If only, you could have a sleep switch, the power to command the very minute you fall asleep and enter dreamland, but of course, this isn't the case. Falling asleep can be increasingly difficult in today's world and we often spend these sleepless nights looking for a trick to just 'drop off'. But, we continue to stumble across information we already know...
The motivation for this post comes from a personal experience, a few personal experiences in fact.
I couldn't even begin to tell you how many times I've spent the night wide awake when I should be fast asleep. Having that feeling of my eyes burning while I stare at my phone for a quick fix solution.
Time and time again, I read advice that tells me that I should 'not eat too much sugar' or 'stop having caffeine before bed' or even... 'just close your eyes and stop thinking'.
The thing is, I know all that already - and I'm sure you do too, it's these basic answers that are I hear over and over again.
But that's not always good enough. Although they are true and effective, I'm looking for genuine and tangible 'things' that I can actually do or implement, which don't relate to my diet.
I know that caffeine will keep me awake, I know that too much food before bed will result in not sleeping as well, and I know that keeping a consistent bedtime will set the perfect Circadian Rhythm.
What I want to know, are the things that I could do which exist in other areas than my diet, my lifestyle, or the amount of stress I have.
Fortunately, these days, I sleep so much better. I manage to 'get off' that much easier and I even wake up before my alarm most mornings.
So here are the tangible actions I took, to get to sleep, sleep well, and awake fresher in the morning. I hope any of these can be of use, give them a shot!
The Snug Feeling
A bed is meant to be comfy (derp, obviously) But these days, everyone has their own idea of what comfort really is.
I'm sure you've seen those adverts for new and improved mattresses that have memory foam and extra thick whatever's to support your lumbar etc.
This 'push' for a comfier bed is a great start - buying things to improve your current sleep setup is a great idea and you should definitely try it out.
This is actually where I rolled over to my first purchase in the pursuit of an easier bedtime, it's called...a throw!
Now, you may refer this to a blanket, but there's something special about this one - the material and texture.
They are often made from 100% polyester and have this really soft feel (and look!) to them. They come in a single or double size...so you can literally get whatever suits you.
Other than it looking great when you make your bed, this can be used as a 'tool' to help you get to sleep, a few examples:
If it's hotter outside, you can use this instead. Duvets are usually too thick for the hotter evenings - even the thinner single-layer ones.
Use it as a pillow cover, place it on top of your pillow and have the soft material pictures above touch your face - I personally really like this one.
Imagine it's your pet from home, if you're at university and you're missing the comforts of your fluffy friend (I suppose it doesn't work for all pets) use this instead and imagine them there with you as you try to nod off.
Put aftershave/perfume on it, comfort can be from touch but also in the smell of the things around you.
Use it as your bed layer, sort of sandwich yourself between the throw and your duvet on top.
My main takeaway - using this as a pillow really works for me, but I've heard of so many other techniques, you can really experiment and find what's best.
All of the above are a good place to start, you just need to try them all and choose which one works for you.
Super underrated, but super-effective. Be sure to have clean and crisp sheets on your bed.
I don't know about you, but the feeling and smell of clean sheets is such a help for becoming sleepy - I don't really know why this is, but I've always found it to be the case.
Use a fabric softener (scented or not) and be certain they are dry before you place them onto your bed.
As for a general rule, you should have multiple sets of bed sheets, pillowcases, base layers etc.
For hygiene in general, washing your sheets (or changing them) once a week is sufficient. You can extend that a bit by showering before bed - but I wouldn't stretch it longer than a few extra days.
But hygiene isn't the only thing that's being maintained, it's your comfort and as a product of that - your ability to sleep and have a fulfilling nights rest!
While we're on the topic of bed sheets, there's another point - the thickness and the material of your bedsheet!
Although the idea of a layered duvet has become popular lately, and rightfully so. The material is the other half that isn't spoken about much.
Introducing....microfiber bedding! - it's honestly a game-changer.
I have a microfiber duvet set, two layers...one summer layer (4.5 togs) and one winter (10.5 togs)
But as well as that, I have microfiber duvet covers too - this is the champion here, it's honestly so much comfier than anything else I've tried.
I wish I could communicate the feeling of these but you'll just have to trust me and give it a go, I honestly can't recommend them enough and they are pretty cheap!
If you are keen on giving it a go, here are the things I'd recommend getting!
Set the Environment
This is a big one, we've touched on the temperature above, and it's really crucial.
It's pretty rare that you're awake because you're too cold, this should be solved with conventional heating, bedding etc.
But when you're too hot, it's far more difficult to combat.
When it's too hot, you open the window - now you have bugs coming in and those quaint noises of your garden which you find yourself paying attention to.
