The benefits of sleeping well are well documented. Sleep is crucial to our mental and physical functioning and our immune system. As a mother of two children aged 1 and 3, I am all too familiar with the effects of a poor night of sleep - I am foggy headed, grumpy, less patient and make less healthy food choices. Life is just less rosey when you are tired.
We think about sleep quite a lot at PAIRS HQ, particularly because we produce the softest and most luxurious alpaca bed socks. Our bed socks are thick enough to be used in place of slippers and they form a key part of my loungewear wardrobe. In Scotland, even if it has been warm during the day, the temperature drops in the evening, and so both in summer and winter I pop on my bed socks to pad around the house after the children are in bed.
Bed socks have also been proven to aid sleep. The body regulating its temperature is a key part of falling asleep and putting on bed socks helps lower the core temperature of the body, by increasing the blood flow to the feet which in turn helps us get to sleep faster. But bed socks can not only help us get to sleep faster. In one study, participants who wore bed socks reported an overall better sleep quality and staying asleep for longer.
What kind of socks are best for sleeping in? Why use bed socks rather than everyday socks? Bed socks are made specifically for sleeping in. They are looser and promote good circulation. They are also breathable, wicking away the moisture and preventing build up of bacteria. Our bed socks are made with alpaca fibres which are super lightweight. The alpaca fibres are hollow, which traps air and makes them super warm and cosy.
If you hate the idea of wearing bed socks to bed, there are other things you can do to aid falling asleep. Having warm feet before you head to bed, by either wearing bed socks or slippers can help. Having a hot bath and warming up can be a good way to promote relaxation and regulate your temperature. Putting an extra blanket on the end of the bed to warm your feet while you sleep can work instead of bed socks.
So apart from bed socks (which obviously we think are crucially important!) what else can be done to improve sleep quality? I am assuming that there are no little people involved - as they can wreak havoc on even the keenest of sleep routines.
The first thing that I think makes for good sleep is to have a calm environment. Try and take pride in your bedroom. Pick your clothes up from the floor and put away excess objects. Make your bed when you rise in the morning. A nice tidy space will promote a calm mind and will help you relax in the evening. De-clutter your bedside table. Your bedside table should really only have a lamp, a glass of water, a jug of flowers, some hand cream and the book you are reading. Take time to remove the clutter - the loose change, the hair bobbles, the pile of books you started but gave up on, yesterday’s cup of tea. A tidy bedside table will make you feel calm and in control while you relax before you sleep. Make this a joyful space that is just for you - that makes your heart sing when you see it and no one else can interfere with!
The temperature of your bedroom before sleep is very important so make sure before you go to bed that your room is not too hot - so throw open the window or turn the heating down. People sleep best in a cooler room. If you can then open the window and have some fresh air come in.
One of the key things you need to do before bed is to learn to switch off mentally and stop thinking about your to do list. I keep a pad by the bed in case anything occurs to me and then if it does that I just jot it down and think no more of it. You should try and empty your mind of clutter before bed. There are various relaxation techniques that can help you relax. Yoga and mindfulness play a role in some people’s bedtime routine, as a way of removing stress and physical and mental tension.
I find reading a book will empty my mind of anything that is going on in my life and will help me relax. The problem is I find this technique a bit too good in promoting sleep and I find it hard to stay awake for more than a few pages! For those for whom this is not the case, then try to choose a novel without too much excitement or suspense.
Others can find that listening to music can help them turn off and get ready for bed. Of course you do need to agree on what music you find relaxing! No pan pipes here please.
I often joke that I am a two bath a day girl. I do find a bath hugely relaxing after the children have gone to bed and before supper. I am always after recipes that will cook in the oven while I am having a bath. For me it’s a marker of evening time, the point of ending the business of the day and starting on a relaxing evening. Providing we don’t have guests, I tend to put on my dressing gown and bed socks and head downstairs after my bath. If it’s a week night we will have a quick supper and then I will nestle on our corner sofa with my bed socks on and a cashmere blanket and watch whatever series we are into. For the last few days that has been Conversations with Friends. What an incredible series.
Breakfast like a king, lunch like a queen and dine like a pauper has been the perceived wisdom for years and it does make sense when it comes to not going to bed on too full a stomach. It’s important not to go to bed hungry but having a light supper rather than a huge meal before bed can help digestion and make it easier to feel more comfortable in bed.
The use of electronics is well documented to be bad for serotonin levels before bed. Serotonin is the sleeping hormone. It’s worth limiting the use of electronic devices before bed and when using them ensuring that the red light filter is on. However, even having your phone near you can be a distraction from doing what you should be doing in the evening which is relaxing and unwinding. If you are the kind of person who can’t resist checking your email or swiping on social media, then perhaps don’t bring your phone into the bedroom.
Routine is key here and setting a bedtime and a wake time is a good way to train the brain to learn when it is time to sleep and when it is time to be awake. It’s important to try and stick to these times during the week and at weekends. It can be so tempting to lie in at weekends but this can have a knock on effect on your bed time and throw your rhythm out for the coming week.
What about waking in the middle of the night though? Are you someone who frequently wakes in the night and looks at your watch and it is always a set time? Thankfully that doesn’t happen to me now but in both of my pregnancies I would wake up every night and look at the clock on my phone and it was always 3am. My mind would wander and before long it had found something to worry about. A technique I discovered latterly was to imagine that I was about to take a walk from the house. To imagine putting on my coat and boots and opening the back door, walking down the drive and then starting a familiar circular walk from the house. I would find that I wouldn’t get far in my imagination before I fell fast asleep. Imagining a well known walk seems to have a meditative effect where the mind is cleared of other thoughts and it allows the brain to relax and fall asleep.
When we sleep well we eat well, we exercise and we feel better. It is of absolute crucial importance to our well being. I hope this post gives you some ideas for improving your bedtime routine.