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For years I have struggled with getting to sleep. This has only been made worse by the combination of a global pandemic and third year stress. So recently, I have tried some new methods to help you sleep.
By doing this, I realised that over the years I have basically tried every single method that is meant to help you sleep… Except for no caffeine in the afternoon. My ability to function is dependent upon my 3pm caffeine.
So here is the verdict of what can help you sleep from an accidental sleep expert. This list is roughly organised by the order that I tried them. I would have loved to include separating your work and sleep space on this list, but as a uni student that is impossible. Maybe that is the key to sleep, but for at least a little while I will have no idea.
So if you’ve currently struggling to sleep, or you’re wanting to prevent the inevitable exam stress sleep crisis, this list is for you!
Herbal Tea – great for relaxing
For me, herbal teas are a great way to relax. Specifically, camomile teas are meant to promote relaxation, but I find that all herbal teas help. Hot drinks sooth my soul and have become a part of my night-time routine. I don’t know how great they are for sleep, but if they help you relax that is half the battle.
Breathing Techniques – a classic for a reason
I 100% swear by this. Concentrating on your breathing in any way, shape or form helps me sleep. It makes you concentrate on something other than what is currently going on your brain. It stops you thinking about that essay you have to write, or that embarrassing thing you said in 2007 (I have no idea why trying to go to sleep always brings moments like this into your mind). Let’s be honest, breathing techniques are basically counting sheep for adults. But, it one ups counting sheep because it also makes you heart rate slow down!
Some basic breathing techniques I would recommend include:
- Breathing in and out for 4 counts
- Breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth
I would also recommend trying guided breathing – but more on that later.
Kalms – maybe try real sleep medicine?
I used these on and off for a few years, but I do not specifically think that they helped. They are a bit like herbal teas, but in a tablet form. And, to be honest, I don’t find that they help as much… and they are way more expensive. Definitely try herbal teas before these!
Don’t Eat Just Before Bed – great… for a specific problem
Not eating before bed is probably great if the reason you can’t get to sleep is ingestion. However, I don’t know how helpful this is in general. I mean it’s probably not so great if the reason you cannot sleep is because all you can focus on is the insistent hunger in your stomach.
Bedtime Yoga – my go to way to relax
This is great to help you rest! But I always find that by the time I actually go to bed, I am out of this relaxed state. Perhaps I need to do it directly before bed. However, I don’t think that will work for me. I am far too tired at bedtime to do a plank, a downward dog, or even a simple forward fold. I use yoga to end the workday and I find that this is great for balance, but I have no idea if this impacts my sleep.
Get into a schedule – an ideal
Yes, this does impact your sleep. I imagine this is really helpful for those without any schedule, but I feel like the key to rest cannot be as easy as simply having a schedule. I have a schedule and still struggle to sleep. There is no guarantee that the time you go to bed is the time you go to sleep.
Listening to relaxing music – I don’t think so
I don’t think listening to calming music has ever helped me sleep. I find that despite the music playing, my mind still wanders. I have played music at various volumes and the same problem persists. Maybe this is something that would work for some people. And considering it is one you can easily do for free it might be worth a shot.
Exercise During the Day – I guess
I have no idea how I would test if this one works. I have had sleep problems regardless of whether I regularly exercise or not. I am sure this works in the long term, but if you are reading this article you probably want something that will work a bit more instantly.
Reading Before Bed – a lovely thought
I went through about a week of consistently reading before bed, but I find for me this is not sustainable. I have to be reading a good book, have a physical copy of the book, be awake enough to concentrate, and finish what i was doing beforehand at a good time. That is a lot of variables that rarely align. On that one week I was regularly reading before bed, I did find that it helped relax me… and it had the added bonus of me being able to brag about the fact that I was reading before bed!
Leaving Your Phone Behind – another lovely thought
If reading before bed is a nice but impractical idea, then not going on your phone before bed is definitely one. It obviously helps (the science about blue light does not lie), but who can realistically do this on the regular. We have been programmed to be constantly on our phones and I often find by the time I think about putting it down, it is already time for bed.
Meditation – trust me, it works
I was sceptical, but this does work. Sleep meditations are great. You can do them while in bed and they help you concentrate on your breathing. I particularly like the ones with body scans, I find that this both relaxes me and focuses me on something outside of my thoughts.
Specifically, I would recommend the app Insight Timer if you want to give this a go. I searched for ages to find an app without in app costs, and this app has an insane amount of free options. I have been listening to a meditation every night for about 5 weeks and have yet to run out of free ones to listen to.