Almost one in five people in the UK aren’t getting enough sleep — which is no surprise when we’re working longer hours, stressing, overthinking more and dealing with serious information overload every day. Seven hours of sleep is recommended to maintain healthy brain function and physical health. A good long snooze empowers the body to recover and recharge — think of your body as a battery that needs to be charged each night, ready to roll the next day.
But despite being essential to our health and wellbeing, when we’re feeling overwhelmed sleep is often the first casualty. But you don't have to give in to the tossing and turning all night.
Here’s a few tricks that are worth trialling for more quality time between the sheets:
- Trigger the right brain waves
It sounds all science-y, but this one is one to think about. Certain brain waves are associated with rest: alpha waves promote relaxation; theta waves are triggered when you’re meditating; delta waves kick in during deep sleep. The thinking is if you stimulate these brain waves with specifically designed music, you’ll nod off faster.
Think of rain on a roof, a crackling fire, a cat purring — sounds cosy right? There are loads of apps you can download: try ‘Relax Melodies’ or search for ‘sleep music’ in your app store.
- Get a better bed
Sometimes the magic answers are simple. Mattresses don’t stay in their prime for long. After seven years (fewer if you've worked particularly hard to wear out the springs...) it's time to bump off your bed. When replacing your mattress, invest in a good quality product, ideally one that's designed to adapt to the shape of your body, absorb motion and relieve pressure. Equally, if you’re on a budget, it might be worth looking in to a mattress topper instead as a happy halfway solution.
- Get digital therapy
Really struggling? Sleepio is an online CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) program created by experts and recommended by the NHS (so you know it’s legit). Set your ‘sleep goals’ and answer a super in-depth questionnaire, then Sleepio will build a tailored digital plan for you (guided by your virtual CBT expert, The Prof).
- Beat the blue light trap
Ok, you know you shouldn’t be on your phone in bed — thanks to the pesky, sleep-destroying blue light from the screen — but show us one person who doesn’t give in to the urge for a bedtime TikTok scroll. If you really can’t put down your phone (we said we wouldn’t tell you to), you could try a pair of blue-light blocking glasses which have orange-tinted lenses. A Swiss study — albeit a pretty small one — found wearers were “significantly more sleepy” using them.
- Investigate magnesium
Proper clinical trials are limited but loads of people swear by magnesium supplements. Magnesium isn’t a sleep aid in itself — but it does help relax the body (it’s vital for the function of calming neurotransmitters), so it makes sense that a magnesium boost could help you drop off.
- Take a shower 90 minutes before bed
Make it warm rather than hot — while it will initially raise your body temperature, it’s the drop in body temperature that helps you feel sleepy.
- Do this yoga move
You might think vigorous exercise in the evening will tire you out — but it actually has the opposite effect. Instead, do gentle relaxation exercises like simple yoga stretches. Look up YouTube tutorials for Legs-Up-The-Wall pose (Viparita Karani); combined with slow, steady breathing it can reduce your blood pressure and heart rate to help you relax.Viparita Karani (Legs Up the Wall Pose) How to Do Step by Step for Beginners with Benefits
- Learn the 4-7-8 technique
Pioneered by American sleep expert Dr. Andrew Weil, this breathing trick is meant to encourage the lungs to fill up completely, getting more oxygen into the body — and lulling you into a state of zen. Put the tip of your tongue behind your two front teeth. Breathe in through your nose for four seconds, hold for seven seconds, and then exhale through your mouth (making a ‘whooshing’ sound) for eight seconds. Repeat four times.
- Orgasms = nature’s sleeping pills
According to the NHS, “Unlike most vigorous physical activity, sex makes us sleepy. This has evolved in humans over thousands of years.” See? It’s evolution! More good news: Masturbation works just as well.
- Practice P.M.R.
That’s ‘progressive muscle relaxation’ — another chill-out shortcut that you can do in bed. Starting with your toes, moving right up to your forehead, slowly squeeze and then relax each part of your body in sequence. It’s tricky to isolate each muscle at first but that’s kind of the point: Focusing on PMR helps still your mind when it’s racing and just won’t switch off.
- Reschedule nighttime worries
Don’t lie there and fret. Get up, find a piece of paper and rip it into strips. Then write down one thing that's worrying you per strip. By unpicking a messy bundle of anxiety, you will feel more in control. Next, write a day and time you will tackle each worry e.g. “My housemate is annoyed with me.” Then “I’ll speak to her tomorrow at 8 p.m.” This ‘worry schedule’ can give you enough mental space to get to sleep.
- Listen to this podcast
Each episode of Sleep With Me tells an incredibly long, rambling, and dull audio story, designed to literally bore you to sleep. The podcast is downloaded over 1 million times each month, so it’s definitely helping someone.
Just pick a few of these tips best suited to your lifestyle and routine, and see what happens!
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com/uk. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.