Feeling a little tired today? Me too. Not only did the clocks go forward yesterday, depriving us of an hour’s sleep, but I’ve just finished a stretch of night shifts (9pm-9am, in case you were wondering).
Sleep has never been that big an issue for me, I used to wake up at 5am and stay up until midnight. Now I work night shifts, however, it has become an obsession. I need at least seven hours to function correctly, and that’s a push.
A lack of sleep can apparently fuel mental illness. It can affect your memory and put you at risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, heart failure or stroke. Hoorah.
And it is no surprise. When I’m exhausted, nothing makes sense, I get angry at the slightest offhand comment and I feel like banging my head against a wall until the feeling stops. But, of course, when I try to sleep, it doesn’t come. And I’m not the only one.
And I’m not the only one. Research by the UK Sleep Council found that nearly half of the UK are getting six hours of sleep per night, or less.
Since January, I’ve taken small steps to address my own patterns. Here are my secrets for a stress-free sleep:
A bath before bed,
I always find a dip in a hot bath helps to wash all of the worries of the day away. Sadly, my new flat doesn’t have one, but a relaxing bubble bath always helps me doze off.
This gorgeous bath is at the Great John Street Hotel
With candles close by…
I keep a scented candle on my bedside table to help wind down as I get ready for bed.
Candle, Marks & Spencer.
Remove all jewellery,
It’s always handy to have a bowl/plate by your bed to drop earrings, rings and any other items of jewellery in before falling asleep.
As hard as it might be, I try to keep all screen use down to a minimum before I go to sleep. It can take up to an hour for your mind to switch off after being exposed to a screen. I also have f.lux on my laptop, similar to the iPhone’s night mode to reduce white light – which can affect sleeping.
Clear your head,
I keep a notebook by my bed for jotting down any late night epiphanies, ideas or even worries. It helps remove any busy thoughts from my head, so I can focus on sleeping.
Notebook, Sloane Stationery
Get an eyemask,
If your blinds aren’t great at keeping out the light (like mine), it is worth investing in an eye mask. It doesn’t need to be fancy, but this particular one – the Neuroon – monitors your sleep patterns and recommends the best time to nap or sleep. It uses flashing lights to send you to sleep, even if just for 20 minutes.
The Neuroon Eyemask is available here.
And a wake up lamp,
Another item worth investing in is a wake up lamp (I wrote an article for the Telegraph on sleep gadgets here and the lamps definitely came top).
They can be expensive, but mine is my best friend. I have a Withings Aura which has a mattress sensor to detect your movement during your sleep and it wakes you up gradually with the light, in line with your REM cycle (how deep your sleep is). It also has a speaker and a mode for going to sleep, mimicking sunrise and sunset so you drift off/wake up naturally.
You can buy the Withings Aura here.
And some comfy bedding,
The most important part of sleeping is, of course, your bed. I like to go all out: sheepskin mattress topper, big fluffy pillows and cushions, soft bedsheets and a warm bedspread.
I’ll be honest my bed (first photo) didn’t look that fancy but the main bedspread is from Dunelm – who have an amazing range – and my sheets are from Calvin Klein, check out TK Maxx for bargains.
Turn on a podcast,
Stuff you should know, Serial, The Times Redbox, This American Life, In Our Time to name a few. (And I cannot wait for S-Town!) A podcast helps me focus on something, other than my life, as I fall asleep.