*one of those rare babies who really, truly does sleep
By Natasha Poliszczuk, co-founder of Wear & Where (www.wearandwhere.co.uk; @wearandwhere) and editorial consultant
Hello, my name is Natasha, and I love sleep. I love it almost as much as my family, coffee, Breton stripes and books. But here’s the thing: I don’t get enough – and sometimes, sleep doesn’t love me.
Now, I know I’m not alone in this – show me a parent of young children who does get enough sleep (especially once you throw the stresses of work into the mix). However, now I’m ready for the bad nights. Through trial, error and shamelessly plundering the knowledge of experts whenever the opportunity presents itself, I have developed an arsenal of sleep-inducing weapons.
1. Make your bedroom a temple to sleep
You know: calm, quiet, peaceful (feel free to see this as licence to decorate)… Start with the best mattress you can, then invest in a mattress topper (I have one from The White Company and it’s like sleeping on a cloud) and cotton sheets. Make sure the temperature is right: not too hot, not too cold (think Goldilocks and porridge) and the room is dark.
2. Step away from the phone
‘Just’ answering that message or scrolling through your Instagram feed at bedtime (guilty) can negatively affect your quality of sleep. The blue light emitted from screens (phone, ipad, laptop) suppresses melatonin production – and melatonin is the hormone that controls your sleep cycle. In an ideal world, you’d be screen-free every evening – but let’s be realistic: aim for one evening a week, and try to switch off devices around 8pm the rest of the time.
3. Cut back on caffeine
Have I mentioned that I also love coffee? I do, but I never drink more than two cups per day – and avoid it altogether in the afternoon, because too much leaves me with brain a-whirring and limbs a-twitching. In our tea-drinking culture (I don’t drink tea at all. I know: I’m a freak) it’s all too easy to rack up the caffeine.
4. Eat your way to sleep
Apparently, there really is such a thing as a sleep-inducing meal. Nutritional Therapist Jo Saunders, co-founder of Cooking Them Healthy recommends sleep-inducing, tryptophan-rich foods, like cherries, turkey, nuts, seeds, eggs, and oats. (Read more here.)
5. Find time for exercise
This is a prime example of ‘do as I say, not as I do’ (and I felt so conscious of it as I typed that I’ve just booked myself into a Pilates class). Studies show that moderate exercise is proven to help chronic insomnia – ergo, it can help us sleep better, too.
6. And breathe…
Lucky me, I have a yogi for a sister-in-law: Sarah Oakley, yoga teacher and co-founder of YogaGro. She taught me this and I share it with you: Viparita Karani (a.k.a. legs-up-the-wall) is a calming position for the legs, feet, back and nervous system. And it’s super easy. Lie on your back and raise your legs up the wall (place a cushion under your head/back if you need to). Place your hands on your abdomen and breathe, properly i.e. feel your hands rise with every inhalation and drop when you exhale.
7. Make time to wind down
Here’s what my evening often looks like: bath and bed for the small ones. Run around tidying detritus of day (what is it with Lego?). Cook. Possibly have a fleeting conversation with my husband. Tidy up. Work. Crash into bed. Lie awake. Sound familiar? Newsflash: making the time to slow down and relax before bed isn’t a luxury, it’s an essential.
8. Routines aren’t just for children
Which brings me to this: bedtime routines are a good idea because they work.
Granted, I don’t do this every single night, but I do manage it a couple of times a week. I have a bath (with Bloom & Blossom Sleep Night-Time Bath Oil), I slater myself with the Dry Body Oil, I go to bed with a book, and I liberally spritz my pillow with the Pillow Spray. (Please note that I do read and spritz every single night. We are obsessed with the “dream spray” in this house. Yep, my children have their own, and it gives them “such sweet sleep”, apparently.)
This gentle routine works as effectively for me as it does for my children. It’s soothing; compels me to switch off and wind down; prepares my body and my mind for sleep – and have I mentioned that it smells like actual heaven?