How to get a good night's sleep

For a good few months now (Well, actually they’ve been a BAD few months, if you want to know the truth…) I’ve been having a lot of trouble sleeping –  both in the sense of getting to sleep and in staying asleep – so when The Sanctuary Spa got in touch and asked if I’d like to try some of their products, I headed straight to the Sleep & Relax section of their website.

The most frustrating aspect of my particular brand of insomnia isn’t the long hours spent lying awake, listening to Terry snoring blissfully beside me. No, the worst part of it is that when I DO manage to nod off, I never seem to nod off completely: instead, I’ll go into this strange half-sleeping/half-awake state, in which I’ll be vaguely aware that I’m in bed (and allegedly “asleep”), but will be plagued with the thought that there’s something else I should be doing instead. This sometimes goes on for what feels like hours, so when I finally wake up, I feel like I haven’t slept at all. Refreshing it’s NOT; frustrating it very much IS, because if there’s one thing I’ve always enjoyed, it’s sleeping. Why did you have to go and ruin sleep for me, brain, WHY?

what to do when you can't get to sleep

Anyway, after listening to me complain about this more than a few times, Terry finally got sick of hearing about it, and suggested I start a sleep journal, in which I would write down the details of these “waking dreams”, as I think of them, and see if I could spot any pattern in terms of what my day had been like leading up to them. So I did. Here are some extracts from my dream journal:

WEDNESDAY:

Another blogger has moved into the house across the road, and has asked me to help them with their blog. I agree to this, but instantly regret it, because now I have ANOTHER blog to update every day, and OMGSOMANYBLOGS. I lie awake thinking I’m supposed to be writing posts for this other person’s blog all night. So unfair. Why can’t they write their own blog posts?

SATURDAY:

Half-awake all night, dreaming that I am looking for shoes to blog about. Am starting to hate shoes.

SUNDAY:

I’m  going on holiday very early the next morning, but haven’t yet packed. Every time I try to start, something interrupts me, until I get to the point where I’ll be leaving for the airport in half an hour, and I STILL haven’t packed. At this point I open the laundry basket and realise it is overflowing. OMG, I can’t leave until I’ve done the laundry!

TUESDAY:

Something to do with Instagram. I hate Instagram.

WEDNESDAY:

I am walking in the woods in the snow, wearing jeans. My jeans are uncomfortable. I remove my jeans. Now I’m walking in the snow and I’m NOT wearing jeans. I sure hope no one notices I’m not wearing any jeans! OMG, I AM NOT WEARING ANY JEANS!

FRIDAY:

My mum is angry with me because there are too many cushions on my couch. She says it’s “disgusting”. I try to remove them, but every time I pick up one cushion, another one appears in its place. OMG, THE CUSHIONS ARE ALIVE!

Nightime routine with The Sanctuary Spa

There were lots more where these came from, and apart from the one about the cushions (I mean, AS IF you can have too many cushions!), you don’t have to be Dr Freud to work out the issue, do you? The fact is, I tend to work late most nights. (Also, I tend not to wear jeans in the snow, apparently.) I’ve never been a morning person (Which I guess isn’t surprising considering I’m lying awake all night worrying about cushions…) so I normally use the mornings for chores, and other low-brain-power tasks, and then work until late. It’s not unusual for me to still be at my desk at midnight, and I’ll often go straight from my desk to bed, with absolutely no downtime at all. Then I’ll lie in bed scrolling through Instagram, or Bloglovin’ or whatever, because if you’re going to to do “sleep” wrong, you might as well do it horribly wrong, no?

