We all know how important it is to get a good night's sleep, and throughout the day we're bound to think longingly of the warm, comfortable bed that awaits us later. Why is it, then, that when we actually turn in for the night, many of us find it difficult to drift off?
Of course, it's vital to make sure that our physical surroundings are comfortable enough, but heating can be adjusted, a worn-out mattress replaced, and earplugs purchased if something in the bedroom is disrupting our sleep. What isn't quite as easy is letting go of the stresses of the day and clearing our heads so that we can fully switch off. In fact, we may even find we're more focused on our thoughts because we don't have anything to distract us, and the more we worry about not being able to relax, the more difficult it becomes.
To help break the vicious cycle, wind down and sleep soundly, try these five simple tips:
1) Create a bedtime routine. Whether it's reading, listening to quiet music, taking a bath, doing some gentle exercise, or a combination of any of those things, choose some relaxing activities you enjoy and then do them each night at the same time so that your brain and body understand that it needs to start preparing for sleep.
2) Scrap the screens. Give yourself at least an hour before bed where you don't watch television or use your phone or computer. In fact, if possible, it's a good idea to remove screens from your bedroom altogether. The bright light decreases the body's production of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate our sleep cycle.
3) Keep a journal or notepad by your bed so that you can clear your head each night by writing down your thoughts. Keeping them pent up could be what's keeping you awake. If you have a lot of things to do tomorrow, try writing out a list — that way you'll have something to refer back to and you'll feel less anxious that you'll forget something.
4) Try meditation. There are many different meditation techniques that aid restfulness, from focusing on your breathing to visualising yourself in a place you find calming. Guides are readily available online, so try some of them out until you find something that works for you.
5) If you really can't switch off, don't stay in bed and worry about it. Get up and go and read or listen to music in another room, using a warm, dim lamp rather than switching on the main lights. Chances are it won't take long for you to start feeling sleepy. Avoid checking the time — figuring out exactly how long you have before you have to be up will only make you more frustrated.