Have you ever experienced those periods in life where, no matter how tired you are or how much you accomplish during the day, you just can’t get a solid eight-hour sleep at night?
Well, that’s me during the first months of this past year: I usually fell asleep as soon as I touched bed, but after 3 or 4 hours I would wake up and lay there forever, unable to go back to sleep. That happened for a month and a half for apparently no reason, but since throughout the day I felt exhausted, I had to figure out what to do.
1 – No carbs after 5 p.m.
This is actually a golden rule for anyone trying to stay fit: unless you’ve had a training session before dinner, you don’t really need carbs at night, as your body is meant to rest and doesn’t require extra energy.
(Being Italian, I had no idea I couldn’t have a big plate of spaghetti in the evening until a couple of years ago!)
Of course, when I see friends or have someone over for dinner, a good pizza or sushi is always an option and here’s where I’ve realised that my rest worsens when I have a main carbs dish at night.
2 – Do not give in to midnight snacks
For the very same reason, late night snacks aren’t great when coping with insomnia. Food is meant to provide you with energy, which isn’t something you need when your circadian rhythm requires you to rest.
Although it sounds appealing, therefore, avoid eating after dinner and give your body and brain the time to slow down after digestion.
Instead, go for a hot chamomile or a lemon balm herbal tea (no sugar to be added!), which are not only great for unwinding, but will keep you hydrated. I promise it will help!
I apply a couple of drops of pure organic lavender essential oil on a tissue and keep it close to my face while sleeping, or mix it with some water and spray it all over pillows and duvet, making sure sheets don’t get too wet. Also, you can take a peek on how I use it in my skin pampering session.
4 – Spend the last hours of the day being mindful
I always have a hot shower before bed, as it helps me let go of the whole day. But what I find works the best when dealing with insomnia, is taking a class of slow yoga or meditation just right before bed.
5 – Check your tablets
I suffer from alopecia, so I regularly take tablets to help my hair have all the nutrients it needs. I’ve learnt, though, that if I take vitamins and pills at night, I have the weirdest dreams and I wake up during the night pretty upset.
It is not uncommon for this kind of substances to have some effects on the brain (to me, melatonin is the worst, for example), hence the best advice I can give you is to avoid taking them after 8 or 9 pm.
6 – Avoid working late hours
Besides the fact that no one should compromise on their work-life balance, asking your brain to perform until late actually means you squeeze out a fair amount of creative energy right the moment you should be slowing down.
Just think about it: you are in front of the computer, your head pulls out ideas, makes connections, reasons about projects and things to do, and the more it does so, the more it gets excited and awakens.
Eventually, the implications are:
- you go to bed later, because you actually need to fulfill the desire of getting stuff done;
- your brain will find it harder to unwind and enjoy a good night’s sleep.
Chances are, by the time you settle down, you probably have already lost a solid two or more hours of deep sleep.
7 – Use the alphabet trick
And then, when you still wake up in the middle of the night, here’s my most precious tip: brought to me by my mum, it’s the best for avoiding frustration and hours spent rolling around in bed.
Instead of counting sheep, choose a topic you like. It might be anything from beauty products, to your favourite movies or your dad’s collection of fishing rods.
Now decide what you want to challenge your mind on: brands, objects, actors’ names… Whatever suits you, really.
Start listing from A to Z an item for each letter of the alphabet (for example, last time it happened to me, I went for all Chrìstmas-related objects: A for Angel, B for Bells, C for Candy Canes…).
8 – Bonus tip: have magnesium before bed
Not many people know that magnesium is great for relaxing muscles and can provide you with some extra help when it comes to resting well.
Of course, it doesn’t have anything to do with sleeping pills and shouldn’t be intended as the answer to everything (always ask your doctor or chemist), but just as minerals are helpful in the morning for having an energy boost, magnesium is a good ally at night.