For World Sleep Day, Heathista writer Charlotte Dormon shares 5 tried & tested sleep hacks for when she’s feeling too stressed to sleep
Having a bad night’s sleep messes with everything from the appearance of your skin to your mood.
It’s also especially frustrating when it’s caused by stress making you restless and unable to switch off, rather than bad night’s sleep after having a fun night out and getting into bed too late.
they find themselves wide awake in the middle of the night with a racing brain
Excess stress hormones built up during the day, or ongoing feelings of stress and anxiety, can play havoc with our heads and make us feel like when it’s time to fall asleep, it’s almost impossible to do so.
Or for many people struggling with stress and anxiety, falling asleep is not the issue. Yet, they find themselves wide awake in the middle of the night with a racing brain and anxiety about a million things at once.
Whatever your stress-out sleep struggles are, we feel your pain and know only too well what it’s like to struggle through the day after a bad night’s rest.
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After many years of struggling with irregular sleep patterns and never really getting the full quota of 7-8 hours of sleep, I made peace with the fact that I was not that person that just hit the pillow, fell asleep and stay there until it was time to get up.
It also got a lot worse when I was stressed or had things on my mind or too much going on with my work. I would often wake up in the night with my head full of random thoughts, worries and stressing about things I needed to do – did I pay that parking ticket, I should have sent a birthday card to my auntie, did I email my accountant about my tax and so on.
I am also that person who, when they have a disagreement or emotionally charged argument with their partner and the guy ignores you and rolls over and goes to sleep – this is so annoying for a woman who likes to resolve everything haha – who then lies awake stressing out for most of the night as it’s unresolved, and really wishing they could not care and just go to sleep and forget about it, as no doubt by the morning it will all be forgotten.
Anyone else know this pain? Top that off with being prone to anxiety, and it’s a real recipe for a terrible night’s sleep.
So, for all my fellow stressed-out, busy-headed friends, I will share a few sleep hacks that have helped me fall asleep more quickly and sleep more deeply through the night…
Sleep Hacks #1 Breathe, stretch, do a body scan and focus your mind on all things ZEN
There are endless apps, books and gurus who can give you guidance on easing feelings of stress and anxiety, and I have to say that this simple yet super-effective stress-busting hack has been the go-to toolbox for me to use to get myself in a better state of mind for sleep when I am too stressed.
I created a ten-minute wind-down routine, where I do some calming stretches (roll downs to release the spine are my fave) and focus on breathing and letting go.
I actively imagine all the stresses and thoughts leaving my body, and every time I exhale, I say let go. I breathe in calm and relaxation and just slowly breathe in and out, focusing on my breath and slow stretches.
I focus on my breath and slowly breathe in and out
I put on some relaxing wave sounds as for me being on a beach is probably the most relaxing place in the world, or I imagine I am in a home in the woods, and it’s really calm – I live in central London, but my brain is now saying I am in a gorgeous luxury cabin in the woods in nature – and I spend ten mins doing this.
The music and sounds really help as my mind tunes into this, eliminating the chatter going on. Also, focusing on your breathing for ten mins in this way is so soothing.
I also will do this in the night if I wake up and can’t fall back to sleep, as it’s far better than laying there worrying about not being asleep. I focus on my breath and slowly breathe in and out and often do a body scan where I focus on each area of the body and imagine it feeling totally relaxed – it works like magic.
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Sleep Hacks #2 Massage your feet with BetterYou sleep magnesium lotion
Magnesium is a mineral that our bodies crave when we are stressed. It’s essential for all of us, but especially women, to have enough of this mineral as it helps our hormones stay more balanced and ease PMS and menopause symptoms that are associated with a deficiency.
Magnesium is a very important mineral to help muscles relax and can ease restless legs and cramps and overall greatly help ease tension and stress and improve sleep.
A nutritionist friend of mine told me that when she gets into bed, she always rubs BetterYou magnesium sleep lotion into her feet and calves, and it helps her get a wonderful night’s sleep.
Magnesium is a very important mineral to help muscles relax
I was immediately sold on this idea as I was trying to get into the habit of putting cream on my feet at night as they get so dry in the winter.
I also knew that your feet absorb magnesium really well when applied topically, so this was a double win for me as I could not only get more magnesium into my system to help my hormones and sleep but also get out of bed with more attractive-looking feet!
It’s also very simple to do and feels very nice. Just the ritual of massaging the lotion into your feet feels so soothing and immediately relaxes me. It also smells great as it has lavender and chamomile oil in the blend.
READ MORE: 7 practical sleep tips your circadian rhythm will thank you for
Sleep Hacks #3 Pop a plant-based chill pill
Prescription sleep meds generally have terrible side effects making you feel like a zombie the next day. They can also dampen your sexual desire, make you feel depressed, and cause memory loss and I found that once you start them, it can be a real challenge to get off them.
I have been there and tried them all and thank god have been free of that for 10 years now, so no going back for me. There are a few supplements I like to use when I am feeling stressed and struggling to sleep, and here are a couple of plant-based natural remedies I find very helpful. I now only use natural remedies, of which I have tried many that are great and here are a couple of suggestions.