So other than the bed throw as a light layer duvet, be sure to have a fan in case you need it. Though this does increase noise, you can have fans that operate pretty quietly and provide sufficient background noise.
The noise of the fan is a bit different because it's consistent and soft, the noise from the outdoors can be unpredictable and even then...bugs flying into your room can be annoying.
As for the more 'normal' nights where the temperature isn't the specific problem, I'd advise taking full command of your thermostat, if you can.
This technique is harder in shared accommodation but you might be able to do it anyway...sneakily.
If you have your own place, this should be a breeze!
So here's what you do, a few hours before you go to sleep...make sure the temperature in your bedroom is comfortable. That may mean putting the heating on, it may not.
Just make sure it's comfortable in there, if anything, perhaps a bit on the warm side.
Now, just before you get into bed...turn your temperature off! (or down, a lot)
For me, this changed everything, I realised that I was sleeping so much better and I even began to wake up before my alarm. Obviously, this depends on your local climate, but for living in the UK, it worked well!
As for getting to sleep, I just found things far more comfortable when the heating was off and the only source of warmth was my bedding and my new throw!
I felt as if my body temperature was better 'regulated' this way, but the big advantage is the feeling when you wake up - so much more refreshing.
This is one topic area that is talked about a lot, but I won't be talking about your phone, laptop or tablet here.
I'm talking about the hours leading up to your bedtime. This is really where your night routine begins.
With this, you pretty much want to mimic the trend of the great outdoors - The general rule is, as the night gets closer, the lights get dimmer.
It's harder to do this indoors, most lights in your house will be either on or off... so you'll be needing some lights with adjustable settings.
One of my favourite tools for this is the adjustable light bulbs you can get, they either come with remote control or some are controlled by an app on your phone.
But, the keystone to this subsection would be the Sunlamp!
As you may note from the name, this is actually a wake-up alarm.
What that means is, instead of having an alarm that creates sound to wake you up, this one creates light first, and then sound.
if you have an alarm for 7:00 am, at 6:40 this sunlamp will slowly begin to illuminate and try to replicate the sunrise, when the clock strikes 7:00 am...the alarm will begin to sound, again slowly increasing over time.
That's the benefit for the morning, but for the evening...you can just turn your sunlamp to a light setting of 1-10. i.e you can have enough light in your room to read or anything else but not too much to keep you awake.
This can help you set the mood for winding down and eventually getting to sleep, I have one of these...in fact, it's exactly that one shown above and I really love it.
There are a few other versions which are a tad bit more expensive, but I'd recommend Philips for sure, a great brand for these kinds of things.
By now, you'll be noticing a trend, we're increasing our ease of sleep by pleasing as many senses as possible, I think we've mentioned all of them in this post, at least somewhere.
Sound can be the enemy of going to sleep, but for some, it could be the exact thing they are looking or 'listening' for.
I'd say this totally depends upon where you've been brought up, I've known a few people to come from a big city and end up living elsewhere and they can't really sleep unless they can hear the background noise of the night, as it would sound in the city.
This is a very subjective one, nevertheless, it's one that is controllable - if you're lucky.
If you are in a noisy house, be sure to shut not only your bedroom door but every door between you and the annoying sound that's keeping you awake, with each one you will reduce the sound propagating toward you
Some people prefer no sound but like to have their internal monologue chatting away, this is the case when reading and it can be soothing to many.
Of course, if you are in a position where the sound around you is out of your control, you have to engineer measures to really block it out.
These come in the form of some type of earplugs, I, fortunately, don't have to use these a lot, but when I was in university I used them every now and again.
I often opted for the single-use disposable ones that workers wear, they were pretty okay but now I know there are better versions about them, be sure to check them out if you're in need!
I hope that the ideas above are new to you and sound encouraging. Using these techniques together have done wonders for me and I hope they will continue to work for as long as possible - I'll be posting a 'wake up' version of this post pretty soon, keep a lookout for that!
If I ever happen to stumble across new techniques in the future, I'll be sure to report on them, even the ones that don't work for me but could work for you.
It goes without saying that your sleep is important and that the quality of sleep is key. Regardless of your scenario, there's sure to be room to improve your chances of getting closer to the 'on/off' idea of falling asleep and waking up.
But, they call it 'falling' for a reason, it's meant to be gradual and gentle. in response to that, we have to make subtle changes, create gentle environments and gradually work out what works best for us.
Providing that you're open to trying new things, you will stumble across your optimum 'get to sleep technique' someday soon.
Let us know in the comments what your sleep troubles are and how you hope to conquer them, everyone's scenario can be so different, talking about them together might just brew the perfect solution for someone!
Thanks for reading