Have you ever looked at those people who wake up happily at 6am and go for their morning run? For me, there are two thoughts that run through my head (the only running you’ll see me doing tbh), when I think about them:
1. Why on earth would anyone willingly do that?
2. I wish I could do that!
I look at those people and think, wow, they have their life together. They don’t wake up in the morning rushing around, skipping breakfast, frantically looking for their bag but knowing no matter how hard they try, they’re still going to be late. Sleeping well, sleeping early and sleeping enough can really transform you, so we’ve put together a little sleeping challenge to help you become that 6am runner. Pick 4 out of 12 tips, follow them religiously, and witness your world change.
Change your sheets fortnightly
There’s nothing better than getting under freshly-washed covers, but this shouldn’t just be a luxury – this is so important for our health, hygiene and well-being! If you don’t like clean sheets, know that as you sleep, you’re probably rolling around in sweat, food particles or animal hairs, and there are tiny little dust mites eating away at your dead skin cells (ew).
Exercise for 20 minutes during the day
I know, it sucks, but a little bit of exercise really does go a long way. It doesn’t need to be intense, or a lot, even a 20-minute power walk during the day can help you sleep so much better.
Power down 40 minutes before bed – turn off your devices!
It’s so easy to keep scrolling through Instagram till 2 or 3 in the morning until you can’t physically keep your eyes open anymore. Not only is this super unhealthy, but it’s also really bad for your eyes to be taking in such bright light from your screen whilst the room is dark. The best thing to do is finish up with your devices 40 minutes before you’re ready to sleep, and spend this time doing something relaxing, like reading, painting, writing or bathing.
Eat dinner by 7pm
If you eat just before bed, you’re going to be digesting your food as you sleep and it’s not very comfortable! You want to make sure your food is fully digested, so have that early dinner. Remember, if you’re still hungry afterwards, you can always have a light snack!
Have a relaxing bath or shower
Get some lush bath bombs and have a relaxing bath because this is proven to improve sleep quality massively. It not only relaxes your muscles but also your mind. Use the time to reflect on your day and wind down.
No naps longer than 30 minutes during the day
Short power naps are great during the day, but if they’re longer than 30 minutes, they stop being (short) power naps and can actually mess up your internal body clock. You end up being sleepier during the day, and more alert at night.
Clean your room and organise your morning before bed
Having a clean environment puts your mind at ease, making it easier for you to rest. It’s never nice sleeping if you can see that your clothes are sticking out of your drawers, or your nightstand has a cereal bowl and papers all over it. Cleaning your room can be a therapeutic part of your night-time routine and makes you feel ready for bed. Since you’re already in cleaning and organising mode, this is also a good time to sit down and make your plan for the next day.
No caffeine after 4pm
Caffeine can stay in your system for 6-8 hours after consuming it, therefore drinking it in the late afternoon or evening is bad for your sleep. If this is something you like to do, drink it a little bit earlier each day until you’re having your evening coffee before 4pm.
Deep breathing exercises
When we’re relaxed or asleep, our breathing slows down. So, if you try some deep breathing exercises before bed, you’re already getting yourself into sleep mode. Forget about how weird this might look if someone was to walk in, and give it a go.
A popular method is a 4-7-8 exercise:
Press your tongue to the roof of your mouth, close your eyes and inhale through your nose, counting to 4. Hold your breath for 7 seconds, before exhaling through your mouth for 8 seconds. All the while, your tongue remains pressed to the roof of your mouth. Repeat this 4 times and you’ll find you’re ready to drift off.
Charge your phone in a different room for the night
If you really can’t stop yourself from scrolling through social media at night, or your sleep is interrupted by texts from your friends who also have a messed up sleeping pattern, charging your phone somewhere else is the trick for you. It means your phone won’t be the last thing you look at before you sleep, won’t interrupt you whilst you sleep, and won’t be the first thing you look at when you wake up
Write down your worries or stresses in a journal before bed
A lot of you might struggle to sleep because your mind is racing and there are so many thoughts going through your head it’s overwhelming. This also might happen to you if you suffer from mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression. To calm down, a good technique that you can try is to journal before bed, as you’ll be getting those thoughts out of your head and onto paper, leaving your mind clear. If you do this every night, you might also be able to identify patterns with what’s keeping you up, so during the day, you can think about solutions for these.
Keep a consistent sleep/wake schedule
Waking up and sleeping at the same time every day (including weekends) really improves the quality of your sleep. Your body becomes so used to it that it doesn’t take you long to fall asleep, and you’ll find your naturally waking up feeling refreshed and powered for the day. Maybe even at 6am, in time for that run.
To figure out the best tips, I had to skim a couple of scientific papers which I have to include even though no one reads it so here they are:
(1) Kanda, K., Tochihara, Y. & Ohnaka, T. (1999) Bathing before sleep in the young and in the elderly. European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology: 80(2): 71-75
(2) Sung, E. & Tochihara, Y. (2000) Effects of bathing and hot footbath on sleep in winter. Journal of Physiological Anthropology and Applied Human Science: 19(1): 21-27
(3) Dhand, R. & Sohal, H. (2006) Good sleep, bad sleep! The role of daytime naps in healthy adults. Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine: 12(6): 379-382
(4) Fredholm, B., Battig, K., Holmen, J., Nehlig, A. & Zvartau, E. (1999) Actions of caffeine in the brain with special reference to factors that contribute to its widespread use. Pharmacological Review: 51(1): 83-133