Happy New Year everyone! We all start the new year with a head full of goals and resolutions, but what we usually forget on the list is sleep.
In our society, sleep is highly underrated. Most of us lack sleep and think that’s ok, but just as eating healthy or working out, a good amount of sleep is paramount to feel and look great.
So why this title? We have all seen TOO MANY kitten videos where they fall asleep within seconds. That’s the reason why my husband calls me kitten, not because it is cute but because I usually fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow.
I can hear you say…wow she is lucky! What we thought was an innate thing (we never had to learn how to sleep) is now a $49,543 million dollars industry. So what happened? Why do so many of us have trouble falling asleep?
There can be a lot of different reasons: stressful work environment, money issues, anxiousness, loss of a family member or close friend…
I am very lucky to be able to fall asleep fast, but I won’t put it all on luck, there are a few things I do to improve my chances, and lucky you I am going to share them in this post!
1.Reduce light and especially blue light before bed
Before the invention of artificial lighting, the sun was our main source of light, and people spent their evenings in (relative) darkness. Now, for most of us, evenings are illuminated, but as it is not natural, artificial lights disturb the body’s biological clock by suppressing the secretion of melatonin (our sleep hormone).
Most kind of lights will keep your brain active and keep you awake, but the worst one is the blue light. It is emitted by your LED screens. These lights trick our brains into thinking that it is daytime, hence why you are not able to sleep as soon as you put them down.
What should I do?
Use dim or red lights at night. Red light has the least effect to suppress melatonin. You can buy red light bulbs online, they are a bit pricey but they are worth it.
Why not have a candlelight dinner? Bonus : it’s romantic!
Avoid looking at bright screens two to three hours before bed. No phones / laptop in the bedroom! From experience, it helped me improve my quality of sleep and will definitely makes you fall asleep faster.
Read a real book.
Try to make your room as dark as possible and don’t forget the small lights. Even the light on your aircon can affect your sleep!
2. Have your evening routine
As we have seen in our first point, the key to a sound sleep is to trick your brain into thinking it is now time to go to bed.
You know how if you do things everyday your mind gets into autopilot? Well you have to try to do that with sleep. Find a routine and be consistent with it, it won’t just help you fall asleep faster, but also increase the quality of your sleep so you wake up feeling refreshed and ready to conquer the day. It works for kids, why not for us?
So how do I create a bedtime routine?
Try to repeat the same actions everyday before bed : hot shower/bath, light massage, drink a camomile, stretch…find your own thing and stick with it!
Lastly, try to sleep at the same time every night – remember, consistency is key
3. Leave your thoughts on the bedside table
The thing I have the most trouble with is to put my mind to sleep, as it is sometimes playing ping pong with a million thoughts as soon as I get to bed! All is well, you get to bed and suddenly you have a list of a million things you have to do and feel overwhelmed. I also sometimes have great ideas just before sleeping and because I don’t want to forget them it keeps me awake. Crazy!
What should I do?
Have a notepad on your bedside table. If I have an amazing idea, or if I don’t want to forget to call my grandpa on his birthday, I write it down and fall asleep.
Before going to bed, make a list of all the things I have to do. I put them into 2 categories: Those which cannot wait and I do it before I can go to bed and those which can wait for tomorrow without consequences. For these ones I just write them down and l magically fall asleep reassured that the world is still going to go round while I sleep!
4. Eat right
If you are following the previous points but you are still not able to sleep like a kitten, your battle with sleepless nights might lie on the dining table, not in the bedroom. We all make that mistake of having a huge dinner and regret it all night as we toss around feeling “heavy” or bloated.
What should I do?
Eat smaller meals at night: avoid red meat, dairy, processed food.. anything that makes your stomach work extra hard
Do not eat right before bed: Try to finish eating 2 hours before you get to bed so you get enough time to digest.
Avoid caffeinated drinks and alcohol: it sounds obvious but they will affect your sleep quality, even if you think you are not sensitive to it.
5. Use sleeping accessories
What do I mean by sleeping accessories? Well just as I have my own bedtime routine I usually sleep with a blanket (I know that’s crazy in Singapore) and eye mask (sleep mask). Why?
Sleep mask is a cheap accessory to make you sleep faster AND stay asleep. It’s all scientific. Because they cover your eyes they create a state of full darkness, which is then interpreted by your brain as a signal to release the melatonin and switch off. It is also a great way not to get disturbed in the middle of the night if your other half turns on the bathroom light. If you want to go full on you can also add in a pair of earplugs. The less distractions get to your brain the faster you will fall asleep and the less likely you will wake up during the night!
For the blanket, it has been proven that being under a blanket helps you feeling calm and safe just like a hug would do, and sleeping in a cold room is also better for your health. Perfect combination to fall asleep in no time!
What should I do?
Get yourself a sleep mask, you can find it anywhere. Get a good one with a comfortable strap. For earplugs buy some and try it out. I’m not too good at sleeping with them but it’s worth the try!
Get a blanket, most shops have “summer” ones that are made for Singapore weather. You can also buy weighted blankets online if you want something heavier.
Breathing has an amazing power on our capacity to fall asleep. Long deep breath will slow down our heart rate and induce sleep. There is even a particular breathing technique to go to bed invented by Dr Andrew Well which switch off your body’s stress response so that you fall asleep much quicker.
So how does it work?
First, breath out through your mouth, while making a whoosh sound. Then, close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose while counting mentally to four. Next, hold your breath and count to seven. Finally, exhale completely through the mouth, making a whoosh sound again, while counting mentally to eight. Repeat the cycle three more times (if you don’t fall asleep before that).
Good news is this technique it’s not just useful for when you’re struggling to sleep; it is also great to relax during stressful moments, so try it during the day too!
If you have sleeping issues, taking sleeping pills should be your last resort. They create a dependency and do not work as well after a while. Most of the tips above are easy to apply and inexpensive: so no excuses not to try them out! Remember, it is all about tricking your brain into thinking it is time for bed and then avoid any kind of distraction once in the bedroom. Try them out and let me know if it worked!