Tuesday, 17 January 2017

My Sleep Anxiety and how I get the Perfect Nights Sleep

Here is a little secret you might not know about me...I have struggled to switch off at night and get a proper eight hours sleep since I was little. And it turns out I am not alone. According to The Great British Bedtime Report* the majority of Britons are now getting less than seven hours sleep a night with more than a quarter of us suffering from poor quality sleep on a regular basis.Getting poor sleep seriously affects our physical and mental health in ways we could not even imagine...

My Story
You might find it almost laughable to know that I was scared of the dark until the very adult age of 23. But its absolutely the truth. As a child I had night terrors, and suffered panic attacks in bed which led to hours of counselling for me. I have no idea why I was so terrified (and remained terrified) for so long, and I'm equally puzzled as to when this phobia magically disappeared because I'm not sure I remember it happening, but obviously as an adult I still sometimes feel anxious while I'm trying to fall asleep. I tend to over think and over analyse every situation that has happened to me that day or that might happen to me the next day. It could be anything from crashing my car on the drive to work to being late for a presentation, but this deep seated anxiety is something that normally only comes at night as I lie in bed trying to fall asleep. There is seriously nothing worse than poor quality sleep which ruins the next day and results in a lack of energy or enthusiasm. So, I'm going to share with you some of the steps I take in order to have a better chance at getting a good nights sleep...

I don't just mean going to bed and getting out of bed at the same time every day although that is equally important. What I'm referring to is how you spend those last hours before you get into bed at night. For me I tend to switch off from social media if possible around 10 pm and start to get things ready for the next day. I normally make a packed lunch and iron and lay out my clothes and make up as it saves me from rushing around in the morning. My routine consists of putting my pyjamas on, lighting a nice candle, and washing my make off and applying my skincare for the night.  

2. Food
I try not to eat or drink too much in the last few hours before I go to my bed. Normally I drink quite a lot of water during the day but I try to stop this at least two hours before I bedtime as I don't want to be woken in the middle of the night by my bladder. I also avoid certain foods as they can cause heartburn and indigestion as well as limiting my caffeine intake after 3pm. In case I ever feel desperately hungry I always make sure that I have some light snacks like popcorn or oatcakes. Even a small bit of toast or a yogurt can do the trick. I also tend to drink some herbal tea before bed or if I'm watching a program downstairs. I normally choose Tea Pigs Peppermint Tea because its my favourite but Chamomile Tea is supposedly one that actually aids sleep! 

3. Read
I also like to read for a bit before I fall asleep and at the moment I'm reading Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Reading is one of the most relaxing activities for me and it also makes my eyes tired quite quickly. It also stops me from thinking about other things that might cause unnecessary stress or anxiety while I'm trying to dose off.  If I really can't keep my mind on whatever I'm reading I get out my journal and a pen and start to write down some of the things I'm feeling anxious or stressed about and that way I feel like I'm finally getting rid of whats weighing me down.

4. Create a Comfortable Environment
I don't know about anyone else but I certainly can't sleep if there's mess all over my room, if I have anything other than pillows on top of my bed or if I'm too hot or cold. I always tidy my room a bit before I settle down at night or at least try to organise everything so it seems tidier. I then like to spray some pillow mist around. The one I'm using right now is called As Good As New by Champney's and I have no idea if it actually works but I like to think it does anyways. I used to sleep with the window open every single night (even in winter) because I like to breathe in fresh air and hate feeling stuffy. Similarly I hate wearing pyjamas that I don't feel completely comfortable in so I normally end up taking my bottoms off half way through the night if I get too hot or sticky.

5. Stretch and Exercise
On evenings where I have a bit more time to spare I like to do some stretches before I go to bed to get my body relaxed and also to prevent any back or neck pain the next morning. I don't have a set routine when it comes to this as I normally just stick a short Yoga video on YouTube (example here) and use that as my stretch routine. I used to go for a run most evenings before I went to bed but I found it just kept me awake because of the adrenaline so now I stick to relaxing exercises. Sometimes I even go for a bubble bath to relax my muscles even more afterwards and hop straight upstairs afterwards it really works a treat!

Those were my tips for getting a good nights sleep and how I combat any anxiety or stress in the evenings. I'm not an expert so please remember that these obviously aren't full proof and they won't ensure that you get a good sleep every night and if you suffer from any kind of sleep disorders please see a professional as you don't have to deal with this alone! See the National Sleep Foundation Here.

How do you ensure you get a good nights sleep? Is your sleep ever affected by stress and worry? 
Lisa x

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