Use these 12 top tips for a better nights sleep tonight and every night
Updated: May 23
If you find yourself staring at the ceiling, internally wailing 'why can't I sleep?' you're in good company here!
I've had trouble sleeping, my entire adult life.
Sometimes I have the type of insomnia when I just can't get to sleep. Sometimes the type where I can't stay asleep. Often, in the most glorious of times, I have both at once.
I'm no Doctor, but I have found a few things that help over the years.
For me, it's often a case of breaking the cycle. Once I haven't been able to sleep for a while, it tends to stick. It's sometimes as simple as a single great night's sleep to get me back into the routine of nodding off.
Here are my 12 top tips for a better nights sleep tonight and every night Let me know if any help you, or if you've got something up your sleeve I could try!
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At the beginning of lockdown, I received a letter saying I was high-risk, due to being a transplant recipient and was advised not to go near other people or leave my flat.
My brother and his partner sent me an incredible gift from 'Don't Buy Her Flowers'. Inside was a kit handpicked to help me relax, feel a little less anxious and hopefully get some decent sleep.
There were lots of lovely little goodies in there, but the best thing was this bottle of spray from 'This Works'. You spritz it on your pillow before you head to bed and the lavender spray and it claims to 'help you fall asleep faster, reduce sleep anxiety and improve sleep quality.'
I'm not saying I drift off on a cloud of lavender every evening, but it does add a layer of luxury to my evening ritual and make me look forward to going to bed, rather than dread it.
For me, an evening routine is pretty important to my sleep quality, so the ritual of it is as important as anything else.
Its scent is relaxing rather than overpowering and even when I can't sleep, I enjoy lying amongst my pillows reading in the dark and feeling pampered.
Talking of pillows...
A good set is so important to a good night's sleep.
If we're looking to get the ol' standard 8 hours of sleep a night (ha, right?!), we should be spending literally a third of our lives in bed.
When you think of it like that, it suddenly makes sense to invest in a decent mattress, bedding and pillows.
While I'm not saying that a pillow is more important than your mattress, for example, it is an easier and cheaper fix that's almost immediate.
Which pillow is right for you will depend on many factors. Are you a front sleeper, or do you sleep on your back? Do you prefer to sink into your pillows or for them to be quite firm? Synthetic or natural fibres?
Obviously, if you have allergies you may not want a feather pillow. Equally, if you're a stomach sleeper you probably don't want a thick memory foam pillow as it'll hold your head at a strange angle and leave you fidgeting all night and waking up with a stiff neck.
This article from The Sleep Doctor dives in a little deeper and has some fantastic information and recommendations.
For me? I personally use the Ultrabounce Pillow for Neck Pain Suffers from Sepoveda, which are lovely and comfortable and for now, holding up to the test of time.
I'll let you into a little secret. I don't have a weighted blanket yet.
I'm hoping Father Christmas will bring me one this year and if not, it'll be my January treat to myself 🤗
I recently read about weighted blankets and the benefits they bring to insomniacs.
I am a very wriggly person. Awake and asleep.
I often wake upside-down, or not in my bed at all. When I'm awake, I fidget constantly. I find it difficult to sit still and watch TV, or to not flit from one place to another.
My mum made me a gorgeous quilt a few years ago and when it's cold enough, I love sleeping under it on top of my duvet. I find the weight soothing and I find my self much more relaxed than usual. If there's a hoodie or something on my bed at night, I find the same effect, but it somewhat ruins the hygge vibe I'm going for in my room!
I also love it when you sleep in hotels and they've tucked all the sheets under the mattress. I like to wriggle in from the top and try not to untuck anything, I think it feels lovely! Like being swaddled as an adult.
So I've high hopes for the weighted blanket.
A notebook by your bed
When I can't sleep, my mind races.
I have stupid thoughts that wouldn't even phase me in the harsh light of day. I go down rabbit holes of 'if this happened, then this happened, then this happened, this might happen' and all of a sudden I'm in a blind panic, heart racing, further from sleep than ever before.
The other thing my night time brain likes to do is think up seemingly brilliant ideas, or things that simply must get done so the world doesn't explode.
Like, you know, remember it's bin day the next day.
For me, this one is a simple fix. I keep a notebook and a pen by my bed.
I write down any worries that tickle my brain, so I can rationalise them the next day. I write down anything I remember that I worry I'm going to forget to do. And, I write down and strokes of genius that come to me.
