20 Tricks for a deep sleep
A good night's sleep is one of the best things for your health, so pick three of these tips to follow each night until you get all that you need.
1. Create a transition routine
This is something you should do every night before bed. It could be as simple as letting the cat out, turning out the lights, turning down the heat, washing your face and brushing your teeth. Or it could be a series of yoga or meditation exercises.
Regardless, your transition routine should be consistent. As you begin to move into your "nightly routine", your mind will get the signal that it's time to chill out, physiologically preparing you for sleep.
2. Figure out your body cycle
Do you ever find that you get really sleepy at 10pm, that the sleepiness passes, and that by the time the late news comes on, you're wide awake? Some experts believe sleepiness comes in cycles.
Push past a period of tiredness and you probably won't be able to fall asleep very easily for a while. If you've noticed these kinds of rhythms in your own body clock, use them to your advantage.
When sleepiness comes, get yourself to bed. Otherwise, it might be a long time until you're ready for sleep again.
3. Make use of lavender
Sprinkle just-washed sheets and pillowcases with lavender water and iron them before making up your bed.
The scent is scientifically proven to promote relaxation, and the repetition and mindlessness of ironing will soothe you.
Or put lavender water in a perfume atomiser and spray above your bed just before climbing in.
Read more: Ultimate guide to growing lavender
4. Hide bright lights
Place your clock or phone under your bed or on the bottom shelf of your bedside cabinet, where its glow won't disturb you.
That way, if you do wake up in the middle of the night or have problems sleeping, you won't fret over how late it is and how much sleep you're missing.
5. Change your pillow
If you're constantly pounding your pillow, turning it over and upside down, the poor thing deserves a break.
Find a fresh new pillow from the linen cupboard, put a sweetsmelling case on it and try again.
6. Pull on some PJs
Should you sleep naked or in pyjamas? The answer is pyjamas. Warm skin helps to slow down your blood's circulation, cooling your internal temperature and generally contributing to a deeper sleep. Just don't overdo it.
Your body goes through a few cool-warm cycles as the night passes, so you want pyjamas, sheets and covers that keep you comfortable through these changes.
7. Keep your room zen
Tidy your bedroom and paint it a soothing sage green. Or some other soothing colour.
First, remove the clutter from your bedroom—it provides a distraction and stands in the way of a good night's sleep.
A soothing colour provides a visual reminder of sleep, relaxing you as you lie in bed reading or preparing for sleep.
8. Choose the right pillow
One Swedish study found that neck pillows, which resemble a rectangle with a depression in the middle, can actually enhance the quality of your sleep as well as reduce neck pain.
The ideal neck pillow should be soft and not too high, provide neck support and be allergy tested and washable, researchers found. A pillow with two supporting cores received the best rating from the 55 people who participated in the study.
Another study found that water-filled pillows provided the best night's sleep when compared to participants' usual pillows or a roll pillow, and yet another study rated "cool" pillows best, so choose one made of natural fibres, which release heat better and keep your head cooler than polyester.
If you're subject to allergies or find you're often stuffed up when you awake in the morning, try a hypoallergenic pillow.
9. Switch to heavier curtains
Even the light from streetlights, a full moon or your neighbour's house can interfere with the circadian rhythm changes you need to fall asleep.
10. Move your bed away from outside walls
This will help to cut down on noise, which a Spanish study found could be a significant factor in insomnia.
If the noise is still bothering you, try a white-noise machine, or just turn on a fan.
11. Tuck a hot-water bottle between your feet
Or wear a pair of ski socks to bed in winter. The science is a little complicated, but warm feet help your body's internal temperature get to the optimal level for sleep.
Essentially, you sleep best when your core temperature drops. By warming your feet, you make sure blood flows well through your legs, allowing your trunk to cool.
12. Kick your dog or cat out of your bedroom
A 2002 research study found that one in five pet owners sleep with their pets. The study also found that dogs and cats created one of the biggest impediments to a good night's sleep since the discovery of caffeine.
One reason? The study found that 21 per cent of the dogs and 7 per cent of the cats snored!
13. Sleep alone
One of the greatest disruptors of sleep is your loved one dreaming away next to you. He might snore, she might kick or cry out.
In fact, one study found that 86 per cent of women surveyed said their husbands snored, and half had their sleep interrupted by it. Men have it a bit easier: 57 per cent said their wives snored, while just 15 per cent found their sleep bothered by it.
If you won't kick your partner out (or head to the guest room yourself), consider these anti-snoring tips:
- Get them to stop smoking. Cigarette smoking contributes to snoring
- Feed them a light meal for dinner and avoid any alcohol, which can add to the snoring.
- Buy some earplugs and use them.
- Play soft music to drown out the noise.
- Present your lover with a gift-wrapped box of Breathe Right strips, which work by pulling the nostrils open wider. A Swedish study found they significantly reduced snoring.
- Make an appointment for your partner at a sleep centre. If nothing you do improves his or her snoring, your bedmate might be a candidate for a sleep test called polysomnography to see
14. Munch a banana before bed
Bananas are a great natural source of melatonin, the sleep hormone, as well as tryptophan.
The time-honoured tradition, of course, is warm milk, also a good source of tryptophan.
15. Take antacids straight after dinner, not before bed
If you take antacids, take them after dinner—they contain aluminium, which appears to interfere with sleep.
16. Listen to a book on tape while you fall asleep
Just as a bedtime story soothes and relaxes children, a calming book on tape (try poetry or a biography, but stay away from horror novels) can have the same effect with us grown-ups.
17. A herbal remedy
Simmer three to four large lettuce leaves in a cup of water for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat, add two sprigs of mint, and sip just before you go to bed.
Lettuce contains a sleep-inducing substance called lactucarium, which affects the brain in a similar way to opium (but without the risk of addiction)!
18. Use eucalyptus for a muscle rub
The strongly scented herb provides a soothing feeling and relaxing scent.
19. Take a hot bath 90 to 120 minutes before bedtime
A study published in the journal Sleep found that women with insomnia who took a hot bath at this point (with the water temperature at approximately 40°C), slept much better that night.
The bath increased their core body temperature, which abruptly dropped once they got out of the bath, readying them for sleep.
20. Give yourself a massage
Slowly move the tips of your fingers around your eyes in a slow, circular motion. After a minute, move down to your mouth, then to your neck and the back of your head.
Continue down your body until you're ready to drop off to sleep. Another option: ask your partner for a massage and massage each other on alternate nights.
For more tips on deep sleeping, The secrets of sleeping deep: Quick tips to cure insomnia and fall asleep naturally, is available on Amazon.
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