As I’ve touched on a few times in previous posts, I really value my sleep. Being a former insomniac brought this on; I think sleep is often one of those ‘you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone’ kind of things. Younger Elise never even gave her sleeping habits a second thought, but when I developed quite severe insomnia at the age of about 15, I was suddenly forced to pay more attention. Living off 2 or 3 hours of broken sleep per night, my whole life was affected; I’d end up sleeping at school, and being totally exhausted throughout the day. Over the years, however, through a combination of addressing underlying issues and putting into place strategies to aid a good nights snooze, my sleeping habits have hugely improved. Naturally, whilst putting up that fight against insomnia and in the years since, I have come across some amazing ways to train your brain into better sleep. I wanted to share these, as I know the struggle of being unable to sleep well, and although everyone’s mind works differently, these little hacks have served me really well!
- Switch of the phone half an hour before bed. Or an hour, or an hour and a half – the sooner the better! I will admit I do struggle to keep this one up, but I try my best with it. Personally, I try to stick to switching it off half an hour before bed; I’ve tried longer and it just becomes more difficult to sustain. Better to give yourself a short tech detox every night than manage a longer one once or twice a week, I reckon.
- Do something relaxing before bedtime. There’s nothing better than sitting down before bed and doing something relaxing just for you. Whether that’s curling up and finishing the next chapter of the book you’re reading or doing some mindfulness colouring, focusing on just one thing that you enjoy is bound to help your brain unwind.
- Set your phone to switch to night mode after 7.30pm. This was a game changer for me! You may already know that a lot of phones have a ‘night shift’ feature. On an iPhone, this can be found by going into settings, clicking on ‘display and brightness’ and going into ‘night shift’. You then get the option to schedule when you want night shift to switch on and go off every day. Each night, at whatever time you want to set it for (mine is at 7.30pm) your phone’s screen will automatically shift to a warmer colour. As blue light (the light normally emitted from a phone screen) is known to hinder sleep, this small change can make a huge difference. It’s so easy to do, and once you’ve set it up you never have to think about it again!
- Once in bed, do some self-hypnosis, meditation or progressive relaxation exercises. Any of these are great, and there are so many variations out there that there’s bound to be something for you! I first started using relaxation techniques after having a few sessions of hypnotherapy for anxiety and a phobia. During the sessions, I was taught how to do self-hypnosis, which seriously isn’t as hard as it sounds! I also find progressive muscle relaxation helpful, and tend to just use whichever of these techniques I feel like at the time.
- Write down anything you’re worried about forgetting. How often do you get into bed, and as soon as you clear your mind, something pops up that you’re convinced you’ll forget by the morning? Should this happen, my number one piece of advice would be to write it down and put it somewhere you know you’ll see in the morning. I’ve read so many times that you should try not to get out of bed if you wake up in the night, but I would say having something spinning around in your head making you anxious is going to be much more detrimental to your shut-eye. Get up, deal with it, get back in bed and forget about it – the quicker the better.
I hope some of these strategies can be of use to someone out there, they’ve certainly helped me a great deal. I honestly can’t stress enough the value of sleep when it comes to our health. Your body works hard for you every day, so making sure to give it time to rest and recharge is super important! Working to get into a regular routine is the best thing you can do. Personally, I try to get to bed by 10.30pm every night and wake up at 7.30am. It’s amazing how quickly your body gets used to your schedule once you make having consistent sleeping hours a priority. By no means am I saying that using these 5 tips is a guaranteed ‘cure’ for sleeping problems; insomnia can be absolutely horrendous and require professional help from a doctor. Trust me, I learnt that the hard way! But it is totally possible for insomnia to improve, so don’t give up hope. Give these strategies a go, and if they don’t help, see a doctor for further advice. Your mind and body seriously need their sleep, so don’t ever let it be something you take lightly.