By Rob Smith
You can make all the 'sleep hygiene' changes you like, but if your mind won't switch off, then it doesn't matter if your room is jet black, your phone is out the bedroom, and you had a warm shower before bed, it can be very hard to get to sleep!
I know this from personal experience. Once or twice a month I would go an entire night without sleeping and many other nights only manage a few hours tops. It was grim.
Sleep is one of the foundations for feeling good. Dr. Charlotte Elsworth Edelsten talks about mood being one of the first things to be affected when we are sleep deprived, but then it gets more serious, prolonged sleep deprivation carries many associated health risks.
The game-changer for me was to have a dump before bed.
Sorry, I meant a 'brain dump' before bed.
The idea was that if I emptied my mind on paper, then it would be less 'busy' when I'm trying to drift off to sleep.
My favourite method is the Good/Bad Board.
For the Good/Bad board, simply draw a line down the centre of a page. On the left start writing down any negative emotions or worries you are thinking of at the moment, things to need to improve or get done. Get them all out!
Then on the right, start to write down positive emotions, things you are grateful for or excited for, things you are proud of, or small wins from the day. Don't rush this part, sit there for long enough and they will come!
Turns out the Stoic Philosophers were big fans of this type of nightly ritual as well.
“Allow not sleep to close your wearied eyes,
Until you have reckoned up each daytime deed:
‘Where did I go wrong? What did I do? And what duty’s left undone?’
From first to last review your acts and then
Reprove yourself for wretched [or cowardly] acts, but rejoice in those done well.”
If you are a bad sleeper, try putting pen to paper before bed, whether it is the Good/Bad board, or a simple to-do list for the next day.