Tips for sleeping in the warm summer nights
In today's busy world it's often hard to switch off. For many this can lead to difficulties in getting to sleep and this feeling can be heightened by the warm summer nights. What can be great news for an evening barbecue can be a nightmare when it comes to hitting the hay. Below are some top tips for getting a good night's sleep through the summer heat.
Decline the offer of a night cap
Staying hydrated is really important in the heat and it is the most likely thing to wake you from your slumber. If possible, it's best to avoid drinking alcohol altogether, however if that's not practical for you and you don't normally have trouble sleeping, ensuring that you stop drinking alcohol two hours before bed and switch to water instead, should help your body rehydrate before sleep. Always keep water by the bed, so that if you do wake, you won't have too far to go to quench your thirst.
Make your bedroom a gadget free zone
So many people tell me that they text in bed or use their tablets to relax. There are two main reasons why this might make it harder to get to sleep. Firstly, the blue light given off by many devices actually sends a message to our brain that we are awake and alert. The opposite of what you want to be doing. Secondly, any active distractions of the technological kind have an association attached to them, whether it's the stress of the day from your emails, the general chatter of social networking or the thought provoking TV. These aren't things we want in the bedroom. So leave the TV for the lounge, the ipad on the sofa and the mobile in your bag.
Even doing these things in daylight hours in your sleeping space can be a distraction. If you use your devices as an alarm, set it at least half an hour before bed and don't use it again until the morning. If that's too hard to resist, invest in a good old fashioned alarm clock. Doing these things will allow your brain to accept it is time to wind down and relax and give you a better chance of a good nights sleep.
Get into a good routine
Our body clocks love routine. When the nights get lighter and warmer, it is easy to stay up longer in the evening. That's fine, we all want to enjoy the benefits of summer, however if you are going to do it, do it consciously and stick to going to bed at around the same time each night - and getting up at the same time in the morning. Yes, I'm sorry to say that if you are lucky enough to have time for a Sunday morning lie in, it probably won't do your sleeping patterns any good! The closer you can stick to a routine, the easier you will find it to automatically drop off to sleep.
Leave space to leave the day behind
If at all possible, you want to go to bed with a clear mind. For half an hour before bed, with all those gadgets safely tucked away, give yourself some quiet time, a time to empty your mind and declutter your thoughts before bed. If you enjoy meditation or listening to hypnosis tracks, this is the time to do it (yep, okay I'll allow you to use your device for that - but no tweeting, turn it on airplane mode!), otherwise you might read, or maybe do a craft activity. The key here is to do something that is quiet and will allow you to calm down your thoughts. With this in mind, any choice of reading material needs to fit that purpose, so newspapers are out, your annual tax return is out and non-topical, relaxing material is in!
Accept that the day is over and that you are entering recharge mode
The biggest thing that I hear about difficulty sleeping is people saying that their thoughts are whirring around in their mind or they keep thinking of things they need to do. It is really important to mentally give yourself permission to accept that the day is finished and allow yourself to sleep.
If you find that you have a list of things to do that is popping into your head, have a book, in which you can write the things that you want to do tomorrow, remember, this isn't an exercise of writing a mental shopping list, this is about taking a thought out of your head, putting it on paper and closing the book for tomorrow. At this point acknowledge to yourself that this is not something that you can deal with tonight and the best chance you have of achieving the things on your list, is to wake up tomorrow feeling rested and refreshed and so allow yourself to sleep. It might sound unusual, giving yourself permission to sleep and a reason to do so, but if you have 'ought to haves' and 'should dos' on repeat, you need to create a compelling reason for them to be put aside for the night and sleep.
Create good associations
Our lives are full of associations, some are conscious, some unconscious. Consciously, I associate the smell of a particular perfume with my mother, as she has always worn it. Subconsciously, the sound of a car when I'm about to cross a road, will automatically make me step back and check again if its safe. These are associations built on my memory of things I have experienced.
In the same way we can build positive associations for ourselves. On those nights that you feel you are finding it easy to get to sleep, do something repeatable at that time, every time. An example of this might be spraying some relaxing essential oils into the air, such as lavender. This will create an association between the smell and sleep. Then on more restless nights if you spray the oils again, it will remind your subconscious mind that it is possible to relax and sleep.
You can also use memories of associations that already exist. If you are lying in bed thinking how warm it is, instead you might lie there imagining you are relaxing on a lovely sunny beach and suddenly the warmth becomes enjoyable. Or remembering a time when you were relaxed and cool will also help. The possibilities are endless. The message is that good thoughts and feelings encourage relaxation and sleep.
Hopefully the above tips will help you in your quest for a deep relaxing slumber. If all else fails, if you are in the UK at least, I can certainly promise you that the hot nights will not be around for long, you'll be hunting out the bed socks and thermal pyjamas before you know it. So enjoy what you can of the warmth, calm the mental chatter and give yourself the best chance of a good nights sleep!
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About Rachel Coffey
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