You don’t need me to tell you how brilliant and lovely sleep is. I can say with all certainty that people who think sleep is a waste of time simply can’t be trusted. Sleep is great and that’s a fact.
I sleep very well but I don’t take it for granted; during my broken jaw and crumbly spine saga I had years of poor sleep. I know how lucky I am to now be able to adjust quickly to new timezones and sleep soundly in new environments, but I also know that I wouldn’t be able to do it without the tricks I’mma outline below.
I should point out that if you have a medical condition preventing you from sleeping or, say, a crying newborn baby then my tips below probably won’t be that helpful, but if you’re not sleeping well because of restlessness or an annoying bedfellow (nothing like a 4am snore sesh to test true love eh?) then maybe the below tips will help…
1. Wear an eye mask…
The fact that there are people who don’t do this completely baffles me. I’ve worn an eye mask for at least ten years now and I can’t be without one. I literally can’t be without one. On the odd occasion where I’ve ended up in a situ with no eye mask to hand, I’ve tied a shirt around my eyes as a make-shift alternative.
The obvious reason to wear an eye mask is to block out your surroundings (helping you get off to sleep quicker, but also – crucially – meaning that if you do wake up briefly in the night you fall straight back to sleep rather than finding yourself looking at the clock/checking to see if it’s light behind the curtains etc) but I find it’s so much more than that.
I wear an eye mask even when I sleep in pitch dark rooms with black out blinds, maybe because I now just associate it with sleep but I think a big part is just wanting that pressure on my face. It’s like your face is being cuddled to sleep and your senses are hiding away for the night. I would sleep with my entire face under a heavy blanket if I could, but thanks to boring old ‘needing to breathe’ I make do with my eye mask.
Generally, cutesy ones with ‘funny slogans’ are a bit of a waste of time. Get a proper thick and padded one which is moulded so there’s less of a gap for light to peek through.
Trust me that eye masks will change your life, regardless of how dark you think your current sleeping set-up is.
2. Wear ear plugs…
Having worn eye masks for forever, I am relatively new to ear plugs and have only worn them for a year or so. I wish I’d understood their majestical powers sooner. I was given a foam pair in a hotel in Iceland and I tried them as a last resort as people getting up at all hours of the night to see the Northern Lights were driving me crazy (how rude! looking at the Northern Lights instead of letting me sleep!) and from then on I was hooked.
I now buy them by the industrial bulk load and keep a giant box next to my bed at all times. I wear them every night, even when sleeping on my own and in the countryside (I swear to god the animal noises at my parents house are waaaaaay more annoying than the constant hammering/shouting/sirens of London) and whilst it’s rare for me to ever wake up with both ear plugs still in my ears, I now find it hard to go to sleep without them in.
I think a big part of why I sleep so well now is simply that by putting in my ear plugs and pulling down my eye mask I am firmly deciding that I AM SLEEPING NOW. And within five minutes, I am asleep.
3. Sleep naked…
I am all about minimising the chances of waking up in a fluster and if I go to bed wearing pyjamas, I *will* wake up sweaty, annoyed and in a tangle.
In summer it’s easy to go to bed naked because it’s hot anyway, but in winter I have to really remind myself why I am sleeping naked. “YOU WILL WAKE UP AT 4AM IN A SWEAT POPPY. YOU KNOW THIS WILL HAPPEN. IT IS A FACT. TAKE OFF YOUR CLOTHES NOW OR RISK DOING IT ANGRILY IN A FEW HOURS TIME THEN NEVER GETTING BACK TO SLEEP”.
I do generally wear pants, but never anything sexy/lacy as these will inevitably annoy me in the night. It has to be cotton normal pants or nothing.
Naked skin and duvets make me happy.
4. Keep the room cool…
Related to the above really, but I sleep much better if I’m cooler. Open windows, air con on (when staying in hotels, I have not reached Maximum Life Achievement by having air con at home), radiators off at night.
I don’t sleep with the windows open in winter of course, but I always turn the radiators off just as we go to bed.
5. Separate beds…
This one is, for some bizarre reason, a “step too far” for a lot of couples. But I think separate beds are a life-saver if you’re not sleeping well. There’s nothing like being wide awake and staring at the back of your partner’s sleeping head, slowly eaten alive by jealousy as you watch them peacefully sleep whilst you are WIDE AWAKE AND PROBABLY NEVER GOING TO SLEEP EVER AGAIN IN YOUR WHOLE LIFE.
If you have a spare room, use it.
