I am the very definition of an early bird. Bright, 7am starts are my calling, and there’s no sound more calming than the sound of the kettle boiling whilst the rest of the world snoozes. Sunrises always beat sunsets, and I’m at my most creative sipping coffee in my pyjamas, feeling like the only person awake in the universe.
I am also the antonym of a night owl. Late nights make me groggy and uncomfortable, and at 10pm my brain comes crashing down into night mode with a lightning fast reflex. Nothing can keep me awake once my head has begun to droop – no coffee, no stimulants, no food, nothing. You could blast the loudest music right next to my ear and I would still be napping by 11pm. My sofa can become my second bed if I’m not careful, and I’m only half a human once the clock strikes midnight.
I understand the power of sleep, and I appreciate how lucky I am to be a sound sleeper. I’ve never suffered with persistent insomnia, and beyond a few anxiety-fed allnighters, I’ve always had a pretty reliable sleep cycle. I dream deeply, I rarely get nightmares, and I don’t struggle waking up in the morning.
But I also know that this statement couldn’t be further from the truth for many people around the world. Sleep disorders are one of the most common ailments for millennials, as we battle to juggle our own mental pressures against increasingly demanding lifestyles. Money worries, work deadlines, social concerns, late night parties and early morning fitness regimes can mean that getting a full 8 hours is a rarity for so many young people of my generation.
So I wanted to share my tips for a good night’s sleep, and to really illuminate the power of getting a good 40 winks every night.
Night Time Showers
A source of controversy for many, but for me, a night time shower is a god send just before bed. Hot water, clean hair, cool bed sheets and a solid cup of decaf tea is best part of my night time routine. Try plugging your hairdryer into a socket near your bed, and make sure that you have everything you need nearby to avoid constantly getting out of bed once you’re comfortable. Read a chapter of a book, or a few pages of a magazine whilst you’re drying your hair, and allow yourself to just feel comfortable in bed. Plus, the time saved by showering at night can be saved for snoozing that little bit longer the next morning which is an even bigger bonus!
Be in Bed
At 10pm, get into bed. This doesn’t mean going to sleep, it just means get into bed. A large portion of sleep problems can be traced back to the comfort of the body, with many of us simply hopping straight into bed and expecting to fall asleep. But the body needs to fall asleep before the mind, so the longer you can spend in bed letting your limbs rest comfortably the better.
Deep Sleep Music
Though many see this as a bit of a gimmick, Youtube genuinely does have an amazing selection of 10 hour + deep sleep sounds and music for you switch on as you drift off. Some channels have recently begun showcasing live music playlists for different time zones to help people to chime into at the same time every night and reinforce a regular sleeping routine, so perhaps try tuning into one of these.
Your face goes through so much in the night, and as you sleep, it needs the time to regenerate and heal from the effects of the day. Maintaining a nightly routine of skincare – from cleansing and exfoliating to toning and moisturising can not only help your brain to recognise a regular pre-sleep process, but also help your face to feel calmer and healthier before bed.
A comfortable bedroom is a must for a decent night’s sleep. Dirty, untidy and cold bedrooms are the worst for trying to nod off into a deep sleep, as they can have a serious impact on both your body and mind, keeping you subconsciously stressed and irritable at night. Give your room a bit of a spruce up before bed, clean the floor and make the bed, before turning up the heating a little and snuggling down in a fresh new space.
The less light you can have in your room before you try to go to sleep the better. If you’re on your laptop, turn off your main lights and let the darkness of the room shroud you and help your brain to wind down gradually. Try using fairy lights or even candles to encourage a night time mode in your room, adjusting your eyes to a new darker and sleepier atmosphere.
Consume Sleep-based Content
One of the best things I’ve found recently to help me get to sleep quickly is to watch a tonne of sleeping documentaries, studies, Buzzfeed videos and podcasts as I wind down for the evening. This might be a personal trick, but I genuinely think that talking about sleep and thinking about sleep can send me to bed faster than anything else. In the same way that watching foodporn can make you hungry, sleep vids make me sleep!
But why do all of this? Why does our sleep matter so much?
Well for one, sleep makes your brain work. This seems like such a basic response, but it really really does. Now that I’ve begun full time work, I’ve really started to notice just how much a good 8 hours of sleep can motivate me to get on with my day. When I get anything less, I’m more distracted, I procrastinate, I’m reluctant to write or to do anything creative, and I’m a hell of a lot more irritable. I eat worse, I drink more coffee, I drink less water, I’m lazier and I’m more sensitive to office banter. But worst of all is that it always takes me a few days to recognise this. I won’t be aware that I’m feeling all of this because I’m tired, I’ll just accept it as a state of mind and give into it, making myself feel worse. My observancy senses switch off, so I’m less aware of how I’m acting and the reasoning behind it. It usually doesn’t make for a great start to the working week.
It can also impact how I look. A lack of sleep can make a difference to my nails, skin, hair and weight, making my face appear dry, puffy and itchy. I touch my eyes more, smudge my makeup more, and just generally look a little sallow and pale. My hair always seems oilier when my sleep is reduced, and harder to tame after a night of tossing and turning. My limbs are heavier and walking is an effort. Everything feels a little bit softer and flabbier, and I’m a lot more conservative in my fashion choices. Gone are the low cut shirts and tight jeans, it’s back into baggy jumpers and wrinkly knee jeans for optimum comfort when slouching in my chair. My eyes are dull, and I usually feel completely uninspired to do anything special with my makeup that day.
But what happens when I do sleep well?
My mornings are easy. I look forward to going into work. I’m happier about picking up my morning cup of coffee from my favourite coffee shop. I’m more excited about seeing my colleagues. I spend a little longer choosing an outfit I look good in. I’m thinking about my working morning from the moment I leave the house, and planning ahead to get the most out of my day.
My face is brighter, my skin is smoother and my hair is shinier. I feel put together and organised. My response times are faster, my brain works better and I embrace all weathers, come rain or shine. I feel more confident and I interact more with the people I care about. I reply to texts faster, I handle my workload better and I have the energy to ask others if they’re doing ok. Something so small and uninspiring as being made a cup of tea means a lot more to me than when my brain is only running on 3% battery.
Sleep matters, and as a society, we seriously undervalue its benefits. So get your PJs on, get yourself a good cup of tea, and switch on the fairylights. It’s bed time.