Personally, I am useless on anything less than about eight hours' sleep; so even though I'm slightly jealous of people who can stay up until midnight and then get up at 6am feeling refreshed, I know that if I want to get up for a pre-work run or if I'm getting an earlier train, I have to be in bed with the lights out by 10pm (I love my bed, so there's certainly no complaints from me on that one!)
But it's no surprise that lately, with the wedding planning, a busy full-time job, a long drive home, an exercise routine to help me feel confident on the 'big day', and a million other things taking up my time, it's been more difficult than usual to get to sleep, and not have a disturbed sleep pattern. My mind is usually still racing when I get into bed, and then I wake up intermittently remembering things I meant to do that day, or points on my to-do list. Losing sleep is such a slippery slope too, as the more tired I get, the less well I function, which leads to increased stress, which leads to... well, you get the picture.
So it was an absolute godsend when Pukka Herbs offered to help me out by sending me a 'sleep hamper' and a sleep journal to record how I got on with all of their top tips and products to help improve my sleep.
Over the last few weeks, I've been perfecting my sleep routine to help me get the best sleep possible. A mug of Pukka's Night Time Tea an hour before bed is the perfect way to start winding down for the evening. With oat flower, lavender and valerian, the smell of it brewing alone starts to make me feel relaxed and ready to climb in between the sheets. They have a lovely video about how Night Time Tea came about here - the tweeting birds and swaying valerian alone in the video make me feel all cheery and chilled! Valerian, aside from being quite a pretty flowering plant, is in the Pukka Herbs Night Time Capsules too, which I've also been taking during the evening. I can definitely vouch for the fact that they make me feel really peaceful and calm.
The great thing about the Night Time supplements are that because they're all natural and made from organic herbs, you know you're putting something into your body that's going to be kind to it, and beneficial. As someone who has medicated insomnia in the past with sleeping tablets or other over the counter medicine, I can honestly say that it feels so good to not have that drowsy, sluggish feeling in the morning, and to know you're putting something in your body that comes from the earth, rather than a mix of chemicals.
I've been recording my sleep in my sleep journal and jotting down the things that I've found that really help me sleep better and wake up feeling refreshed. Here are a few tips based on what works for me:
001. Avoiding social media and other 'brain-engagers' and screen-based activity before bed. This is a learning process and a constant challenge for me, but I know I sleep better when I don't spend the half-an-hour preceding it circling around social media on my phone, watching noisy videos and reading and replying to emails. My new tactic is to use the Sleep Cycle app and set it as soon as I get into bed. That locks the screen and means that I don't then pick up my phone and start reading things whilst I'm in 'wind-down' mode. I'd like to ban phones and iPads from the bedroom completely so I'm planning on buying an alarm clock so that I don't need it near me at night.
002. Having a bedtime breathing practice or meditation before bed. I use the Omnava app to download different meditation tracks - my favourite is Bodyscan, which is a relaxing mindful meditation. We have a running joke that whenever I put Bodyscan on, Tom is always asleep within the first two minutes - proof that it works!
003. Exercise. This is a no-brainer, but on days when I work out, I tend to sleep really well. Even when I run in the mornings as soon as I wake up, I still sleep better that night. Plus I really like that feeling of having 'earned' bedtime and going to bed physically tired (is that weird?) Yoga also makes me feel really ready for bed - there are some great bedtime yoga videos on YouTube.
004. Not multi-tasking my way through the day. I listened to an amazing podcast recently about 'switch-tasking' and how many times we switch what we're doing, or try and multi-task, and how damaging it is for our brains and our stress levels. Every time we switch something we're doing to do something else (reading the email that pops up when we're in the middle of writing a report, for example), we create another 'loose end' or something unfinished, and it's these things that tend to wake us up in the middle of the night. At the moment I'm trying to commit to doing one thing at a time and ticking off and finishing things before starting something else, and it's definitely helping my stress levels and quality of sleep.
005. Avoiding caffeine. I tend to start the day with a big mug of green tea and sometimes a caffeine tablet if I'm going for a morning run. If I stop drinking green tea at lunchtime I definitely find it helps me sleep better as I'm not totally wired by the time I go to bed (I drink a lot of green tea).
There's more helpful sleeping tips in this article on the Pukka website. I love the idea of the massages to help us stay healthy and relaxed - I quite often massage my own feet in the bath or after a little home yoga and it always feels really good! What are your top tips for sleeping well?