At various times in my life I’ve had difficulty getting off to sleep.
Now I’m 49 – hello perimenopause! – and sleep issues have returned. Only now it’s not so much about falling asleep as it is about staying asleep. Waking up at 3am, my body quite convinced its morning and time to go, go, go. Until 7am and then it’s ready to crash, crash, crash.
Over the years I’ve tried a few different solutions to try to improve my sleep. Some have worked for me, some have not.
These are my top tips.
Always keep your mobile phone out of the bedroom.
Like, right outside the room. Make your bedroom your cocoon, your haven of peace and tranquility. Only gentle items should be allowed in there. Only things that are truly sending loving vibes your way.
Avoid scrolling after 9pm.
Ideally after 7pm. Even more ideally, avoid scrolling altogether. But let’s be realists. Let’s start small. Try to at least give yourself an hour or two before lights out when you’re not staring at a screen like a labotomy patient. Firstly the blue light emitted by the screen reduces production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. Secondly the contents of the what we’re watching are likely to agitate the nervous system. Even if it’s entertainment it’s likely agitating to some degree, even if we’re not consciously aware of that. Scrolling itself is agitating. Its stimulus and that’s exactly what we don’t want when we’re trying to fall asleep.
Read something wise and peaceful right before sleep.
It’s like it percolates in the brain through the night and you wake feeling happier and more relaxed. I like to read things that are easy for my eye to glide over and yet with a clear, life-affirming message. No Mud No Lotus, by Thich Nhat Hahn, Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu, A Thousand Names for Joy by Byron Katie. You can also read a novel of course. I love to read novels. But right before sleep I find they can be a bit too involving and entertaining. They can light the mind up instead of lulling it into a place of peace.
This is one of my absolutely, totally most favourite things in the world. The power of Yoga Nidra simply can’t be overstated. It’s an ancient yogic practice that cuts through the mind’s activity, allows the nervous system to reset and the body mind spirit to return to a state of rest. Whilst it’s essentially a meditation, you do it lying down, it’s almost completely effortless and it’s impossible to do wrong. Practice Yoga Nidra half an hour before bedtime and you’re going to hugely increase your chance of a nourishing and uninterrupted night’s sleep. To find a Yoga Nidra that’s right for you download the completely free app Insight Timer and search Yoga Nidra. I’ve used this app every day since 2017 and not paid a single penny for the literally thousands, if not millions of hours of amazing, life-affirming content it offers. Each meditation is reviewed by users of the app and you literally can’t go wrong. A few of my favourite Yoga Nidra tracks on Insight Timer, to get you started: Affirmations for Sleep, I am Loved by Linda Hall Bedtime Breathing with the Divine Feminine, by Glenda Cedarleaf Peaceful Sleep Meditation by Aluna Moon To avoid brining my mobile phone into the bedroom I play these on an old iPad the keyboard of which has died of old age. I don’t have many apps on this iPad. I mainly just use it for Spotify and Insight Timer.
Legs up the Wall
This is my secret power tool for sleep. Secret no more because now it’s yours too. Legs up the wall pose activates the parasympathetic nervous system and moves us towards a state of peaceful rest and digest. Practice this pose in the bedroom if you have space, with a blanket to keep you warm and a pillow under your head for comfort. You can also bring a pillow or folded blanket under the hips to raise them up a bit if you find that comfortable. Close your eyes and let gravity do the rest. You can also play a Yoga Nidra whilst in this pose for a double hit of soothing into the parasympathetic. I would usually stay in this pose for 10 to 15 minutes, maybe longer. I know its affects are kicking-in when I start yawn repeatedly. At that point I climb back into bed knowing that the land of nod is just around the corner.