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How to Sleep Better

6 Steps to Take to Wind Down For a Good Night's Sleep

There's a lot of advice on how to create a good bedtime routine for a baby, but not so much for adults. We can take a few tips from the classic "bath, book, bed" regime that's often rolled out for infants, though. For a while I had difficulty falling asleep, and then struggled to sleep well through the night, so I made a few changes to the period before bedtime, and they made all the difference.

1. Screens Off

One of the hardest changes I made was limiting my screen time late at night, but the evidence was undeniable — on the nights I worked on my computer right up to bedtime, it took me ages to settle down to sleep. The scientific reason to make this change is that blue light from your devices can disrupt circadian and melatonin rhythms, which basically means your body thinks it's daytime. A lot of guidelines recommend turning off screens one hour before bed, but if you can't manage that, try to turn off your electronics at least 20 minutes before your head hits the pillow. There are plenty of other things you can do in that time; here are a few that work for me.

2. Bath

I've always enjoyed the relaxing effects of a hot bath, but I tended to have one earlier in the evening. When I moved bath time closer to bedtime, I found it helped me fall asleep. You could add essential oils that are said to have sleep-inducing properties, like lavender. If you're not a bath fan, try a shower instead. When you come out of warm water into a cooler bedroom, the drop in your body temperature sends signals to your body that it's time to rest. You also have the benefit of being clean, and we all know how uncomfortable (not to mention unhygienic) it is to sleep with makeup on.

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3. Book

. . . or music, or a podcast. Basically, if you still need something to help you wind down once you're under the sheets, you can try anything that doesn't involve a screen. I favour a book, and one that's not too exciting (nor too heavy), as I often fall asleep whilst reading.

4. Notes

In that quiet time before sleep, my brain often fills with reminders. When I used to keep my phone in my bedroom, I would use that to make notes. That's a big no-no. Not only did that then suck me into a drawn-out spiral of checking emails and social media, but it also meant I was engaging in screen time at entirely the wrong time. Now I keep a pen and notepad by the bed, so I can scribble down reminders the old-fashioned way. That's one of the 12 steps I took to kick my phone habit.

5. Stretch

It's often only when I stretch out in bed that I realise how achy my body feels. I've been cramped up at a desk for most of the day, and I'm not at all good about taking regular stretch breaks during daylight hours. So I make up for it a bit at bedtime by really stretching out my legs and shoulders, in particular. Since doing this, I've woken less in the night with aches and pains. There are even yoga moves you can do in bed if, like me, you don't make time to do them during the day.

6. Breathe

Finally, when I'm still trying to nod off, I try breathing meditation. If your mind wanders, try some techniques to maintain focus, like visualising your thoughts floating past like clouds, or focusing on the subtle sensation of breath at the tip of the nostrils, or bringing your attention to each part of your body in turn. There's also a 4-7-8 breathing technique, which can help with anxiety, too.

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