Tips for a restful night’s sleep
If you’re reading this, logic tells me that you are concerned about lack of sleep. First of all, it’s important to say that while 8 hours is the accepted norm for a good night’s sleep, you needn’t necessarily feel bad because you routinely sleep for less than this. Some people actually only need 4 hours (Margaret Thatcher being a famous example), while others are out for the count for a full 12 (just about every teenager on the planet).
However, sleep deprivation, when your body is telling you that you need more rest (!), can be both debilitating and depressing and no one really wants to resort to potentially addictive chemicals to solve the problem. There are so many possible causes, cures and herbal remedies that I thought it might be helpful to put together a whole list of them. I hope you’ll find something here to help.
Lavender has been known for centuries to induce relaxation and can be used in a number of ways: a couple of drops of essential oil sprinkled on the corner of your pillow will help, as will lavender oil in a cold diffuser placed in the bedroom.
A warm bath, at the optimum time of two hours before bed, helps to regulate body temperature to an ideal level and is particularly helpful when combined with lavender products like bubble bath and body lotion.
Herbal teas can also prove useful – chamomile and valerian (which is often combined with hops) are both well-known for aiding relaxation and sleep. While both will help with insomnia, I’ve read recently that valerian, especially when combined with ‘chaste tree’ may help with sleep maintenance.
Extra help and accepted wisdom
Even 20 minutes of gentle exercise during the day can help to stop stress hormones from interfering with sleep.
Try to avoid heavy meals just before bed – a minimum two hour gap between meal and bed is a good idea.
Avoid caffeine drinks like regular tea, coffee and cola in the evening.
Is your actual bed ‘up to muster’? The lifespan of a bed depends largely upon quality but as a rule of thumb, if your bed is ten to twelve years old you should probably replace it. (Here’s a tip: If you suffer from backache, it may just be your bed)!
Equally, do you need new pillows? There are a huge variety of pillows out there – foam, feather, down – and it may just be that a change of pillow would help you get a restful night’s sleep.
Try to avoid sheets with a high synthetic content. Sheets with a high cotton content allow your skin to breathe, which in turn makes the bed feel more comfortable. (I tend to buy sheets with a maximum cotton / minimum polyester content, simply because I’ve found some pure cotton sheets can be an absolute swine to launder).
Try to ensure that your bedroom is furnished fairly simply and is clutter free. Psychologically, a clutter free bedroom makes for a calmer and more relaxing atmosphere.
Look at using colours for walls, carpets and soft furnishings that you personally find relaxing. Traditionally shades of blue and green evoke feelings of calm and relaxation in many people but you may have something else in mind. (For example, I always seem to opt for gentle creams).
Try not to watch TV or work in bed. Your bedroom should become associated in your mind with your own haven of peace and utter relaxation.
The best temperature for a relaxed sleep is surprisingly cool, i.e. 68 degrees. Fit individual thermostats to radiators if you can so that you can keep your bedroom at this temperature (and save money)!
It goes without saying that minimising noise and light will also help – it’s strange but true that even though you are asleep you will become aware of increasing light levels in a room where the curtains / blinds allow the morning light to percolate through.
If you live in a quiet area and it is safe to do so, leaving a ‘top light’ /small window slightly ajar to let in some fresh air is a good idea. Good sleep doesn’t happen easily in a stuffy, ‘sealed’ room with stale air.
Less obvious but worth mentioning anyway:
Airing the room each day, allowing a fresh supply of oxygen to flow through your room will keep it smelling sweet and welcoming.
Toss back the covers each morning to allow cool air to permeate the bed covers. Even half an hour of this while you shower will keep the bed smelling fresh (not to mention keeping any mites at bay)!
Make the bed each day – an un-made bed doesn’t exactly call you to its gentle embrace, now does it?
Change the bed sheets each week (hopefully you knew that one already)!
I really, really hope something here will be of help. Let me know how you get on and…
Remember if this is an on-going problem and you feel at all concerned you should still talk to your doctor.