Struggling to drift off? Our wellness columnist draws on her experience of early mornings and a difficult sleep schedule to give us her top tips to help us all have a good night’s rest
Working in breakfast television and having to get up at 3am every day means that you do get a bit obsessed with sleep. I used to be one of those people who thought they can’t get by without nine solid hours a night, but now, I sometimes have to go on live TV after having slept for just three hours! The funny thing is, I have mornings when I’ve had a good night’s sleep but feel groggy, and then I might have three or four hours’ sleep another night and mentally prepare myself for feeling lousy the next day, but wake up raring to go!
One of the benefits of my job is that I usually don’t have any problems falling asleep. The downside is, I nod off anytime, any place – whether it’s in the back of a car, on a train, at the hairdressers, or even sitting up having my nails done. The most bizarre place would definitely have to be during root canal surgery. The chair was very comfy and the dentist had obviously given me lots of anaesthetic!
However, I’ve found that consistently not having enough sleep always catches up with you at some point, so it’s essential to manage your routine. I try to either grab an afternoon nap if I can, or an early bedtime the next night to make up for it. Quite often, it does mean that my bedtime is the same as my five year‐old daughter’s! But it’s all about helping your body and mind to feel its best by getting enough restoration time.
Here are my top tips for managing your sleep and helping you to nod off:
1. Stay in a regular sleep pattern whenever you can. Your circadian rhythm, or your internal clock, tells your body when it’s time to go to sleep and time to wake up. You’ll end up all over the place if you vary your schedule too much, and it will make you feel lousy. Even on my days off, I try to stick to earlier nights and earlier mornings. It means it’s less disruptive for my body.
2. If you’re having difficulties sleeping, take a look at what the reasons might be behind the issue. Is your mind whirring at night when you’re trying to snooze? If so, write it all down before bedtime, in the form of either a ‘to-do’ list or a diary, which will help you download all the things that are bugging you so they’re off your mind.
3. Make sure you set the scene for a relaxing bedtime. Be conscious about what you’re eating and drinking – try to avoid caffeine, refined carbs or anything sugary. Instead, have foods such as turkey and almonds, which help boost your sleep hormone levels. Have a chamomile tea or a glass of warm milk before bed, settle down in a bath with some candles, dim the lights, or read a book. Put your phone and computer down and don’t touch them when you’re in your bedroom, as the light they emit can disrupt your sleep as it mimics sunlight and makes your brain feel awake.
4. Be conscious about what time you’re going to sleep, as you might not be getting as much shut‐eye as you think. I thought I was having early nights, but it wasn’t until I got a fitness watch that tracked my sleep that I realised although I was in bed early, I wasn’t actually asleep, as I was either checking my phone or watching something on my iPad.
5. If you really can’t sleep, try not to get frustrated. I always think lying in bed and relaxing is still a good way for you to recharge your batteries even if you’re not sleeping. I’ll quite often use my mindfulness meditation app to help me drift off, or even if I can’t, then it helps me feel restored. If I wake up early, I usually don’t bother trying to get back to sleep, I make the most of some extra time to get up and do something, or read a book. Don’t let it frustrate you, embrace that time!