Well, obviously something had to change, and by “something” I mean “everything”. My little experiment with the sleep journal confirmed what I already knew, which was that I’m just not taking the time to wind down enough before bed, so when I try to go to sleep my mind leaps around from topic to topic, finding new things to worry about with every second that passes. It was clear that I needed to create a new, most restful, night-time routine: enter The Sanctuary Spa, and their range of relaxing lotions, potions and other goodies.

how to get a better night's sleep

Here’s what I’ve been doing in a bid to get a better night’s sleep:

1. STOP WORKING AT LEAST AN HOUR BEFORE BED

I actually find this pretty difficult, because when you blog for a living, you’re basically ALWAYS “working”, even if it’s just checking blog comments or updating social media. Speaking of which…

2. STEP AWAY FROM THE PHONE

Seriously, Amber, BACK AWAY FROM THE FREAKING iPHONE. Just put it down! The world will not end if you don’t look at social media every thirty seconds!

bedtime routine

3. AND THE iPAD.

Yeah, I see you there thinking the iPad totally doesn’t count. Well it does. Put. It. Down.

(This isn’t just from a “switching off from work” point of view, by the way: I’ve read that the light from devices like phones and tablets helps convince your brain it’s still daytime, making it even harder to fall asleep. So it’s a good idea to stay away from the ol’ devices for a while before going to sleep…)

sleep fragrance diffuser

4. CREATE A MORE PEACEFUL ENVIROMENT

This is one I’m working on, and as I mentioned in Saturday’s post, we have plans to redecorate our bedroom soon, and turn it into an oasis of calm. In the meantime, I’ve been using Sanctuary’s Relax Frangrance Diffuser and Unwind Candle (Which I obviously make sure I put out before I go to sleep, MUM) to create a little sanctuary of my own to retreat to. I switch off the overhead light and use the fairy lights around the bed to create a nice, relaxing atmosphere, which helps my brain switch into “sleep” mode. I actually find that the very act of lighting a candle has this effect, too – so I light up my candle, and I’ll maybe read for a bit (again, staying away from the iPad: I mostly use my Kindle, which doesn’t emit light) to wind down. (Er, I’ve also been carrying the diffuser down to the office with me every morning, like a character in a Jane Austen novel or something. But it smells so good…)

5. WRITE THINGS DOWN

My biggest issue, as I mentioned, is preventing my brain from diving headfirst down the rabbit hole that is “work”, and I find that if there’s something on my mind when I go to bed, or some un-finished task I need to complete, I will think about it ALL night, to the point where I sometimes think I’d be better off just getting up and taking care of it already. Instead, I’ve been following that old piece of advice to just write it down before going to bed: I’m a big fan of lists, so I keep a notebook by the bed, and as well as using it to write down those dreams, I also use it to make lists of whatever it is I need to do in the morning. I know this isn’t exactly ground-breaking stuff, but it does work, and if it stops me dreaming about Instagram all night, I’m all for it…

keeping a dream journal

6. PAMPER

I’ve mentioned before that I’m not really the type to wallow in a hot bath for hours (I’d much rather get straight into bed, and not have to worry about the water going cold!), but one of the good things about the “no devices” rule is that it gives me a bit of extra time for those little pampering rituals which I’ve been neglecting lately – mostly because I tend to feel guilty about lying around with a facepack on when I could be working. (I’m sure other self-employed people can relate to this!) Recently I’ve been using The Sanctuary’s 5 Minute Thermal Detox Max, which is awesome because you can actually feel it warming up on your face – that might sound strange, but it’s actually pretty relaxing, as well as leaving my skin feeling squeaky clean. I finish off with the brand’s Night Concentrate, which contains nourishing cocoa butter and pomegranate oil, to moisturise the skin overnight, and give you a better chance of waking up beautiful. Finally, the Nourishing Shower Crème is formulated to help “melt away tension”, and is a lovely, luxurious way to end the day.

face mask and shower creme

The Sanctuary Night Concentrate

Now, I’m not going to claim I’m now getting a perfect night’s sleep every single night – sometimes the lure of Bloglovin’ is just too much for me – but I do sleep much better on the nights I stick to this plan than on the nights I don’t, so if you have any other tips for me, I’d love to hear them! If you’re looking for more tips yourself, meanwhile, check out The Sanctuary’s Simple Sleep Equation, here.

[This is a sponsored post.]

