I’m devoting today’s post to something I’ve changed my relationship with this year: sleep. We’re all familiar with the advice that we need to get eight hours’ sleep a night, but I’m sure many of us are guilty of not getting anywhere near that. I certainly wasn’t, until recently. But, after too many days where I felt groggy all day long, I decided it was time to do something about it, and I thought I’d share my tips in case sleep is something you also struggle with.
My mission to sleep better started with making my bedroom the most comfortable space possible. I chose the most luxurious bed I could afford: a sleigh-style one with a gorgeous soft headboard that makes it comfortable to sit and read in, as well as sleep (reading being a key part of my bedtime routine, as I’ll come onto shortly).
I bought some wonderfully soft sheepskin rugs, including one for under my dressing table and one for each side of the bed, to help fill the room with soft textures.
A decent set of bed linen is another important part of setting the right tone for sleep. I’ve actually just got a new set, courtesy of my new copywriting client, Strawberry & Cream, who kindly sent me a set of their beautiful organic cotton bed linen. Previously I’d used a set I got on Amazon, and I must say I’m amazed at the leap up in quality. It feels so smooth against the skin – like snuggling up in the bed of an expensive hotel.
I think the colour of your bed linen makes a difference, too. I think white or a soft pastel neutral works best, rather than a noisy pattern or bold colour.
No matter how inviting your bedroom it, for me at least it would still be nothing without the right bedtime routine. Needless to say, I avoid caffeine (which I’ve given up altogether – more on that in another post) and don’t have alcohol anywhere near bedtime, but if I’m in the mood for a hot drink then I find chamomile tea is a calming choice.
Peace and quiet
While I invariably fail at the advice not to look at a phone screen before bed, I do have the blue light reduced on my phone and I also don’t watch television after 9pm. I don’t listen to music or watch videos on my phone after then either; otherwise the music gets stuck in my head when I’m trying to get to sleep, or something I’ve seen on TV will prey on my mind for whatever reason. The only thing I will allow myself to listen to as I’m pottering around getting ready for bed is the Shipping Forecast, which is wonderfully soothing. There’s poetry in its repetitiveness, and it makes me glad to be warm and cosy at home when I’m listening to warnings of gales in Viking, North Utsire, South Utsire, Forties, Cromarty… and aren’t all those names so evocative?
I’ve always found it easier to sleep in a cool room, so it’s just as well that my bedroom is the coldest room in my flat. It’s single glazed, and the draughts are such that on a windy night, the curtains billow out even when the window are closed! If it’s a warmer night, opening the window sometime before bed allows the room to cool down a bit.
Although I like to sleep in a cold room, I obviously don’t want to be cold myself. Duvet thickness makes a huge difference, so I have a thick winter duvet and thin summer one. While I’m listening to the Shipping Forecast, one of the things I’m doing is preparing my hot water bottle, which is another lovely thing to have during the colder months. I put it in the bed a few minutes before I get in, so that when I slip under the duvet it’s already warm and snug in there. I love having a warm nest in a cold room.
Before I get into bed, I put on some night-time face cream (this gorgeous rose-scented one from Cowshed or this overnight exfoliating mask) and light a scented candle – the soft flickering light and delicate fragrance are so calming. If it’s been a high-anxiety day then I might have a few drops of PM Formula, a mix of CBD, chamomile and other ingredients for a restful sleep. (The Chillery is another of my copywriting clients and you can use my code, ChilleryRachel, to get 10% off if you’re interested in trying this or anything else on the site.)
Writing and reading
It may seem strange given that my full-time job is writing, but when I get into bed the first thing I do is write in my diary, which I find very therapeutic. It gets the day’s events off my chest so that I’m not thinking too much as I try to sleep. Having done that, I read until I start to nod off. I find it really difficult to sleep if I don’t read first – no idea why!
Down with the alarm clock
For years, I’d been setting my alarm clock for 6.30am; it was the last relic of my days in full-time employment, when I had to get up at that time in order to make it to the train or beat the traffic. Now that I’m not commuting, and haven’t been for six and a half years (!), it was high time I stopped setting it and allowed myself to wake up naturally. So now I only use it when I have to get up early for something, and miraculously wake up about eight hours after whatever time I go to sleep – so usually about 6.30-7.30am. It’s amazing what a difference it’s made, though I appreciate it’s not always practical if you have to guarantee you’ll wake up by a certain time!
So there we have it – these are the things that work for me when it comes to a good night’s sleep. What’s your bedtime routine?