Sleep is probably the biggest contributing factor to your quality of life. Quality usually trumps quantity, so it’s important to understand your personal sleep cycle and ways to maximise your shut-eye time.
Meditate Your Concerns Away
Usually, when I can’t fall asleep, it’s because I’m viciously cycling through worries, anxious thoughts, and other concerns in my life. This is started by a seedling of a doubt, that spirals out of control into a monster that keeps me tossing and turning at every corner. I hate these kinds of nights.
The problems you’ve faced throughout the day come back to bite you when the lights go out, the house goes quiet, and the noise around you ceases. When this happens, your brain takes an aggressive assault on your bedtime preparation because you’re not occupied by anything in that moment except by your mind.
Meditation is a great way to filter the negative chatter; to mediate your thoughts and rewire your thinking in a healthy, productive manner. Now I know what you’re probably thinking – “I’ve tried this a few times and I swear it’s not helping.” When I first started out, I was thinking incessantly. I could not stop the internal chatter, the distractions and the constant fidgeting, but this is all part of the process! The key is to keep on going at it. Meditating is a way to gain insight on how our minds work, to step away from ourselves for one moment and look objectively at ourselves. Living mindfully is the ability to regulate the place in which your reality is constructed, and can ultimately relieve you of the stresses and anxieties in your life, thus allowing you to sleep better.
Guided meditation is a great way to start, and Headspace has the perfect app for it. Set up a schedule, and stick to it. If you’re still unsure about the benefits of meditation, their website has a huge collection of sleep studies and research for you to delve into.
ASMR: Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response
Have you ever watched a Bob Ross video and felt a calm come over you as he lightly strokes the canvas with deliberate brush strokes? Have you ever felt a prickly, tingly sensation wash over you as you hear the crinkle of the doctor’s shirt and had to fight the urge to fall asleep? What you’re experiencing is ASMR, a reaction to visuals and sounds characterised by a tingling sensation that can start from the scalp and run down the spine. It’s a relatively new phenomenon being explored by content creators on Youtube, and even marketing agencies.
Even if you don’t experience the ASMR sensation (the tingles, the goosebumps), it’s still relaxing to most, and when I first discovered ASMR videos, I fell asleep every night, almost instantly.
Many of us have preferences or “triggers”, which we enjoy most, for example, paper sounds, tapping, scratching, or even eating sounds (this one’s a bit bizarre), but the best thing to do is just explore what’s out there. Give it a go – I think you’ll find someone whispering in your ear as they tap on surfaces, more pleasant than you realise.
Exercise During the Day
I don’t think this one needs a terrible lot of explanation, especially since the effects of exercise are so incredibly well-documented, but I think this serves as a great reminder.
Ever since I started an office job, I’ve not only gained weight, but I’ve also found it hard to feel tired by lights-out. When you don’t see the sun most of the day, confined to a small desk and chair, and downing cups of coffee every few hours, it’s really hard to expend all that pent up energy.
Go for a run, a stroll around the neighbourhood, an afternoon swim or a hike up and down your stairwell. Either way, getting your heart rate up for at least 20 minutes per day is a great release of tension so that you don’t have to bring it to the bed with you.
This is a list that could go on forever, but these are some of the most effective ways for gaining a better night’s sleep.