Unbeelievable Health’s Bee Rested contains natural ingredients such as lavender, which helps you to get a more restful sleep, while chamomile contributes to relaxation and helps to maintain sleep.
This supplement also includes Griffonia seed extract, which provides 5- HTP, a substance which converts into serotonin and then melatonin – the sleep hormone.
Reishi mushroom is also an excellent tonic hormone-balancing tonic for women
I take 2 capsules of this one hour before I go to bed, and I find it helps me sleep well, especially when I am staying in new environments or going to be late from travelling or being out later at night.
Hifas da Terra’s Mico Reishi powder. Reishi mushroom is one of the most well-known medicinal mushrooms that have been shown to help the body adapt to stress and protect against the negative effects that stress brings on, such as anxiety and disrupted sleep associated with stress.
Reishi mushroom is also an excellent tonic hormone-balancing tonic for women as well as reducing cortisol; it supports liver detoxification and has been shown to help women with hormonal imbalances sleep better.
I mix a heaped teaspoon of the Reishi powder into a hot chocolate with plant-based milk (almond or oat is good) and enjoy this soothing drink early evening to help me feel calm.
READ MORE: From Shiitake Mushrooms to Reishi – 5 reasons shrooms are magical for your health
Sleep Hacks #4 Try sleeping with a Spacemask
I have been wearing eye masks when I go to bed for quite some time now. I have a selection of different types and take them everywhere I go as I like the feeling of a silky eye mask over my eyes to help me relax, as well as block out any light coming in if I am anywhere that does not have blackout curtains.
I was introduced to Spacemasks by a friend who gave me a box of them as part of a birthday present (the sort of gift you buy friends who are forever moaning about not sleeping well enough – that’s me!), which I was most grateful for.
Although, I have to be honest, when I read about it being a ‘heated’ eye mask with jasmine for relaxation, I actually thought it was a bit of a gimmick and ignored the gift for quite some time as I thought ‘that’s never going to really work’.
It was only when I was packing to go away for a weekend to stay with relatives that I decided last min to pack one in my bag as I thought the weekend away would be a good time for me to try it out – especially being I always get pretty unsettled when I am off to stay away from my own bed and can often be initially a lot harder for me to unwind and sleep when I arrive.
I felt like I could drift off within moments of having it on
Lo and behold, when I used the mask that night, I felt like I could drift off within moments of having it on. The warming feeling around the eyes soothes your head and eyes.
If you get tension in your head and eyes from driving/being on a computer for hours/staring at people trying to concentrate when actually you are super bored with what they are talking about, then you can often get headaches, and this can make it harder for you to feel relaxed at night.
The mask feels like it gets into that tension behind the eyes and eases all those tight muscles to help you drift off into a place of peace. It also seems to quieten the mind as your head and eyes feel so relaxed, so it’s perfect when you just feel your brain won’t switch off and it’s tense from overthinking and stress.
I am now officially addicted to these masks and would use them every day if I could, but as they do come with a price tag, I use them once a week, generally on a Sunday, as part of a self-care evening pampering treat.
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Sleep Hacks #5 Sweat stress out and sleep like a baby – try an infrared sauna
Going and trying an infrared sauna season at London Cyro was one of the most unusual and amazing experiences I have ever gone through to help soothe stress and allow me to get a really good night’s sleep.
If you have not ever tried an infrared sauna before, then I can’t recommend it enough. I had heard about celebrity wellness goddesses like Gwyneth Paltrow and famous Biohackers like Dave Asprey using it, and to be honest, I was a little sceptical, thinking it was just another trendy health fad from America that would pass.
But the more I read about the research and benefits and kept meeting health experts who told me how it was for you to help cleanse the body, balance hormones, lift mood and ease stress and aid sleep, I came to the conclusion that there must be something good about it going on and booked myself in for a course of infrared saunas at London Cyro.
The red light helps to relax the nervous system and makes you feel peaceful during the session
Unlike normal saunas, where you can only last about 10 mins max before you come out panting with a red face and wanting to fling yourself in a cold shower, infrared saunas are very different where they gradually help you sweat, and you find yourself feeling more comfortable and able to sit for a lot longer.
The red light helps to relax the nervous system and makes you feel peaceful during the session. It’s also lovely and warm, but not uncomfortable. I especially liked this when it was very cold outside to go into a warm sauna and sweat everything out.
You are also in there on your own, so no need to make small talk with anyone or feel you can’t take your clothes off without someone taking a peek – a huge relief.
The results for me were 10/10 as not only did I feel like I sweated out all my toxins, but I also was left feeling in a far happier mood, calm both physically and mentally and slept deeply and woke up feeling more refreshed.
The ‘feel good’ factor was a huge plus as I get terrible SAD during the winter, and the red light and infrared definitely calmed me and lifted my mood. It’s not cheap to do, but it costs less money than dinner and a bottle of wine, and it provides you with a plethora of wellness benefits to warrant the investment.
Sessions at London Cyro start at £40 for 40 mins.
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