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My tired and tested cures for a better night’s sleep

No? Just me? Am I the only one struggling to fall asleep or waking five times in the night and then worrying about the deadly consequences of insomnia? Apparently, sleeplessness increases your risk of cancer, obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart attack and strokes which calms me no end when I think about it at 3am. At least the reduced sperm count is one thing I don’t have to worry about.

My evenings of late typically play out like this: Have warm shower, drink camomile tea, think nice thoughts, put phone aside well before bedtime.

Honestly, I top the class when it comes to sleep preparation and should be rewarded with an uninterrupted eight hours of slumber.

Instead, the second I turn the light out I’m like a demented meerkat on high alert. Only one who smells of lavender oil since spraying the stuff on your pillow is supposed to aid sleep.

Apparently, the pandemic has taken a huge toll on our sleep with nearly half of us reporting problems. Experts say the issue has been exacerbated by heavier alcohol consumption and increased phone use which is as breathtakingly insightful as the finding that eating too much makes you fat. Of course, we’re drinking more!

There’s nothing better than a gin and tonic to demarcate between your professional and personal lives when you no longer have a commute in which to decompress.

As for being on our phones, it’s because we’re all trying to calm our hysteria with meditation apps, shopping for melatonin online or looking for a job.

Forget WhatsApp, it’s time someone created a Who’sUp for those of us who’d benefit from having someone to chat with in the wee small hours.

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Except they’re not wee small hours are they? They’re super-sized, interminably long hours inflated by darkness, hormones, worries, prostate issues or whatever particular cocktail of neurosis is your bag.

But having too many tabs open in your brain is common with even George Clooney admitting to struggling with sleep because he can’t stop thinking.

But unlike the rest of us who toss and turn, restless George boasts that he wrote one of the best lines in Ides Of March during a spell of poor sleep.

Trust Hollywood’s most handsome man to parlay an affliction into a positive. Doubtless Amal also strokes his, um, forehead when he finally returns to bed, exhausted by his nocturnal endeavours.

Anyway, I’ve done some research, crowdsourced my mates and tried to separate the genuinely good sleep advice from the woo hoo (am still trying to decipher “advanced biofeedback systems”).

Here’s the things I’m going to try and which might help any of you who are similarly afflicted.

* It’s an unfortunate dichotomy that humans who function perfectly rationally in the day become abject catastrophises when it comes to bedtime.

Brene Brown, the patron saint of sound thinking, advises against “dress rehearsing tragedy”.

It’s easy to flail about in worst-case-scenario territory but what if everything turns out wonderfully? What if you do get the contract? What if your teenager does pass his exams? Brown’s advice corresponds with something else I read: “Don’t think too much about your life after dinnertime.”

* Dose up on magnesium.
In tablet or powder form it’s a wonder supplement for nodding off. Also, if you
buy the stuff, like me, actually use it.

* Try an insomnia technique used by the US military which apparently puts 96 per cent of people to sleep in just two minutes. First, wince violently, then relax your facial muscles, shoulders, arms and entire body. Try to still your mind then conjure up one of two images: lazing in a canoe on a calm lake beneath blue skies, or sprawling in a velvet hammock gently swaying in a pitch-black room.

* Get off your devices. I know it’s Sleep 101 but most of us are more addicted than we realise. We tell ourselves we’re using our phones to listen to a meditation app but then scroll Instagram for 40 minutes beforehand. We may as well stick our tongues in an electrical socket.

* Get up after 20 minutes if you can’t sleep. Matthew Walker, a professor of neuroscience and psychology, says your brain needs to relearn that bed is the place to be asleep not awake. As he says: “You’d never sit at the dinner table waiting to get hungry, so why would you lie in bed waiting to get sleepy?”

* My GP swears by a technique where you simply accept you’re not going to sleep. This is a form of therapy based on the notion that trying to get rid of thoughts and emotions actually keeps people stuck. It’s contrary to the first point above but there’s different ways to solve the “tired-but-wired” conundrum.

* Er, have sex.

* Finally, there is new research that insomnia could cause Alzheimer’s. It’s a crap outcome but presumably the latter might mean you forget you can’t sleep?

ANGELA LOVES …

BOOK

While adults understand why we need to wear face masks, kids can find it downright scary which is why Chloe Flynn’s gorgeous book, The Day Everyone’s Face Disappeared, is perfect for helping kids come to terms with this confusing change.

MAKEOVERS

Stylist Donny Galella typically dresses celebrities for red carpet events but his “100 Makeovers in 100 Days” initiative – documented on Instagram – gives women who are going through tough times a much-needed boost.

TV

I’d watch Hilary Swank peeling potatoes but she’s all the more brilliant in Away (Netflix), the story of an astronaut who leaves behind her family to lead a mission to Mars.

[email protected]; twitter.com/angelamollard

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