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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Goodbye Sleepless Nights | 5 Ways to Get More Sleep

5 ways get more sleep soeurs de luxe

I've really struggled to sleep recently, but since I've done these 5 things, I'm sleeping longer and waking up in the night less!

My brain is always so active when it's time to sleep, which I can never understand as I'm usually so tired right before and then can never get up in the mornings. Running through plans for the rest of the week, random thoughts of things I've done that day, any feelings I have (anger, happiness, sadness) all run through my head when I'm trying to sleep and 11 pm quickly turns into 2 am and so on. Counting sheep has never worked for me and staying up later to tire me out is just too easy and I end up still being wide awake at 7 am.

In my first year of uni, I suffered from Insomnia for a few months mid-year, missed tonnes of lectures and spent my days in bed either trying to catch up on sleep or going to work, and my nights watching seasons 1-10 of Desperate Housewives because I just couldn't sleep. I couldn't put my finger on what it was that was causing it. It certainly wasn't stress, as at that time, I didn't have a care in the world. It wasn't caffeine, as I was so tired, I couldn't even make it 4 minutes down the road to feed my caffeine addiction I'd developed throughout sixth form. I went out drinking with my fellow freshers a couple times but not enough to alter my sleeping pattern, so I really had to narrow it down to something else. After yet another sleepless night, I figured out that it was my uncomfortable mattress which was the problem. I just couldn't get comfy no matter what position I slept in. 

Aligning your spine and neck correctly is crucial to a healthy posture and can in turn give you a better night's sleep - or just help you GET to sleep in general! After emailing the uni porter about my condition and what it was that was affecting it, It turn out to be the fact it was causing me to miss lectures, to make them spring into action. Asking me what my preference was for firmness, they gave me the choice of 3 different mattresses the very next day and I finally found one I could sleep on. I felt a bit like Goldilocks! After that I slept much better and finally got my sleeping pattern back on track, just in time for end of year exams.

I don't quite have Insomnia now, but it was verging on the 'this is worrying' side of things and I felt I had to act before it got worse. Usually, I don't have a problem sleeping solidly from 11 pm(ish) to 7:30 am, but recently, especially since I started wearing my Fitbit back in October. From monitoring my sleep,  I noticed that I woke up at least 5 times a night; ranging from just being restless to actually waking up and opening my eyes. 

Since I've really concentrated on improving my sleep, I've discovered 5 solutions to this common problem of not getting enough sleep. I've gone from having on average 3-4 hours sleep to sleeping almost solidly for 7-10 hours!

fitbit sleep length quality screenshot
My recent week's sleep.. Still waking up in the night (indicated by light green and pink lines) but I'm sleeping longer!
In fact, the first way I've found that's helped me sleep more is to track my sleep every night, even if I go out. Knowing exactly when I wake up throughout the night and how many times has helped me massively. I can monitor whether the time I go to bed affects the length of sleep and help me think about whether I can attribute my restlessness to anything in particular. It really allows me to understand how my quality of sleep, as well as my length of sleep, can greatly improve my time awake. If you don't have a sleep tracker like this, I also used to use an app called Sleep Cycle which essentially does the same thing. You place it under your pillow or on your night stand and it will track your length, quality and frequency of sleep. How great is that! 

The second way I've found has helped me sleep better, is to cut all the light in the room. A real contrast from my childhood when I always had to have the light on, or at least some source of light in my bedroom so I could sleep. Now I can't get to sleep even if there's a little blinking light or some light shining through the blinds, it just can't happen. If you can't sleep with light on, or not sure what it is that's keeping you awake, perhaps try to either cut out the light or add some! I use an eye mask to ensure a total blackout and cover any lights with a piece of fabric or turn things off at the switch.  Do this for a few nights and see how much better your sleep gets!

Another benefit of the Sleep Cycle app is the sounds feature. Some people like sleeping with background noise, be it wind, rain, traffic, white, pink or brown noise or even the sound of a ticking clock. For me its the latter. My mum bought me an alarm clock for Christmas as I never seem to be able to wake up (due to lack of sleep). The ringing alarm almost gave me a heart attack (not literally) the first time I used it, so I won't be using that again! It is actually helping me get up in the mornings, though not by how it was designed. The ticking of an analogue clock actually helps me get to sleep!
Other than this one noise, I can't have any other noises happening around me, unfortunately we live right next to a fairly busy road that goes right through the middle of town, but I've had to learn to live with the noise of passing cars. Luckily the ticking clock actually drowns them out.
Otherwise, I shut the bedroom door so not even my hamster who's 3 rooms away can wake me up with his scratching and rustling. Either way, adding or subtracting noise from your sleeping environment could massively help you get a better night's sleep and help you sleep for longer.

