nights spent tossing and turning and actually gnashing my teeth in my sleep.
Having spent months and months trying to work out where these issues stem from, I came to the following conclusion: I take my work home and therefore let my work impact my sleep. Initially, working full-time was a blessing: I got to go home with a clean mind, without that nagging feeling in the back of my head, reminding me that I probably should be studying instead of going to the cinema or reading a book. But soon reality kicked in: Work emails started flooding in in the after-hours and, the further I moved up the ranks, the more the pressure to perform increased. Working in social media is very demanding: There isn't a Sunday I don't spend on Instagram or Pinterest and every post I make has to be well thought through. Don't get me wrong, I love what I do, but my sleep has suffered severely over the two past years.
Recently, I seem to have found a simple, yet effective routine to aid me going to sleep. While it might not always do the trick, it almost certainly improves my anxiety and puts my mind to rest at night. Before we begin, let's quickly sum up the basics you should follow to get a good night's sleep – as discovered in Lucile's interview with sleep scientist Jürgen Zulley:
- Do sufficient exercise during the day to feel physically tired.
- Have an early, light supper.
- Discuss no more problems.
- Shape the time before falling asleep as positively and relaxed as possible.
Now that that's out of the way, let's proceed with some of my own tips and a quick explanation how I came to use them whenever I'm having trouble falling asleep:
- Stop drinking caffeine after lunch if you're already worked up. There's nothing worse than drinking coffee when you're already stressed. The caffeine kick will last all the way into the night so make sure to avoid any caffeine drinks after your lunch to ensure a good night's sleep.
- Past 9pm, read no more emails and put your work to one side. It's obvious that if you're still answering work emails late into the night, your mind never gets to start shutting down and come to rest. If you can help it, try not to check your emails past 9pm.
- Get ready for bed around the same time to start relaxing earlier. Once you're in your pyjamas and ready for bed, you're instantly in relaxation-mode and will find it easier to start to shut down. A cup of tea of a relaxation-inducing blend also helps – I recommend Clipper's Sleep Easy or Pukka's Night Time
- Put on a face mask or light a candle (or both!) and apply a luxurious face oil. Because you're already ready for bed hours before your bedtime, there's no excuse not to put on a face mask and light a candle. Go on, you know it'll help. I find that oils such as Sunday Riley's Luna Sleeping Night Oil and Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Concentrate, as well as an overnight moisture mask like Aesop's Blue Chamomile Facial Hydrating Masque speed up the relaxation process in no time.
- Read a book or magazine. With all that time before bedtime, why not pick up a book or magazine to distract your mind from the busy day. When it comes to magazines, literature fans should check out The Happy Reader, foodies The Gourmand, plant enthusiasts The Plant and fashion aficionados The Gentlewoman.
- Go to bed and into relaxation mode around 10pm and (after one last round on your social media channels) put your phone away. This is absolutely crucial. The light of your phone will keep stimulating your brain and make getting to sleep all the more difficult.
- Take a valerian/passion flower tablet. A step I can't go without. These two herbal remedies have long been proven to reduce stress and aid you in falling asleep earlier. However, be warned that they won't take effect for at least a few days, so make sure to take them regularly and not as a last minute resort.
- Spray some pillow spray onto your bed or apply some lavender oil to your wrists/your pyjamas/your bed sheets. Lavender is very effective when it comes to slow-wave sleep and reduced anxiety. Spraying your pillows with a sleep spray (my favourite is This Works' Deep Sleep Pillow Spray) or applying some lavender oil to your wrists, pyjamas or bed sheets certainly makes for a nice atmosphere in the bedroom. I also love Weleda's Lavender Oil, which I rub into my arms and legs to relax my muscles.
- Listen to a relaxing playlist or an audiobook. Once you're tucked up in bed and find your mind still struggling to come to rest, I find listening to an audiobook or a calming playlist is the best way to go. There's nothing better than listening to Stephen Fry's dulcet tones reading you the Harry Potter books (a staple in my home) and this Spotify playlist has been playing pretty much every night this week.
- Track your sleep to discover your ideal bedtime. I started using the sleep app Sleep Cycle about a year ago. Besides serving as an alarm clock waking you in your lighter sleep period, it's also a great tool to measure your sleep and discover the ideal time for you to head to bed (10pm for me).
I hope you all have sweet dreams tonight. Let me know if you have any more tips for falling asleep in the comments!