By Tiyani Rikhotso
Most of us stay up way past our bedtime. Whether busy with school work, cramming for tests, taking phone calls from friends, binge watching series or scrolling through social media, we are up too late. Sometimes, anxious thoughts and the stress of life can keep us up too. Late nights will eventually start to take a toll on your body and disrupt your natural sleep patterns even further. You might find that you’re struggling to go to bed because your body clock has been disrupted from all the late nights or maybe even because certain thoughts or worries are keeping you up. Whatever the reasons that keep you tossing and turning, here are a few simple steps you can take that will bring you better sleep.
- No phone before bed. It’s no secret that we can bump into news that upsets us or makes us feel bad about ourselves on social media. Encouraging your mind to wander off and stress about the state of the world or why your life doesn’t look like the ones you see online is one of the easiest ways to keep yourself up at night. Your phone and other devices like laptops or i-pads also emit “short-wavelength-enriched” light, known as blue light, that inhibits melatonin production and throws off your sleep cycles. This confuses your body and disrupts your natural sleep patterns. Getting into the habit of putting your phone away an hour before bed should work wonders in improving your sleep.
- Develop a night routine. You can use the free hour you have now that you won’t be on your phone to develop a solid night-time routine. This will help ease your mind and body, letting your system know that it’s time to get ready to sleep. You can fill this time with brushing your teeth and washing your face then settling into bed with a book or a journal. This is the perfect time to unwind from the day and show yourself some love whether through your skincare routine or in letting your thoughts from the day spill out onto paper. Because we are beings of habit, having a consistent night routine will help regulate your sleep patterns.
- Your bed is for sleeping (only). Because of the process of classical conditioning, if you use your bed to work, watch series’ or eat your meals your body no longer associates the space with sleep. This will make resting at night harder as your body takes a bit longer to recognise that it’s time to go to bed. Stick to working at a desk and you can watch your series or eat your meals on the couch or at a table.
- Stretch and do deep breathing. If anxiety and stress are keeping you up, taking a few deep breaths and doing some light stretching can help with your sleep. Deep breathing floods oxygen to your brain and through your body helping you to calm down. The stretching works in a similar way – helping your muscles relax as sometimes we tense up in the face of anxiety and stress. You can freestyle this, simply taking 10 slow and deep breaths and doing a full body stretch.
- Essential oils and tea. Drinking a warm cup of herbal tea and dabbing on some essential oils can be a great part of your night routine that will help with your sleep. Stay away from black or green teas as these are caffeinated and will keep you up at night. Opt for a cup of chamomile or rooibos instead. Drinking chamomile tea is a great way to aid your body in falling asleep as it has a mild and natural sedative effect. Essential oils are also an amazing way to help your body fall asleep. If you can get a hold of them, some essential oils that help with sleep are lavender, ylang ylang, sandalwood and frankincense. Mix a few drops into a carrier oil and massage your arms and neck allowing the aromatherapy to work its magic. If you’ve got a diffuser you can use this. Or you could simply light a scented candle or some incense for a similar calming sensory experience.