‘An eye mask transformed my life!’: 10 readers on how to get a perfect night’s sleep

·6-min read

‘I keep a puzzle book beside my bed’

I stop drinking caffeine at 2pm every day. If I feel work is worrying me I do some deep breathing and I pray. I rub lavender oil on my wrists and temples before I go to bed, and I use a sunrise alarm clock to help me get up at the same time each day. This has helped me immensely, as I have a more gentle wake-up that means I am not tempted to hit snooze. I also keep a puzzle book by my bed so that if I can’t sleep I don’t toss and turn, I get up and puzzle until I feel drowsy before getting back into bed. Beth Lunn, fundraiser, Port Glasgow

‘I run lavender oil on my wrists and temples before I go to bed.’
‘I run lavender oil on my wrists and temples before I go to bed.’ Photograph: Julia Bogdanova/Alamy

‘I enjoy being under a weighted blanket’

For the last three months I have been sleeping under a weighted/gravity blanket, with amazing results. I still wake up at 4am occasionally but, instead of a mind full of thoughts, I am sleepy and easily return to sleep. I can even lie in in the mornings! I enjoy the secure, tucked-in feeling of being under the weighted blanket and it has been a magic bullet against my sleep problems. Jon, IT developer

‘I put a yoga nidra video on and drift off before it ends’

Yoga nidra has been the most help to me over the past couple of years. You just put a video or podcast on once you’re in bed and the idea is that you drift off before it ends. It doesn’t always work, but it is often surprisingly effective. I think it’s important to have a few tricks up your sleeve though, so that you don’t panic when one technique doesn’t work. Feeling frustrated and annoyed by the inability to sleep inevitably makes it more difficult to do so, creating a sort of vicious circle. Anonymous, Brussels

‘In autumn/winter, we started to miss drifting off to the noise of the fan.’
‘In autumn/winter, we started to miss drifting off to the noise of the fan.’ Photograph: EyeEm/Alamy

‘We play white noise all night’

We have a fox den next to our house and late-night debauchery kept us awake, especially when windows were open in summer. We purchased a fan for the heat but were pleased to discover that the noise of the fan kept us free of fox-wailing, too. In autumn/winter, we started to miss drifting off to the noise of the fan and found that a soundtrack of white noise, played on repeat all night, does a similar job. We couldn’t recommend it more for light sleepers. Rebecca, public sector worker, London

‘I imagine a familiar location, then make it more and more surreal’

I’ve found that a way to escape from the daytime mindset is to try to mimic dream-like images and emotions in my thoughts. So, shortly after going to bed I’ll imagine a familiar location, or object (a different one every time) but make it gradually more and more surreal. For example: the beach towel that I am lying on becomes a sun-warmed slate, cut into the shape of a star, the sand dunes roll towards me and pick me up and I am adrift on a sea of sand, which slowly turns into molten lava … the less sense the images make the better. It’s not a failsafe method, but it can make a difference on nights when I’ve followed all of the sleep hygiene recommendations and I am physically tired yet my mind is still unable to detach from its daytime thought patterns. Claire, policy officer, Marple Bridge, Greater Manchester

‘Wearing an eye mask has transformed my life’

For those who go to the loo in the night, my tip is to wear an eye mask. When you get up, don’t turn the lights on and then put your mask on as soon as you get back to bed. Your body knows that mask down means it’s sleep time. This transformed my life as I now barely wake up in the night, and can usually go straight back to sleep. Anna Mills, retired, Brighton

‘I turn on the light and study German or Russian’

I usually wake up after three or four hours’ sleep – my mind starts to race and I can’t get back to sleep. My solution is to turn on the light and do some study that forces me to concentrate. After an hour or so I feel sleepy again. I’ve learned a lot of German this way over the past two years. Now I’m studying Russian. Sometimes I wake up at nearly 5am, which makes it too late to study and get back to sleep. So I get up and have breakfast, then I go back to bed and can usually sleep for another hour or so. Anonymous, Australia

‘The chatter of podcasts helps me get seven hours’ sleep a night’

I play podcasts, with the app set to play the next episode as soon as one finishes. The background chatter keeps my mind from thinking about other things. It may take a few nights to get used to it, but this has worked for me for almost a decade. Before I tried this strategy, I was getting a maximum of four or five hours’ sleep a night. Now, I average about seven hours – and it has made a noticeable difference to energy levels, mood and concentration. Graham Vanbergen, freelancer, Middle East

‘I recommend an early morning exercise routine’

If I wake in the night, I squeeze all my muscles, from head to toe, simultaneously. Hold for 15 seconds, then release. I do this three times and it helps me to relax. I’d also recommend throwing yourself into an early morning five-minute exercise routine to help reset cortisol levels. If I have obsessive thoughts in the middle of the night I either listen to an audio book (historical novels work well – they are interesting but not riveting) or visualise a doctor’s waiting room (to push the object of fear or anger inside and close the door!) Sara, teacher, Norway

‘When I’m ready to sleep, I wash my feet’

I have kept a daily diary since 1974. I write about my day every night before I turn out the light, which always helps to clear my mind. Also, when I’m ready to sleep, I wash my feet. They feel sticky after being cooped up in shoes and socks all day, but feel cool, dry and fresh when I climb into bed. Anonymous, North Carolina

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