How to relax well - Make time to unwind before bed
Until recently, I honestly didn't realise just how stressed out people were in their everyday lives. But I suppose that's the world we live in - constantly chasing our tails and under pressure from the moment we wake until we put our heads down to sleep.
The simple tips I've been offering you over the last few weeks are exactly that: simple. And they work, helping to slow down the mind and bring a bit of calm into your day. When you make an effort to relax well, it makes a difference to your life. It's great to be busy, but we're all learning that being busy in a controlled way is a much better way to be.
In today's column, I want to look at your sleep and how you can improve the quality of the sleep that you get. Sleep is the body's time to recover, repair, rest and recharge from the day, both mentally and physically.
So many of us fail to sleep well, but the quality of your sleep is crucial - poor quality sleep can be detrimental to your health. Improve your sleep and every other aspect of your health will recover too.
Digital detox your bedroom
That means everything - phones, tablets, laptops, TVs, smart watches, Kindles... take it all out of your bedroom and you will never look back. Tech and sleep are linked and not in a good way. Ideally you should restrict your exposure to the glaring light from screens at least 30 minutes before you go asleep. Place your phone outside your room, and bring books into your bedroom instead. If you use your phone as an alarm, get an old-fashioned alarm clock - not only does it eliminate temptation to check your notifications during the night, but you'll sleep better too.
Try blackout blinds
Have you ever slept in one of those old Georgian buildings with shutters on the windows? Do you remember how dark it was? Darkness is a great way to improve your sleep, so it's worth investing in blackout blinds, especially for the summer months.
Get up at the same time, even on weekends
One of the easiest ways of disrupting your sleep patterns is by having a big lie-in at the weekend. Instead, try to stick to waking up at your normal time. Not only do you improve your sleep pattern, but you can pack so much more into your day too.
Pick the right pillows
Not that long ago I invested in some memory pillows and found a huge difference in how I sleep, with much more comfort for my neck and back too.
Focusing on your breathing before you go to sleep can really help to relax you, especially if you have had a busy day and your mind is working overtime. Do you know why counting sheep used to work as a child? It's because you are focusing your mind on something and taking the focus away from whatever is troubling you. Focusing on your breathing is exactly the same: just focus on breathing in for five seconds and breathing out for five seconds, then repeat for two or three minutes.
Declutter your bedroom
There is nothing worse than trying to relax in a messy space. So why not start with a spring clean? Get yourself a box and get rid of anything that clutters up your bedroom. In cleaning out the space, you're giving yourself the best chance possible at relaxing when you walk in.
Avoid caffeine and heavy meals three hours before bed
In an ideal world, this is a game-changer. Reducing your caffeine intake is an obvious way to calm the body and the mind but food can have a big impact too. If you are going to eat late, opt for lighter foods such as soups and salads, or white meats and fish as opposed to red meat.
Do something nice for someone
I know what you're thinking - and it's not that! What I mean here is to send a text or share a compliment or a good news story with the person beside you. Finishing the day on a positive note is so simple yet so good for you and how you feel. The golden rule certainly applies here: never go to sleep on an argument. If you're arguing with someone, make up before you go to bed and you're bound to sleep better.
Finally, if you find you are waking up a lot with dreams and nightmares, start writing them down when you wake up, with a little notepad beside your bed. It's great to write down your dreams and nightmares as it's a way of relaxing the mind, helping you get back to sleep faster - plus it's interesting to see what you are dreaming.