I've always been told, by my mother mainly, but also by doctors that having caffeine after 9pm, even sometimes after 6pm, can be highly impactful on your length and quality of sleep. Normally we drink caffeinated drinks in the morning to wake us up, so why on earth, you ask, do people drink caffeine at night? It's simple! Sometimes, people don't even realise they're doing it! If, like me you drink a lot of Diet Coke or tea, it'll be your go-to drink, no matter the time of day. But, what you forget is the caffeine content they have. So the fourth way is this... cut out all sources of caffeine up to 6 hours before bed, allowing your body and brain to get tired and start winding down for the night. Keeping your brain alert with such drinks could be the main reason why you're losing out on precious Zs.

 The fifth and final way I've gotten more sleep these last few weeks, is by going to bed half an hour earlier than intended and to turn off all 'stimulants'. Its not like I have a bed time, but when it gets to around midnight I start thinking to myself that it's probably a sensible idea to go to bed. I actually now go to bed around 11:30, turning off the TV, putting my phone on Do Not Disturb (its a useful feature, use it!) and closing my eyes to starting winding down for the night. This extra half hour allows my brain to explore the many weird and wonderful things I've seen that day, watched on TV or seen on social media before it switches off. Another thing people don't realise is that when you think you're just aimlessly scrolling through your timeline, you're actually activating and stimulating your brain. When you're up late at night texting, that too, is keeping your brain awake. What you need to start doing, is to STOP doing the things that stimulate your thoughts and everything else just 30 minutes earlier than the time you intend to sleep. This should give you time to process your thoughts and switch off. 

This ultimately, will help you get more sleep, by allowing you proper time to actually fall asleep without having to go through the vast labyrinths that are your thoughts and memories.

With the use of these five tips, hopefully you too will start noticing a vast improvement in not only the length of time you sleep but also the quality of that sleep. Not to mention the skin benefits of a solid 7-8 hours! Be sure to let me know how you get on and whether it improves!

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4 comments

  1. I'm definitely the sort of person who wakes up 17348357 x in the night and can't get a restful sleep :( but it's mainly because of the air humidity because my sinuses are horrible so I'm looking to get a humidifier soon for the room so I can breathe through two nostrils again soon! I also find just going to bed half an hour early like you said really helpful to ease your mind and unwind before that REM sleep ;) oh and for me, I need a gentle and not heart attack inducing alarm else I'd be on edge ALL NIGHT knowing it will ring you know??

    Cherie x
    say hi at sinonym

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    1. I was on edge that whole night. I used it for my first day back at work and it's one of those alarms that has bells on top. it sounded like a Fire Bell. Scared me half to death! that extra half hour really does help! Try propping your head up a little with an extra pillow also, that will mean any clogged sinuses will go back down rather than sitting up by your nose if you're horizontal xx

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  2. I don't sleep badly once I have fallen asleep but I am terrible at actually getting to sleep. This was a really interesting post - I must admit I have a really bad habit of listening to Youtube videos as I write my journal entry for the night and of course, it re-stimulates my mind even as writing sorts my thoughts out and I end up back at square 1. I'm going to work to kick that habit, and will definitely start using Do Not Disturb as, when my phone screen lights up whilst I'm trying to fall asleep I HAVE to check it. Thanks for all the really helpful tips :)
    Rebecca | The Two Twenty Somethings
    Xx

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    1. Aw I'm so glad! Yeah watching videos definitely doesn't help! I think our whole generation does it. The need to check our phones is just too strong! I've got mine set to automatically go into Do not Disturb from 10pm to 7am. meaning it doesn't light up, vibrate or make a noise, even if someone calls. Which is great for weekends in when your friends drunk dial you! Then in the morning you feel all popular having notifications you've not yet checked, its great! Plus it gives you control back of your life! The life that our phones have taken over! xx

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