23 Comments
  1. I love how you see a problem and find a solution. That you have The Sanctuary’s products to help solve this one is a blessing. I need to take some of your advice, this time on insomnia. Sleep well

  2. I totally understand. I’ve gone to bed (and woken up) every day thinking about my dissertation, writing bits in my head, agonizing over what I have gotten done and angsting over how much I haven’t…I ended up going the hypnotherapy route to turn off the brain at night. (There are a couple of good ones for iPad, as it happens, but that may thwart the “no devices” rule.) I shall try the facepack idea…but does it make you feel like the middle-aged wife in a 60s sitcom?

    1. Ha, it does a bit! I just need the rollers and the hairnet!

      I remember when I used to work in a call centre, I’d spend a lot of time typing the same commands into the computer, and it was so repetitive that at night I’d get into bed and every thought I had, my hands would actually start moving as if I was typing in those commands – AAARGH!

  3. Ah are you sure the approach shouldn’t have been to somehow harness your subconscious in continuing to blog/update social media while you’re asleep? If it’s going to worry about it, it might as well be useful..? I’m joking of course, it really does sound like you’re not taking the time to wind-down, confirmed by the fact that when you do you sleep better! I have real trouble getting to sleep sometimes too, but I do find jotting things I’m worrying about down acts as a kind of ‘brain dump’ (I hate that phrase) which allows me to put them to one side for a bit and pick them up to worry some more in the morning. It’s probably the most helpful thing I can do for myself… although not 100% effective, as nothing ever is!

    1. Oh God, if only I could do that – I’d be able to get all my work done in my sleep! It’s SO annoying – one of the things is that I spend a lot of my day re-sizing images to fit the various sizes they need to be for the blog (they’re different sizes for posts, featured images, slider etc) – at night my brain will continue to think it’s re-sizing images, and it’ll do it for HOURS. Terry has gotten used to me answering the question, “Did you sleep OK?” with “No, I was re-sizing images all night again: you?”

  4. I’ve had this problem a while ago and doing exactly this has helped a lot 🙂 I noticed that if I stick to this for about a week I start sleeping better, but if I skip two days I go back to erratic sleep patterns. I’ve also installed flux on my laptop and Twilight on my phone, they turn the devices light increasingly red, as to mimic the natural sunlight when the sun goes down. You should still stop using them completely an hour before bed or so, but it does make sleepy earlier than usual! 🙂

  5. I’m very similar to you with sleeping, having those weird “awake” dreams, although I’ve had problems since forever sleeping apparently (my parents basically got no sleep until I, well, left home!). Those kind of dreams are the worst – you sort of know that they’re not real while they’re happening and that you’re supposed to be sleeping, but they’re still there in your head, eurgh. I’ve also had this really creepy thing where I’m still kind of asleep and dreaming, but also able to see my bedroom around me at the same time and the dream projects into it – that’s awful, but has only happened a couple of times at least!
    I have got a lot better recently though as I’ve been trying to establish a proper routine of going to bed at the same time, reading in bed (which I’ve always done, but only for a short amount of time rather than getting sucked into the book for hours :/), and getting up at the same time on a morning. I don’t usually bring my phone into the bedroom, although Ben always watches something on the laptop before going to sleep, so that can’t be doing wonders for my sleep! I am NOT a morning person in the slightest and I hate getting up, but it’s at least made my sleep slightly better. You’d think a thing like sleep would be so simple, but apparently not!
    Sian xx Rebel Angel

    1. Yes, that’s exactly it! I don’t get the dream projecting into the room, but I am often vaguely aware of the room around me – I know I’m in bed, but my brain just keeps telling me I’m doing something else, so basically every thought that goes through my head, my brain starts trying to work out how it can make it into a blog post, or whatever. Sometimes I actually get out of bed and get a drink of water or something, just to try to jolt myself out it, only for it to start back up again as soon as I lie down – so frustrating! I also get night terrors, where I think I can see a crab on my bed, and I’ll actually wake Terry up as I try to climb over him to get away from it – SO not fun!

