Relaxing at night can be hard. You might have had an early morning, been groggy all day, sluggish getting into bed, and then BOOM. You’re awake. Anything that happened during the day, that is going on tomorrow, things you need to do, or to buy, things you did ten years ago, all of these thoughts start to form a hurricane in your head. This can make it impossible to sleep. If you’re living with a chronic illness, the pain and discomfort that surrounds your body probably won’t help either. So, here are my top tips on getting to sleep when it feels like you’re going to be up all night. (N.B., if you’re having consistent problems with sleeping, go and see your GP to get some checks done. Sometimes there’s something that can be done!).
Bathing or Showering
Why does taking a warm shower or bath before going to bed helps sleep? The external temperature of the water causes a drop in internal body temperature. The drop in body temperature signals to the brain that it is time for sleep, aiding our natural body circadian rhythms. This works best an hour or two before you want to go to sleep. An American study found this:
‘When we take a warm bath or shower, the body brings large amount of blood flow to the surface, especially hands and feet. This blood flow brings the heat from the core to the surface and rejects the heat to the environment and causes a drop in body temperature.’ (You can read more of their findings here.)
For extra sleep inducing power, try adding bath products that contain lavender. This flower reduces stress levels, allowing the muscles to relax, heartbeat to slow and sleep quality to increase. Other scents to try are vanilla, valerian extract, bergamot, chamomile and jasmine. These can be infused into shower gel, bubble bath, bath bombs, and even teas to drink whilst in the bath! Some of my favourite products are Lush UK’s Deep Sleep bomb (comes with a muslin cloth of herbs to infuse your bath further) and JustBe’s Kind Herbal Tea (where 20% of sales goes towards Scottish Association for Mental Health).
Moisturisers and Oils
The aromatherapy doesn’t have to end with bath time! Moisturising your skin allows you to stretch and massage your muscles whilst applying essential oils that will increase your relaxation further. Plus you’ll have lovely hydrated skin in the morning! Everyone’s a winner! If you can’t stretch to moisturise because of differing abilities, ask someone to help! My partner gives great hand massages when my fingers are swollen which helps me to relax. For this, we use Lush UK’s Tender is the Night solid moisturiser, which smells incredible! Other products that help increase that sleepy sensation are Lush UK’s Sleepy moisturiser and Mario Badescu’s Aloe, Chamomile and Lavender spray that can be misted onto your face, body and/or bedding.
Essential oils can also be placed onto the skin using rollerballs. I use this Tisserand set called Little Box of Sleep (gifted to me by my lovely Gran) and I can confirm that all of the scents are gorgeous! They can even be kept in your bag or pocket for moments of stress during the day. As always with essential oils, check whether you’re able to use them, due to age or pregnancy.
Read something relaxing
If you have a lot of work to do, sometimes it can be tempting to bring that to bed with you. Equally, if you enjoy crime or thriller novels, bed time can seem like the ideal time to read another chapter. Unfortunately, these will only serve to excite your mind out of that sleepy lull that you’re looking for. After staying up one night to finish reading The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle (would DEFINITELY recommend this read!), I could not get to sleep, despite it being 4am. My mind was racing too much for sleep. Similarly, studying for an English degree can mean that your reading list gets insanely large. However, by trying to tackle it just before I went to sleep, I was awake for hours, staring at the ceiling and forming ideas and arguments on what I had just read.
Therefore, find something relaxing or even boring to read before you go to bed! A cheesy romance, a Screwfix catalogue, anything. For an aesthetically pleasing knitted blanket for the brain, I would recommend Katie Vaz’s Make Yourself Cosy. The illustration, colour scheme and content will make you ready to fall asleep (in the best way!).
You can be as sleepy as you like, but if your bed and bedding isn’t comfortable, then you’ll struggle to sleep. I recently invested in a Panda The Cloud Bamboo Down Duvet and I have absolutely no regrets. This duvet is light yet warm and feels like down without the cruelty or the synthetic materials that often cause us to sweat in our sleep. It’s ethical, sustainable, hypoallergenic and temperature controlled. It does have a slightly hefty price point, but as someone who spends a lot of flare days in bed or wrapped in said duvet, it was a worthy investment. The duvet comes in completely recyclable packaging and is wrapped in a bamboo bag that can be used for storage around the house! Mine currently houses my bedding sets.
Even if your duvet and pillows are in great quality, a new bedding set can sometimes make your bed feel like a more exciting and cosy place to be. They don’t have to be super expensive either, with places like ASDA and The Range having some really lovely patterns.
Write it down!
If there’s a lot on your mind that’s stopping you from sleeping, try keeping a notebook and pen next to your bed. Oftentimes, our problems seem so big when they’re trapped in our heads, but if you set them free onto a piece of paper, they shrink. This can be especially useful if you’re trying to remember lots of things to do tomorrow, stuff to add to your shopping list and people you need to call. Writing problems or thoughts down make them a material item and gets them out from under your feet as you try to sleep.
Blue or Yellow?
Do you know what type of light your technology is emitting? Blue light waves suppress our melatonin production, which is the hormone that makes us feel sleepy. If you’re on your phone right up until you go to sleep, not only will you be susceptible to seeing something that keeps you awake (think: news stories or comparing yourself to someone else’s life), but the blue light will chemically ensure that you’re awake. There’s a few ways around this. The obvious one is to stay away from your tech (laptops, phones, tablets, etc.) for a few hours before bed. However, this is a bit of an ask for the majority of people! One way to combat the blue light problem is to convert it into yellow light. Most technology comes with this feature in the settings. It puts a yellow tint over the screen that cancels out the blue light effect. For the first 20 seconds of looking at it after enacting that setting, you’ll think, woah, this looks weird. Then you won’t notice it. Night Shift (as it is on iPhone) or Blue Light Filter on Android phones can be applied through the settings, and you can get more information on that here.
If you’ve ever spoken to me about sleep or sometimes just in general, I will have told you about my favourite app of the moment. It’s called Calm and features stories, non-fiction narratives, music and soundscapes that are designed to help you get to sleep. They range in time length and content, with chapters read from favourites like The Wind in the Willows, Alice in Wonderland and Anne of Greengables. If fiction isn’t your thing, you can listen to descriptions of train journeys through Sweden, accounts of wild horses in America and even The French Whisperer whispering physics theories to you. Soundscapes include rain, wind, ocean and trees, whilst the music can be jazz, beats or classical. There are even meditation sessions to help find relaxation during the day as well as at night. Celebrity voices include Stephen Fry, Nick Offerman and Lucy Liu, plus more that you may never have heard before! One of my favourite voices on there is Alan Sklar, who has the most wonderful timbre and expression of a voice ever. It’s available on both the Google Play market, iOS and in your internet browser of choice. There is an option for free Calm usage, but the content is limited to a few selections of tracks. This can be useful to find out whether you like it or not. If you want to subscribe, there’s an option for a monthly, yearly or even lifetime subscription!
Thus ends what I have learned about sleep and relaxation so far. Do you have any tips? Leave them in the comments below! Sweet dreams!
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