I'm back again. I hope you have all been well and getting as much sleep as possible! We've had Mother's Day (too much food) and now we're heading for Easter (more food). I've had a few late nights but managed to catch up on my sleep last night so feel very much refreshed!
I get asked all the time about how to get a good night's sleep and what you can do to improve the quality of your sleep. It's all very well going to bed on time, but lying there tossing and turning can be very frustrating and tiring. You finally get up in the morning more exhausted than when you went to bed.
Is a bath before bed time a good idea?
Yes and no. Yes, because it can sooth and relax tired muscles and can help you unwind after a hard day at work. No, because depending on the temperature of the water, it can also stimulate tired muscles and perk up up more than you need to be perked up just before bedtime.
Ideally, there should be enough time between your bath and bedtime to allow yourself to feel sleepy. Make sure the water is warm and not hot -this will stimulate your muscles and make you feel more alert and wake you up which is not what we want - and add in your favourite relaxing bath foam, bath oil or bath salts and immerse yourself for no more than 10 minutes. Any longer and you may fall asleep in the bath which means you have to wake up at some point, the water is cold and scummy and you have to have a shower to warm yourself up and rinse off the scum - the result - you're awake again!
Once out of the bath, dry yourself with a fluffy towel, rub on some *lotion so your skin is soft and "carresable" in the morning and not rough and creased. Put your pyjamas/dressing gown/bathrobe on (preferably ironed or at least folded nicely with creases smoothed out and not one you dragged out from under the bed) and make yourself a nice cup of **caffeine free herbal tea or hot chocolate. If you are very sensitive to caffeine then opt for the herbal tea as chocolate has a tiny bit of caffeine in it.
You can either have your bedtime drink in bed or in a comfortable chair. Do not switch on your computer. Ideally it is best not to have the television on but if you are one of those people who could end up in hospital from TV withdrawal, then make sure you watch something that is of little interest to you. If you could burst a blood vessel just by watching a game of football then for goodness sake switch to a home improvement programme or vice versa. You could also read a book - keep a bedtime book by your bedside. "What is a bed time book" I hear you ask - one does not stimulate you at all. If you like genres like horror, suspense, crime or sci-fi then avoid them like the plague. Stick to romance, art and home improvement.
Ten to twenty minutes of reading or mind numbing TV (long enough to finish your bedtime drink anyway) should be enough to start your eyelids drooping. When this happens, switch off the TV/put down the book, lay back in a comfortable position and allow the drowsiness to wash over you and you should fall asleep in minutes.
If you are still awake after 10 minutes do not despair. For the seasoned insomniac the routine may not work the first few times. The trick is to keep at it. If you are still awake and you feel yourself starting to get agitated then employ the "A - Z song trick". The "A - Z song trick"??!!!! Yes, its very simple. You may have a lot on your mind and might find it difficult to stop your brain from processing those things whilst you are trying to get asleep. The "A - Z song trick" forces your mind to focus on something else which is of no consequence to you or anyone else and as such gives your brain a chance to "switch off" and for you to fall asleep.
Pick a song with a different letter of the alphabet each time and sing as much of it as you know in your mind. When you get to the part where you cant remember the words or the tune, then move on to the next letter of the alphabet. For instance, A - All you need is love, dah dah dah, all you need is love, all you need is lo - ove, love is all you need. I don't know the rest so I go on to B - By the rivers of Babylon... (ok I'm showing my age and possibly my uncoolness) and on and on you go. Ideally, by the time you get to the letters I, J and K, you should have fallen asleep. Once again I must point out that if you have been cheating sleep for a long time or if you have some serious issues on your mind it will probably take longer. The longest time I've had reported back to me was twice round the alphabet and that was an extreme case.
Points to note:
1. Stick with the song trick. It will eventually work. You are training your mind to switch off at bed time.
2. If you get to a letter of the alphabet and you can't think of any songs starting with that letter then just skip to the next letter. Do not make a song and dance of it, it's not that important and it most certainly is not a competition.
3. Stick with the bedtime routine, it will eventually work. Rome was not built in a day.
Part 2 will deal with things that could affect the quality of your sleep. 'Till then - Goodnight.
**Chamomile tea is particularly good as a natural sleep aid - see http://www.thegoodnightcompany.co.uk/index.html?mod=dcatalogue&pid=60&cid=14