  6. Sleep really is the best/the worst! I get bad insomnia when I am even the teensiest bit stressed, and whilst usually mine is the old ‘wake up at 3am and then drop off just before you should be getting up after several hours of stressing over everything’ version, I do sometimes get those waking dreams too. They are absolutely the worst, I always feel like I may as well have been up and working! I also sometimes get sleep paralysis (I think it’s called that at any rate!) when I am having a really, really vivid and usually quite realistic dream and I cannot move a muscle. Usually someone’s is in the room and about to attack me, to the point of being poised over me, and then I somehow manage to wrench myself out of the nightmare and I am awake and can move again. They are seriously bad too! I have found some herbal pills from sainsburys can sometimes help a little – sleep aid I think they’re called? They are very mild but I do find they help a little. I am glad your bedtime routine is helping. I am also self-employed so I totally know where you’re coming from and am completely un-self-disciplined when it comes to such things. Must try harder!

  7. I am what I would term a serial insomniac, and have been since about age 18. I’m a night owl too. I actually think I have it under control now though, I would recommend drinking a cup of night time herbal tea (pukka do a nice one) about an hour before bed. Put 1 – 2 drops of lavender oil on your pillow and go onto YouTube and play a sleep meditation when you get into bed. It works for me. Xx

  8. I’ve had sleep issues for ever, but in the last year or so it’s gotten *bad* so I’ve been trying to figure out different ways to actually sleep. I can go to sleep fine (usually), it’s just that I will wake up every.single.day at 3am. And then I’ll lie there for hours just trying to fall back asleep. And after a week or so of this, it’ll suddenly break and I’ll sleep like a log for a few days until out of nowhere I’m back up at 3am. I have a diffuser that I can put different aromatherapy oils and will also, in theory, moisten the air so my skin doesn’t crack so badly in the winter (my flaky face will argue with that though!) so I load that up with lavender oils every night and also spray my entire bed down with lavender sleep spray (my poor cat loves this!). Some nights this works, others -like last night- I’m lying awake listening to the house creek wondering if it’s actually the house or if someone had broken in and is getting ready to murder me.

    1. Funnily enough, I went through a phase when I was a kid when I’d wake up every night at 3am – always that same time! It got so bad that I actually started to dread going to bed, because I knew I’d be lying awake for most of the night… I’ve no idea what eventually stopped it, but I do remember how frustrating it was, so you have my sympathies!

  9. Really interesting to read your strategies – let us know how they work! I have another problem – when I’m stressed, I wake up really early, start thinking of all the things I have to do – and then can’t get back to sleep as I’m too wide awake by then! Don’t really have a solution for this – but exercising at least twice a week keeps the stress at bay – and thus the insomnia to a certain extent! Helen x

  10. This post literally describes my sleep pattern too! I think I need to try the switching off an hour before bed thing too. Hope you get a good night’s sleep tonight – sweet dreams and all that jazz!

  11. Sorry I can’t help you – I’ve never had any problem sleeping, I go out like a light when I hit the pillow – it’s waking up that I have problems with! Do you have any tips to stop yourself hitting the snooze button 50 times and then waking up in a mad scramble because, oh shit, you’re going to be late to work AGAIN this week? Maybe I just need to get to bed a bit earlier 🙂

  12. I’m awful for stepping away from my phone and reading blogs just before bed. If my mind is whirring away I read in the bath, write it all down and have a warm drink – the Pukka bedtime teas are good xx

  13. There is a program called f.lux which eliminates the blue light from computers/tablets and makes it easier to go to sleep. I am an insomniac myself, so much sympathy and best of luck.

  14. I am an over thinker and have very similar nights where my day to day infiltrates my dreams. It’s hard to put daily things behind. This type of routine sounds wonderful! I’m gonna try some type of unwinding routine, it has to help. 🙂

  15. Gosh Amber you have a fab style of writing – I love it! Really useful blog post too. I am definitely a fan of the old scented candles. Need to try switching off the technology before bed though find it soooo hard as a blogger to do this. Watch this space 😉

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