If you're a lousy sleeper, here's a few simple changes you can make to feel fresh as a daisy in the mornings.
Check out the tips, tricks and habits below from cutting-edge sleep experts.© Mylene Bressan for openphoto.net
Caffeine is NOT your friend!
Caffeine stimulates you to stay awake and also lowers the quality of your sleep. Try cutting caffeine down to the morning only, or if you're serious try eliminating it for a week or so. Apart from an occasional cup of coffee as a treat, you'll find you won’t believe what a difference it makes!
If you love coffee, try switching to decaf - these days there's hardly any difference in taste, plus it only contains around a 100th of the caffeine in regular coffee.
Try warm milk as a bed-time treat
It turns out your mum knew best! Milk contains trytophan; an amino acid that is converted to serotonin, then melatonin. The latter is known as the "sleep hormone" as it can send you off to sleep.
Not dropping off straight away? Relax!
If you’re having trouble getting to sleep, try a change of scene - Get up and take a walk around the house, have a glass of water (or milk!) or go outside for a few minutes. You don't need to physically move either - move your mind; read a book (preferably with a dimmable light) or listen to a podcast. Take your mind off the need to sleep and relaxation will do the rest.
Empty your brain
Do you find that as soon as you put your head on your pillow, your brain lights up? Whether it's about tasks to be completed, people to call, or worrying over future or past events, it's a universal problem!
The solution to this is to practice some loving discipline as if your brain was a young child - reassure yourself that this is something you will look at when it's the appropriate time. Take a notebook to bed so that you can "park" the thought and easily dismiss it if it arises again. It's surprising how your subconscious will quiet down once it feels that it's been heard!
Sleep like a billionaire
Consider how much time we spending sleeping. If you buy the best mattress, pillows and bedlinen you can afford, you'll be amazed at how comfortable they are when you go to bed. Think about the years you've slept in a single bed with wonky springs and how that felt. There's only a few thousand pounds between a cheap, lumpy mattress and a high-end luxury one that billionaires are sleeping on, so join them in the luxury where it really counts!
Your bedroom is your temple
We're creatures of habit - If you use your bedroom for wakeful activities instead of just restful ones, you're confusing your brain. Do you take your smartphone to bed? If so, you're treating your bedroom as your office and games arcade!
It might be hard at first, but make your bedroom an electronic-free zone if you want better sleep every night.
Make your room as dark as possible
It’s a good idea to make your bedroom as dark as possible. Why? Light inhibits the production of the "sleep hormone" melatonin. Buy a black-out blind or heavy curtians to block out outside light, remove electronics from the room so there's no blinking lights and close your bedroom door. If any of this is too tricky, then simply buy yourself a good quality sleep mask.
Try meditation or mindfulness before bedtime
You don't need to be a buddhist monk to move your sleep-quality to the next level! A simple meditation can quiet the conscious mind, allowing your brain to ready itself for sleep.
A simple meditation exercise is to focus your thoughts on your breathing, or the sounds outside your room... A ticking clock or the wind in the trees can become your full focus. Take mental notes of how the air feels cold as you inhale, and warm as you exhale... How does your chest feel as it rises and falls?
The key to progressive relaxation is not to become frustrated as your mind wanders (that's what minds are designed to do!) - just bring your attention back to your object of focus when it does. When you're concentrating entirely on one thing, no unwanted thoughts can enter your mind.