If you find it difficult to fall asleep, you’re not alone. Tiredness is something we all experience, in fact one in eight UK adults feel tired all the time. It’s not surprising if you think about all the factors that can interfere with a good night’s sleep, such as work stress or family responsibilities. Whilst you might not be able to control these factors, you can adopt habits and create a relaxing bedtime routine to help you get those crucial Z’s.
Creating a bedtime routine is the best way to put your body in a relaxed state. By the time you’ve finished, your body should feel relaxed and ready for lights out.
If you’re looking for ways to unwind, calm down, and get restful sleep, try these four tips.
Most adults need between 6 and 9 hours of sleep every night. By working out when you need to wake up, you can manage a consistent sleep schedule and prepare for bed. Like any other routine, bedtime routines establish habits that help our brains recognise when it’s time to sleep. This will help you fall asleep and wake up more easily. Bedtime routines also play an important role in reducing late-night stress and anxiety – the kind of worrisome thoughts that keep you up at night.
You can set an alarm or notification on your phone or smart watch using the iPhone sleep timer or the Google bedtime schedule. These will signal that it’s time to start your bedtime routine and unwind at the end of your day.
You may think that watching your favourite Netflix show helps you relax, but when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep, it's not your friend. TVs, smartphones and laptops emit blue light that stimulate the body’s internal clock (circadian rhythm). This can lower melatonin levels, resulting in sleeplessness and delayed REM sleep. Essentially, blue light keeps us alert and focused, which is the opposite of what you want when winding down in the evening.
If you can, avoid using electronics in the evening as much as possible, especially towards the end of your bedtime routine. It’s recommended that we switch off from our devices an hour before bed, but even 30 minutes can make a difference, as demonstrated by a 2020 study into the restriction of bedtime phone use. Using Apple’s Night Shift mode can also positively impact your routine. The feature adjusts the colours on your display to the warmed end of the spectrum, making the display easier on your eyes and less likely to keep you up.
Relaxation techniques such as yoga can go a long way toward relaxing you into sleep. They allow you to let go of physical and mental tension by instead focusing on your body and mindfully relaxing.
Yoga is the ultimate grounding practice because it combines attentiveness and focused breathing with physical exercise. If you’re struggling to sleep, developing a regular yoga practice can improve the quality and duration of your sleep. Yoga provides a regular opportunity to release everything you’re holding onto mentally and physically.
If you’re brand new to yoga, it can feel intimidating and be difficult to know exactly where and how to get started. Beginner poses like downward-facing dog, cat-cow and child’s pose push stress out of the hamstrings, shoulders and lower back. And with an abundance of yoga videos available on YouTube, you can find a routine to suit your lifestyle. You'll end up loosening muscles that you didn’t even know were tight!
If you can’t sleep because your thoughts feel out of control, writing them down can reduce stress and help you process your feelings. When we write our thoughts down, we organise them and see them from a new point of view. This is because writing out your thoughts requires a deeper level of mental processing, more than just simply thinking. As a result, your thoughts are processed more effectively than just laying in bed worrying and overthinking.
If the idea of journaling overwhelms you, consider starting with a simple to-do list. A 2018 study found that writing out a quick to-do list before bed proved almost as effective as most sleep aids for study participants. Being confident in what you'll accomplish in the next few days eliminates worry and challenges those irrational thoughts keeping you up. By taking 5 to 10 minutes, you may be surprised at how many lines get filled.
These tips may not be easy to keep up with, but they can make a real difference if you’re struggling to get a good night’s sleep. Making just a few small changes can dramatically improve your sleep and reduce your stress.
Having trouble sleeping? Our expert GPs are here to discover the potential causes of your sleep issues and work with you to make a treatment plan to get you back to getting crucial sleep.