I’m not saying sleep separately forever, but sometimes you can get into a rut of poor sleep and a few nights on your own is all you need to then go back to your normal shared bed and sleep soundly. It’s like re-setting your system – proving to yourself that oh yeah, you can actually sleep. It is something your body can physically do.
At our old flat ST and I mostly slept in separate bedrooms, much to the amusement of our friends. Now that we have a much bigger bed we sleep together.
I was always happy to say we had separate bedrooms but some people will always find it funny, these tend to be people that can’t imagine having sex anywhere other than their shared bed at bedtime (*insert snarky emoji face*).
6. Separate duvets…
This is my personal fave solution to co-habiting dramaz, a shared bed but separate duvets. This is very common in other parts of Europe so I have no idea why it’s not more popular here. Once you try it, you’ll find it very hard to go back to sharing a duvet.
Get two singles or be big pimpin’ and have two double duvets.
It will legit change your life.
7. Count yourself to sleep…
I was never good at counting sheep as a kid because I started giving my sheep their own personalities and back-stories and soon they weren’t jumping over fences but having magical adventures which were so exciting that I was more awake than ever. Counting in a 1,2,3 fashion just isn’t boring enough, not for me anyway.
If I can’t sleep or switch my mind off generally, I count backwards in threes but starting from a relatively high number like 7589.
For me, this really works. You do need to start from a high number though otherwise it’s too ‘easy’ and you get distracted. If I am particularly switched on I start with a five or six digit number.
Twenty three thousand four hundred and eighty seven.
Twenty three thousand four hundred and eighty four.
Twenty three thousand four hundred and eighty one.
Twenty three thousand four hundred and seventy eight.
Twenty three thousand four hundred and seventy five.
Twenty three thousand four hundred and seventy two.
You’ll be asleep in no time.
8. Buy the best bedding you can afford…
Again, maybe this is obvious, but treat yourself when it comes to lovely bedding. You spend a third of your life in bed, after all.
9. Try out different mattresses and pillows…
It took me AGES to realise I hated my pillow. I thought I just couldn’t sleep because of stress when in actual fact it was my pillow keeping me awake. It’s not always obvious that you’re simply uncomfortable, so it’s worth trying other pillows whenever possible.
This isn’t always practical, “try asking a friend if you can borrow her pillow for the night”, but John Lewis sell basic pillows cheaply and it can be a good starting point to just see if you prefer feathers or fibre, firm or soft etc. Just go and squeeze a load of them in the store if nothing else.
If you stay in a hotel and love the bed, ask them what type of mattress it is. I’ve been known to email hotels asking for exact specifications on duvet togs and pillow fibres.
If you’re buying a bed, lie on the beds in the showroom. They honestly don’t mind.
10. Blur out background noises…
This is a bit of a waste of electricity, but when I was at uni in central London I would run a fan every night even in Winter just to drown out some of the noise from outside. If I didn’t want the cool air, I’d just face it away from me in the corner of the room. Wasteful? Yes. But I didn’t really care when it was the one thing that kept me from going crazy through sleep deprivation.
Some people like to set their tellies to white noise and apparently Wayne Rooney sleeps to the sound of a hoover whirring in the corner, so I’m not the only one who likes the hum of nothingness.
11. Don’t drink too much before bed…
I don’t even mean booze here, I just hate needing to get up for a wee. Kills my perfect eight hour sleep vibez.
12. Don’t go to bed too full…
You will feel sick.
13. Wear a retainer or mouth guard if you need one…
Teeth grinding can do a lot more than just damage your tooth enamel. You may not even grind your teeth, clenching can be worse for the muscles and jaw joints. If your dentist has ever said you should wear a guard, WEAR ONE. Please just wear one. Every night.
They can be hard to get used to but after a few nights you’ll love it the way a kid loves a dummy and you’ll find you crave it for bedtime. I promise.
Oh and if your ortho says you should wear a retainer to keep your newly straightened teeth nice? Same story.
14. Set your alarm early…
I like to set my alarm one hour before I need to actually get up. Some people prefer to get up as soon as their alarm goes, I like to have a ‘warning alarm’ one hour before I actually need to get up and get dressed. Then I feel like I’ve had a one hour lie-in without actually getting up any later than I should. If you share a bed then your other half may not welcome an unnecessarily early alarm though, so maybe discuss this.
And I think that’s it really. They’re my main tips anyway. I can’t be bothered with all that app nonsense that people go on about. People have slept for millions of years without apps.
I don’t go down the whole ‘no phone by the bed’ or ‘no TV before bed’ route either, I watch telly until the moment I put my ear plugs in. I love telly in bed. STOP TRYING TO TAKE IT AWAY FROM ME, MAGAZINES.
Happy sleeping eh?