Do you have sleep challenges? It’s hard enough for many of us to nod off in the first place, but even those who successfully drift off may find we’re waking between 3 and 5 am. Often we can’t get back to sleep; if we do, it’s usually not restful slumber. Whatever the cause – and some swear it can be the phases of the moon (which we don’t disbelieve) – the result is a loss of energy and focus, and a feeling of having to drag yourself through the day, until the next broken night. Experts suggest the following ways to woo sleep; we’ve tried their advice and it works.
Relax in the evening. Don’t drink coffee, tea or cola after 6 pm and avoid heavy fatty or sugary foods and excess alcohol which your body has to process during the night; cool your body by walking barefoot, opening a window, wearing light night clothes and having a warm – not hot – bath.
Dim lights through the evening. Until electric lighting became commonplace, people naturally downshifted with the onset of dusk. Today, the light assault continues until we go to bed – often after watching disturbing events on the news – and we still expect to fall asleep immediately, which is dotty since the sleep hormone melatonin needs darkness to switch it on. Last thing at night, spend a few moments gazing at the vast velvet darkness of the night sky.
Try this delicious drink to calm the nervous system. Stir together over gentle heat: 1 cup organic full fat cows milk or almond or rice milk, 2 teaspoons organic ground almonds, 2 cardamom pods, 5 strands saffron and a pinch of nutmeg. Strain and add one teaspoon honey, Manuka if possible.
Take one to two capsules of Pukka Night Time by Pukka Herbs before bed. Keep a capsule handy to take if you wake.
If you wake, refuse to fret about missed sleep. Until recently, people took it for granted they’d wake in the long periods of natural darkness and talk, make love, tell stories or simply let their minds roam… Lie there and think of all the nice things you’ve done this year – while you breathe…
Breathe. Lie flat on your back, eyes closed, one hand on your chest. Inhale for a count of four, hold for seven, then exhale slowly to eight: visualise waves shimmying up a beach, hovering for a moment, then receding gently…slowly…into the sea.
Have a banana! Low blood sugar may rouse you so have a small banana and/or a small pot of organic natural yogurt (plus teaspoon!) by your bed, also a glass of still water with a few drops of Rescue Remedy in it (dehydration can lead to poor sleep and bad dreams) .
If anxieties beset you, remember that around 4 am is the ‘dark hour of the soul’. This really is the time when your brain simply can’t process worries – thus the jangling cacophony in your head. Keep a pen and paper by your bed, and write down the worries.
If you toss and turn for more than 15 minutes, do something to divert your mind from obsessing about sleep. Turn the radio on (we love the BBC World Service), read a trashy novel (nothing stimulating), do the ironing or washing-up (nothing energetic).
And try this natural sleep regime… This is more effective than drugs at re-establishing a sound sleep structure, according to the late psychiatrist Dr David Servan-Schreiber. Go to bed at the same time every night including weekends but get up two hours earlier than usual. Don’t nap for more than 20 to 30 minutes during the day. If you wake, get up and read a book or magazine for an hour before going back to bed. Once sleep is continuous again – which may take a few weeks – increase the time you sleep by 15 minutes every three days until you’re back to your normal length.