5 tips to sleep better from an ex-insomniac.

Opening the doors to a sleep clinic and finding myself in a small white room opposite a small woman in a white coat, I knew this was one of the lowest points in my life and something needed to change. Having struggled to sleep for many months before with absolutely nothing working, something drastic needed to happen and quickly.

The problem when you talk sleep problems to anyone is that they all give you the same damn advice. And every single sleep article is the same. They start with the importance of sleep (heads up authors, this is the opposite of being helpful) and then continue on to the same 10 banal tips from exercising to turning off tv before bed and not having your phone beside your bed (I have the opposite opinion on this one. Read below).

What I’ve found over the years is that, people who have never experienced sleeping problems show very little actual understanding into the problem itself

So needless to say, little white coat lady did not in anyway help. Instead, I had to figure out a number of different natural sleep strategies for myself. I hope this article can help someone out there especially relevant during a pandemic. Incidentally I have subsequently found out people who suffer with sleeping problems may be associated with higher levels of IQ - just saying 🙄

Woman in bed sleeping
Photographer: Kinga Cichewicz | Source: Unsplash

Tip 1: Label yourself as a good sleeper

One of the main things I was doing wrong, and I notice a lot of people fall into this trap is calling themselves an ‘insomniac’ or ‘bad-sleeper’. By doing this, you are essentially priming yourself to sleep badly. The psychology of labeling theory means that you the labels you give yourself essentially become a self-fulfilling prophecy. You will act or behave in a way which is consistent with the label you give yourself.

Lets face it, we are all born with the ability to sleep - you are a good sleeper but have unlearnt some basics along the way. You want to label yourself as someone who sleeps good (the label) but who sometimes has a bad night sleep (the behaviour).

Here’s what to say to yourself instead:

  • I am a good sleeper but intermittently have sleep problems
  • I can relax tonight when I go to bed
  • Not sleeping tonight, means it gives me time to do [insert relaxing activity]

Tip 2: Don’t tell anyone you didn’t sleep well.

Damn this one is hard to do. You lie awake all night beside your partner getting more and more upset as the hours roll on and when its finally the next morning, you don’t say a thing. You are exhausted beyond belief and want someone to know just how awful you feel so you feel less alone. I get it. People who sleep don’t.

The idea behind this is the less of a deal you make about not sleeping you make to yourself, the easier sleep will eventually come. What you need to do is try and loosen your attachment to sleep. You didn’t sleep all night? No big deal. Not even going to talk about it, thats how little of a deal this is.

If you can loosen your unrelenting need to sleep and focus instead on relaxing, it will slowly come (but shss don’t tell your subconscious this is what you are really doing). Plus lots of people cannot sleep. You are not alone. 22% of people in the UK report struggling to sleep every night.

*I will caveat this with if this is sudden onset insomnia or something you’ve never discussed with your doctor before, you should definitely go and tell your doctor.

UK Sleep report, 2019
22% of people struggle to sleep in the UK every night, Insomnia Report 2019.

Tip 3: Reframe your sleep

You know what I do when I can’t sleep now? I now try on focus on reframing ‘not sleeping’ into what I am now able to do. I am enjoying this relaxing time I get to myself. In fact the thing I do pretty much goes in the face against every sleep tip out there:

😮 I bring my phone to bed 😮

There you go! I do and I listen to it throughout the night and it helps me get back to sleep. One study in 2014 showed that people who struggle with sleep generally have more plasticity (and active brains). So the phone helps me turn off my very active brain by listening to talks. The talks I listen to are generally relaxing and I learn a lot from them. I would never have the time to listen to these talks during the day. Bonus!

So, Instead of grasping at trying to sleep for 8 hours a night, turn it on its head. It’s good to not sleep sometimes. Sorry if I sound like an annoying prat saying this, I’m mostly speaking to my subconscious here. Are you listening? I’m happy I can’t sleep. Ha!

Tip 4: Never taking sleeping tablets

Incase this is not super obvious to people, I’m going to spell it out. Never take sleeping tablets unless you really really need to and have tried all natural sleep remedies first (including tip 5). Most sleeping tablets that are prescribed are either benzodiazepines or sedative-hypnotic drugs. Both are highly addictive. I have been prescribed these many times in the past but thankfully I love natural medicine so I rarely took them.

I’m just going to leave this video here and say no more.

Video showing danger of benzodiazepines

Tip 5: Consider taking a natural supplement like CBD (but not to sleep)

Take CBD or cannabidiol but not to sleep. The last thing you want to do is tell your mind that you need to something to help you sleep. You want to instil a natural trust in your ‘own ability to sleep’ from the Effortless Sleep method.

Saying that however, I take CBD almost daily as part of my wellness routine. I take it 15mins before bedtime. I try and get 5 portions of fruit and veg and at least one portion of CBD per day.🙂

If you are looking for a CBD product, I would recommend a high quality full spectrum product strong in relaxing terpenes such as myrcene, caryophyllene or linalool for their sedative effects. Look also for product high in CBN, another phyto-cannabinoid known for its sleep inducing effects. I also recommend other natural herbs such as valerian and passionflower.

Key takeaways

No one understands sleep better than a fellow ‘good sleeper who sometimes struggles to sleep’. These tips have guided me for the past few years and helped change my relationship to sleep. I wish someone had told me few of these back in my heyday. But there we are. I hope they can help someone out there in some way. Bonne nuit! 

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