Too much or too little sleep can really impact our moods for the worse. I have struggled with both too much sleep and also being tired but unable to fall asleep and both can be debilitating. Waking up rested, with energy to start the day cannot be taken for granted.
Insomnia and anxiety
Sleep plays a crucial part in our health, it’s when our body rests, detoxes and repairs. Not getting enough sleep has been proven to hinder weight loss and drive cravings. When I’ve been depressed in the past I tended to sleep too much, not wanting to face the day, it was an escape. But more recently I've had anxiety and I found I more often couldn’t get to sleep, with my mind racing and not being able to shut off the talk in my head. Not being able to fall asleep also went hand in hand with waking up in the night and not being able to sleep in past a certain time in the morning.
Best all natural sleep aids.
Here are a few things to try if you too are having trouble with your sleep.
Make sure your bedroom is cool, dark and quiet. Stick tape over glowing LED lights on appliances if required. When I’m away from my bed I use an eye mask and earplugs to make sure I get a restful nights sleep.
Stick to a set bedtime and waking time. This reinforces the cycle of sleep so your body knows when it’s supposed to be sleeping. If you go to bed late, avoid sleeping in as it can make going to bed that night much harder.
Set a wind-down time in the evening when you avoid staring at your phone. Get into a routine of showering, brushing your teeth, getting things ready for the next day, reading a book, whatever you need to do to close out the day.
Get out into bright sunlight or just outside during the day. Natural light in your eyes helps to set the circadian rhythm in your brain that tells you when it’s time to be awake and when it’s time to sleep. This is why when camping I’m always sleepy as soon as the sun sets, my body knows its time to sleep - read more about how camping can positively impact your sleep here. Bright unnatural light at night can keep us awake, dim lights where possible and set your phone to night mode that will block blue light.
Listen to a meditation specific to helping you fall asleep. This was a big help to me when I couldn't turn off my thoughts at the end of the day. Listening to a gentle guided meditation, a boring podcast or a previously listened audiobook all can work. Don’t stress if the recording has finished and you still aren't asleep, don’t check the time or your phone, sleep will come. I use Headspace for their guided meditation including ones to help fall asleep but there are some free options in the podcast app on your phone.
Coffee exacerbates anxiety
The most radical change I made that has had the biggest impact on me personally is cutting out daily coffee. I noticed this happy change probably a month after stopping the daily habit, I didn't have an issue with racing thoughts anymore and falling asleep came more and more easily. Even though I only had one cup of coffee a day and always early in the morning it was clearly still having an effect on me. It wasn't an overnight change but a side effect of starting my new matcha routine, check out my post about it here.
Lifestyle changes before supplements
There are some supplements that can also help with sleep but I might save them for another post. Gentle lifestyle changes like the ones above should be the first things to try before taking anything, including melatonin. I don’t recommend someone to just go out and buy a hormone and start taking it without doing a lot of research or working with a practitioner.