How To Get A Better Night’s Sleep

Like most of us, sleep evades me when I’m under stress, the time I need it the most. A global pandemic, dramatic change in circumstances, health scares, exam results – there’s plenty going on right now that can get in the way of a good night’s kip.

It’s important to recognise sleep as a form of self-care. As women (many of us mothers, and/or carers) we are looked to as nurturers, but without the proper rest, how can we support our family, friends and community?

I have my own box of tools that help me when self-doubt and worries creep in, either before I close my eyes or in that 2am/4am worry window. Read on to find out what works for me.

Stick to a routine

Call me a creature of habit, but I do my best to get to bed around the same time each night. I avoid looking at my phone at least two hours before bed. I don’t watch the news or anything disturbing. If I read in the evening, it’ll be something easeful and uplifting rather than dramatic or challenging. I know I need lights out by 10.45pm, 11pm latest. And heaven help anyone who tries to get in my way!

Journal

Got circling thoughts going around and around in your brain? I’m a huge believer in getting them out of your head and onto paper. There’s something about the physical act of writing things down which acts as a download for your brain. It’s not necessarily about finding a solution. Sometimes one will arise. Sometimes not. I just write it all down and then say, ‘OK universe, over to you’ and trust that the best outcome will present itself.

Practice Conscious Relaxation

I once read that if you just lie still, breathe deeply and consciously relax your body, it’s almost as good as being asleep. Your heart rate slows down, your blood pressure drops and you still greatly benefit from resting. I work my way around my body, consciously relaxing each part. ‘I am relaxing my feet. I am relaxing my feet. My feet are soft and relaxed’ and so on until I get to the crown of my head. Usually I drop off before I get there, but if not, I go back to my feet and simply start again.

Meditation

I keep my headphones close to my bed but my phone as far away as possible (ideally it wouldn’t be in the same room but as we don’t have a landline I need it with me in case of emergency). That way, if sleep is proving totally elusive, it’s easy set myself up with a guided meditation with relatively little disturbance. Insight Timer is a brilliant (free) app with loads of choice, including yoga nidra (or yoga sleep – a deep form of relaxation) – guaranteed either to send you off to the land of nod or, if not, to relax you so deeply that you might as well be.

Stress Busting Breathing

The four-seven-eight breath is a powerful anxiety relieving stress busting tool that I use A LOT. Inhale though the nose for a count of four. Hold for a count of seven. Exhale for a count of eight. Repeat four times. More if necessary. If holding the breath doesn’t work for you then just inhale for four and exhale for eight.

Sleep mantra

When our brain is overactive in the dead of night it’s easy to be drawn down a negative path. Research shows that reciting a mantra – any sound, word or phrase – will bring divert your attention specifically and positively, bringing you into a more meditative, relaxed head space. I like to use this Sanskrit mantra which is based on vibration and said to invoke sleep. Om Agasthi Shahina (Om Ah-gah-stee Shah-e-nah). Repeat it softly, imagine it to be like the morning mist rising off a lake. Just repeat it for as long as you feel comfortable or until you start to feel like you are dozing off. 

Prioritising sleep is a form of radical self-care for us. Whatever it is that helps us find dreamland, our relationship with sleep is important. And like any other relationship, we must be open to exploring what works for us – and once we find it, stick to it.

What tools do you use to get a good night’s sleep?

2 Comments

  1. Susanna Riviere

    This is very helpful. I find most of these things work for me as well. The other thing I discovered (as a retired reflexologist) is that a couple of minutes of gentle foot massage – you can do it yourself if there is nobody else offering – seems to help. Focus on the area in the middle of base of the foot where the pad beneath the toes meets the beginning of the instep. This is the reflex for the solar plexus in refelxology and aids relaxation