[Side note, they've never been very good ideas, once I've woken up]
A Moleskine notebook is a lovely gift for someone that can't sleep or the writer in your life. But to be perfectly honest, any notebook will do. I'm currently using this rather fetching pink leopard print number from WH Smith's kid's range. I can't quite remember, but I think it was less than a fiver.
I never thought I would be an advocate of herbal teas. I spent my life up until my thirties wondering why anyone drank it. It's just coloured water, isn't it? Why would I choose to drink something that smells great, yet tastes of... nothing?
I'll happily eat my words on this one. Whether my tastebuds changed with age, or I just found better herbal teabags, I'm not sure. I'm not sure I care either, to be honest!
My go-to pre-bed brew is Pukka's organic Night Time tea. As it says on the box, it's a 'dreamy bed of oatflower, lavender and limeflower' and it. is. delicious. It doesn't taste like Grandmas smell, as I first imagined when I read the box, but is actually really tasty.
They've also managed to nail the truly compostable teabag, as you'll discover if you accidentally leave one in your thermos for a day or two.
Bad news for forgetful thermos users, great news for the environment!
I'm not entirely sure its mix of herbs is truly soporific, but for me, the routine of it is half the battle. And I am 100% sure it's not doing me any harm.
If the best it could do is send you off to peaceful sleep and the worst it can do is make you hydrated? Worth a shot in my book.
Another one I never thought I'd be into, the Kindle!
I love books. I love everything about them. The way they smell, when you buy one and someone else has written in the margins. I like bookshelves full of them stacked to the ceiling. I like folding down the corner to mark where I'm at, or an excerpt I particularly love.
I love bookshops. I love the way they look wrapped under a tree at Christmas. I love judging them by their cover, no matter what anyone says...
So, when I was first given a Kindle Paperwhite, I was sceptical.
Could reading on an e-reader ever be the same? Could it really replace that page-turning hunger of a real book?
Well, no. But I've got to say I love it.
For two main reasons.
It's easy. It's much easier than lugging half a library on holiday every time you go away. It fits snugly into my laptop case whenever I'm away from home and I can tether off my phone if I ever unexpectedly find myself with a long wait and need to download a new story to devour.
It's backlit. I did several seasons, which involved sharing a room with someone else. I also, as you'll have got from this blog post, can't sleep. So when I'm sharing a room with a partner, am often awake well past when they want to sleep.
Having a backlit device means you can read to your heart's desire, without switching a light on, disturbing your bed buddy or yourself.
It's worth noting the Kindle Fire is a tablet, rather than an e-reader. Still great for reading in the dark, I've no doubt, but the screen's on the Fire are similar to that of your phone or laptop, that emit lots of that blue light we want to avoid before we try to go to sleep.
If you Google 'Do Kindle paperwhites emit blue light', the answers are mixed, so I'm not sure? From what I can deduce, yes, but much less than other devices.
All I can give you is my honest opinion, having owned one for the best part of a decade and replaced it this year. I find the screen's easy on the eye (I only have one eye that works!), totally different from reading on a phone or tablet. I turn the brightness down very low when I'm reading in the dark and find myself nodding off while reading.
Personally, I find the light from the backlight much less disturbing than having a bedside light on.
I always found button-down pyjamas a bit strange. It struck me a little like getting changed and putting on a suit before bedtime...
Also, due to the aforementioned wiggliness, I tend to turn around a lot, but the pyjamas don't! Leaving me tangled up and feeling a little claustrophobic and hot.
Silk pyjamas are a game-changer. I'm not going to lie, they're more expensive than your average PJs (satin is a good alternative if you don't want to splash the cash), but they're worth it.
Freshly showered, into clean silk pyjamas, you feel so refreshed. They're so soft and light, plus there's something a little like the cool side of the pillow about wearing them.
They're literally soothing. Again, for something you're going to spend an 8th of your life wearing, it's worth the investment. And a great gift - just sayin'.
I'm obsessed with this floral set from LilySilk.
Image credit: www.lilysilk.com
Okay, okay, I love pyjamas. Especially since lockdown and WFH, I wear PJs a LOT.
A little secret, I'm a bit of a slob and a bit of a clutz. If your aim is a better nights sleep AND you're going to invest in a gorgeous silk set for sleeping, I'd recommend a cheap and cheerful, cosy set for slobbing around in.
