Over the last 2 years I’ve been really struggling with my sleep, but I wanted to share some of the things I’ve tried recently that have really been helping (including my new Lumie lamp).
I’ve talked about my rubbish sleeping patterns over on Instagram for the last year or so; and I know a lot of people have struggled particularly during our various National lockdowns during the Coronavirus pandemic.
All through my teens and early twenties I prided myself in being an ‘expert sleeper’ – able to snooze off quickly within about 10 minutes. However around age 24 I started to find my ability to drift off totally diminishing, to the point where it would sometimes take a couple of hours. What’s worse, is I was also sleeping really lightly, and waking up one or two times in the night as well, and not being able to get back to sleep quickly again.
I have no doubt that there have been a few factors at play causing this; around 2019 is when my business really started taking off and when this happens you naturally take on more subconscious stress due to added responsibilities and more to think about. I also know that hormones play a big part in sleep, and that it’s normal for people to go through different stages of sleep patterns throughout their lives.
But nothing big had changed in my day to day routine or activities. We’ve always gone to bed pretty early and I’ve always used screens fairly late, but I wasn’t using them more or anything. So who knows why it was proving an issue – but I knew something had to change.
So over the last year or so I’ve been testing and trying all sorts of different things and tips to help me sleep – some have helped a little, some haven’t helped at all. And I wanted to share some of the best things that have made a difference in case it helps anyone else too…
No caffeine after midday (and no fresh caffeinated coffee at all)
It sounds extreme, but I’ve come to terms with the fact that (although I LOVE the taste of coffee), I am highly sensitive to caffeine. If I have a coffee (even instant coffee) after midday, it seriously affects my sleep. And god forbid I actually have freshly ground caffeinated coffee… not only will be sleep be affected but it also makes me feel like I’m having a heart attack.
So decaf for me it is!
Eat early, go to bed early, wake up early
I’ve always been pretty good at going to bed early (especially in Winter!) and Alex and I are usually in bed by 9pm!
It might sound ridiculous to some, but it works for us because we both like to get up early (usually around 6.30am) as we are most productive and get more work done early in the mornings. When we go to bed, we’ll usually chat and read books for at least an hour to 90 minutes before turning the lights out anyway, so this is what we need in order to get 8 – 9 hours sleep minimum (the optimal healthy amount that we’ve both found we need to function!).
However I’ve always been someone who would eat dinner ‘late’ (in British terms) as well – around 7.30pm. Meanwhile Alex has always had the opposite end of the spectrum, eating early at 5.30pm/6pm. After a year or so of being together, I have gradually adapted to this and we now eat between 6pm and 6.30pm, and I think this is much better for good sleep too as it allows your body to actually digest before heading to bed!
^ As you can probably tell from the above, it’s all about working out what YOUR optimum is. Through experimenting we’ve worked out what works best for us, and I’d encourage you to do the same.
Read before lights out (and invest in blue light glasses?)
You’ve probably been preached to before about ‘no screens after Xpm!’ – I know I have. But I know that sometimes that’s just not how life happens. Some nights I want to finish watching a movie ’til 9.30pm. Some night I scroll through TikTok at 9pm to help wind down and chill me out if I’ve had a busy day.
But equally I know that if I need a really good night’s sleep to feel fresh the next day, I do need to say goodbye to my phone and the TV a bit earlier.
My usual routine involves putting my phone away at 9.30pm after we’ve got into bed, and then read for at least an hour. Reading allows my brain to settle down after the screentime, and creates a distraction / interruption free space.
I have recently invested in some blue light reflecting glasses*, which are supposed to help with any headaches or sleeplessness caused by blue light from screens, so I will try to wear those of I am on a screen in the evenings.
No work after 6.30pm
I am very fortunate to love what I do and I enjoy working on my business, but I’ve had to be firm with myself on this one. Any time I do work past 6.30/7pm, I always struggle to sleep – my brain just can’t switch off. So I now try to stop at 6pm to make dinner, and then do something relaxing or watch Netflix after dinner instead.
Less business-related books at night
On that note, I’m pretty addicted to reading non-fiction business and marketing related books, but I was finding that they were making my brain too active before bed as well! I’m not hugely into fiction though, so I’ve swapped business books for non-fiction history, psychology and science books, and autobiographies, and I’m loving it!
I do miss business books but if I really want to read one, I’ll have to find time during the day or early evening to fit this in – it’s just not worth losing sleep over.
Pillow sprays & essential oils
Do you like the scent of lavender? If so, a nice pillow / sleep spray, or nighttime oil blend can be a really nice way to get your mind into ‘relaxation’ zone. I’m not saying they’re the cure for insomnia, but they definitely help when used within a nighttime routine as a marker to chill out. Plus I’ve found having something scented on my pillow can help me to focus on my breathing, which can help with sleep.
*A note about CBD Oil: I’ve tried a couple of CBD Oils now of different strengths and I’ve seen no effect in helping to relieve anxiety, or helping with my sleep. I will keep trying and will report back, but for now I’m not sure that it works for me.
Exercise during the day
I’ve left the best two tips for last. These have both made the biggest difference to my sleep!
I’m a firm believer that exercise should never just be for the sake of it; it should make you feel good too. And while I kind of enjoyed doing workouts and moving my body before, I now love it even more knowing that it seriously helps me to sleep. I always sleep better and more deeply at night if I’ve exercised in the day – even just for 20 minutes. I can really notice on the days where I don’t work out – it’s crazy what a difference it makes.
I got the Lumie 150* for Christmas and I have to say that it’s a total game-changer. If you haven’t seen these before, it’s essentially an alarm clock with a lamp that mimics the colour and light of the sun setting and rising, to help regulate your body’s internal clock and work with the body’s natural sleep cycle.
It basically pretends to be the sun so that our primitive brain/body systems are tricked into feeling sleepy when the ‘sun’ (sunset lamp) goes down, and feeling naturally refreshed and awake when the ‘sun’ (sunrise lamp) gradually rises.
I definitely think a healthy sleep cycle starts with a good morning / wake up routine, and this feels SO much better than jolting awake to a noisy alarm in a pitch black room. By the time the Lumie has reached it’s peak light during its ‘sunrise’ (a 20, 30 or 40 minute gradual lightening process, ending in an alarm that you can choose from 10 sounds – eg. birdsong), my eyes open and I feel fresh, awake and ready for the day.
Then at night, because I’ve woken up feeling so good, I’m probably naturally finding it easier to sleep too. But the Lumie lamp also has a gradual ‘sunrise’ (light fade) feature that can help ease you into darkness, as well as relaxing soundscapes to play if you want too.
Overall, I can’t recommend this enough; it’s roughly £99 at the moment in most online shops and it’s worth every penny for a fresher-feeling morning and a better night’s sleep.
(I’m not sponsored to say this by the way, I’m just so thrilled with this Christmas gift – thanks mum!).
Let me know in the comments what is your experience with sleep at the moment? Are there any tips that have helped you?
*indicates an affiliate link.