10 life hacks to help you get to sleep

First published: 09-03-2015

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We've all had those nights where we just can't seem to drop off to sleep, no matter how hard we try. For some of us, it's a recurring problem, and the sleepless nights can really take their toll on productivity, happiness and general well-being. There are a few things you can try to help you fall asleep quicker, for longer and uninterrupted periods of time. These simple hints and tips can revolutionise your sleeping pattern, and can help you stay feeling rested and ready for the day ahead.

1. Warm bath

And when we say 'warm', we mean 'warm', not 'hot'! A perfectly pleasant and soothing bath will not only wind you down at the end of the day, but it will also cause your temperature to adjust. Fill up the tub a couple of hours before bed, and have a nice long soak, leaving over an hour after you get out. This will give your body time to cool after the heat of the water, which will force it to get to the optimum sleeping temperature.

2. Chamomile tea

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Now, there isn't really conclusive evidence that this has a drastic effect on sleeping, but so many people swear by it, which suggests that there has to be something behind the myth. Whether it's a magic scientific secret that's yet to be discovered, or rather that it's simply some kind of placebo effect, chamomile tea still seems to work for a lot of people.

Have a small mug of this before bed - not full, or else you'll be waking up needing the toilet - and it will soothe your stomach and get you feeling relaxed and ready for slumber.

3. Regular bedtime ritual

We humans are creatures of habit, so getting into a real good bedtime routine will help you get used to sleeping. If going around the house and checking all the lights are turned off will help you feel like you're winding down for the night, then factor that into your routine, and the same if you're taking off makeup, or getting your outfit for the next day picked out and ready.

Your mind will come to associate a certain pattern of activities with getting ready for rest, and the more you follow the ritual, the easier sleep will come at the end of it.

4. Relaxing scenes

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It's so easy to start worrying about what you have to do the next day when you're trying to sleep, and how being tired is going to impact on your productivity. However, this is the last thing you want to be doing, since it will only cause you stress and anxiety, which will keep you more awake.

The best thing you can do is visualise a calming scene. That might be a field with the breeze flowing through the grass, or a forest with the sounds of a waterfall nearby, or a beach with the sun dipping over the horizon. Whatever scene would make you feel relaxed will be ideal, since it will mentally take you to a really calming place and help you drift into sleep.

5. Turn off your mobile

Sorry guys, scrolling through Facebook before bed might be the reason you're struggling to fall asleep. The National Sleep Foundation found that artificial light is one of the most detrimental things when you are trying to sleep - this could be a phone, a TV, a computer or a tablet.

Not having a TV or laptop in your bedroom will limit how tempted you are to watch something before bed, and will mentally help you associate the bedroom with the act of sleeping, rather than anything else, and this will make you inherently more prepared for a deep slumber.

6. Get some fresh air

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Getting some fresh air during the day does your body the world of good anyway, but it will also help make you more tired by the time you get to the evening. Staying indoors all day and not venturing out means your brain doesn't have to adapt to new surroundings at any point, and you don't perform all the basic physical functions that are involved with being outside; this, in turn, means your body won't work as hard and become tired.

A brief trip outdoors during the day - be it a brisk walk to the shops or even just having your lunch outside - will help tire your body come bedtime. Of course, the best way to tire your body is simple: exercise. Not to the point of dropping dead, of course, but challenging your body with some physical activity will really tire out your muscles and your brain, which will make dropping off to sleep much easier.

7. Soothing music before bed

Undersea whale music, the sound of waves on the shore, white noise… some sounds are just always associated with the act of falling asleep. However, there appears to be some scientific reasoning behind this. Music that has around 60-80 beats per minute can trigger actual physical changes, like a slower heart rate and breathing pattern, which are conducive to a deeper sleep. Whatever genre, if you can find something that will work, have it on for a couple of hours while you fall asleep.

8. Invest in a good alarm

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When you're lying there trying to fall asleep, it's easy to start worrying about oversleeping, or that you might sleep through your alarm in the morning. To combat this, invest in an alarm that you trust to do the job properly, so then you can concentrate on falling asleep, and leave waking up to your alarm.

A good quality watch with an alarm function will do the trick perfectly, and these two are ideal examples. This digital men's watch from Timex has an alarm, as well as a chronograph function and backlight. If you'd rather go analogue, this ladies' Casio Baby-G is one you can rely on.

9. Focus on breathing, not sheep

It's the one everyone suggests: "Have you tried counting sheep?" However, we're willing to bet that this works for pretty much no-one, since the act of counting will stimulate your brain, not relax it, and therefore it's probably more likely to keep you awake.

As an alternative, focus on the patterns of your breathing to help your brain switch off for the night. Regulate the rise and fall of each breath, and feel the tension escape your body. This will bring your mind to a really calm, almost meditative state, and help you fall asleep.

10. Comfy bedding

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One of the worst things when you're trying to sleep is being uncomfortable, and more often than not this is down to the type of mattress you're sleeping on, or the number of pillows. The perfect sleeping position will be different for everyone, so take the time to work out what is best for you. If your neck aches when you wake up every morning, chances are you're using too many (or too few) pillows.

This kind of discomfort will not only prevent you from falling asleep, but it will also disrupt you when you have eventually dropped off, so getting the right bedding sorted out is vital.

So now you've read our top tips on how to get a good night's sleep, it's time for you to put them into practice and set a date with Mister Sandman!


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