If you're having a calm cuppa and a chapter on the sofa before you head to bed, go ahead and luxuriate in your silk decadence! But, if you're going to cook your dinner in them, indulge in a nighttime snack or decided to see if you can still do a headstand, a second pair of cotton PJs is essential.
Something you won't worry about bunging in the wash regularly, you don't care if you spill red wine on and that you can happily buy several sets of, to make sure you're not a total minger.
Again, for me, a routine is massively important to getting good sleep, so set a time that suits you to get into your sleeping pyjamas, whether that's after your evening shower, before your nighttime chapter of your book or straight after you've brushed your teeth.
I accidentally bought an annual subscription to Calm, but I actually use it every night.
I signed up to a free trial subscription and didn't notice until the money came out of my account that I'd forgotten to cancel it. Gulp.
Actually, I'm really glad I did.
The app has lots of guided meditation on it, which I do use occasionally and should use a lot more. But the sleep stories I really love.
I used to really struggle to sleep without some sort of background noise. I found audiobooks too engaging - I'd get into the story too much and it would actually keep me awake. The same with podcasts.
For years and years, I went to sleep with Friends on in the background. I knew the plot so well it didn't keep me awake, but it sated my need for some sort of noise.
However, blue light from your TV or laptop and the flashing of changing scenes isn't good for you to go to sleep too. Plus, Netflix would often get all judgy and ask 'are you still watching' before I fell asleep meaning I'd have to get up and disturb myself looking at a bright screen.
The Calm sleep stories are all short, soporific and really do help me sleep. Plus, let's be honest, it's the only way I'm getting Harry Styles in my bed now, isn't it?
My go-to sleep stories? 'Wonder' read by Matthew McConaughey or 'Blue Gold' read by Stephen Fry.
Keeping your bed for sleeping only
I live in a studio flat in a loft. It's perfect for little ol' me and I really enjoy the space I've made.
When I first went freelance, I was really guilty of working in bed.
Now, this is terrible for SO many reasons. It's bad for your back, it's bad for your quality of work, it's bad for your mental health.
I really believe that making your bed a place for sleeping only (except, ahem, maybe one other thing...😏), is super important for those of us that can't sleep.
I have a kitchen/office, which is admittedly a bit of a weird set up, but due to the shape of the room suits me well. At one end of a long desk, I have a proper chair and everything I need for work. At the other end, I have my kitchen and use the tabletop as a worktop to knock up tasty meals.
I have a sofa in the eaves, in front of my TV. Behind my TV is my bed.
I try really hard to work at my desk, relax on my sofa and sleep in my bed.
(and I'm getting much better at actually succeeding!)
And if I can do it in one room, I think you can too.
And, if your bedroom is in a different room, well. No excuses!
Maybe this one is more of a placebo than anything? I'm not sure, but if it works, I'm not fussed why 🤷
As I just said, I live in a studio flat. Which is a fancy way of saying one room.
[And a bathroom, obviously]
The type of lights around me has a massive effect on my ability to get to sleep. I read a little bit about the different types of lights you can get and how they're meant to make you feel.
I've got several lamps around the room and, except for the lamp on my desk, they've all got 15 watt warm light bulbs in them.
My main lights and work lamp have a brighter, white blue bulb in them. When I'm done with work for the day, all the main lights go off, the lamps go on and it's time to relax.
Whether it's the science of circadian rhythms or the routine that helps, in my mind, it doesn't matter, as long as it does.
Now, this isn't for everyone.
However, I will quite confidently state that my personal problems sleeping are quite related to my anxiety.
Or perhaps my anxiety is caused by my lack of sleep? I think it's a bit of a chick or egg situation, to be honest.
I've suffered from anxiety a long old time. I've been seeing a therapist on and off for a couple of years. It's often uncomfortable and often unpleasant, but it really helps. Perhaps getting to the root of the problem is the answer for me?
Time will tell.
But, if your sleep, or lack of it, is plagued by anxious thoughts, I really recommend you give it a go. It's worth finding the right therapist for you - it might take a couple of shots to find the right one.
If you live in the UK, you should be able to access counselling or therapy for free through your GP. If you'd rather go privately, you can find a directory of licenced therapists in your area here. The list includes a little info on how they choose to practice, which can help you choose, though ultimately you're going to need to attend a session or two before you make your final decision.