I think that like most women running hectic lives in this crazy world, for a long time I never even thought to stop and consider the quality of sleep I was giving myself each and every night. What with running two businesses, raising an overactive puppy and trying to keep up with my lifestyle and beauty blog I so often was more desperate to do as all the experts recommended and cram in 7-8 hours sleep as often as possible rather than give a hoot that each and every morning I would wake up groggy, unrefreshed and just as tired as when I went to sleep.

I simply told myself that it was because I wasn't getting enough sleep, that if I just rushed to bed a little sooner I would one day find myself back to those precious days when I woke up with a spring in my step, ready and raring to bulldoze through the day. It wasn't until the day I found myself literally stumbling into my office, clutching a coffee like a lifeline and truly considering donning dark tinted glasses to hide the bags under my eyes whilst I sat at my desk, that I stopped for a mere moment and took stock of the fact that I was actually (at that time) getting to bed earlier than I ever had (due to rapidly putting the dog to bed, jumping in the shower, checking all my emails and asking my boyfriend all about his day in the space of ten minutes) but I was still the most tired I had been since my University late night party days (the few there were).

I finally decided to see what I was missing, to solve the riddle to why I felt like i'de been dragged through a hedge backwards each and every morning even though I was getting so many precious hours of beauty sleep. Eventually, after alot of filtering through the same reteric of get more sleep...get more sleep I finally discovered the real issue.

That no matter how much sleep I crammed into my routine each night, if my mind was still racing, if my stomach was still disturbing me with gurgles and murmurs from my rushed late night evening meal and if the flashing blue lights of my phone, laptop and television were causing my brain to remain stimulated even after I shut my eyes, the "quality" of sleep I managed to grab in those precious hours was little more than if i'de shoved matchsticks in my eyes and tried to keep myself awake from dusk till dawn... and it turns out that's why I felt like a steam roller was slowly scooting over me each and every morning when I tried to wake up.

Sleep is the time our bodies use to restore and repair themselves from the days events or from underlying psychological and physical problems its struggling with that we may not even be aware of. Relaxing and unwinding before we drift off to sleep is absolutely vital for ensuring we gain all the essential benefits we require from a good quality sleep cycle, but unfortunately so many of us remain active and alert right up to the point we lay our head on the pillow and wonder why we struggle to catch a refreshing forty winks every morning.

If you're suffering from restless or poor quality sleep, although its hard it's a great idea to remember to take the time to relax and calm your mind before allowing yourself to fall asleep. We may constantly be told to work towards reaching those illustrious 7-8 hours sleep per night but if they're restless, disturbed or poor quality no amount of sleep will enable you to wake up refreshed in the morning.

Now I'm no sleep specialist so I can only offer you suggestions on things that I've done to help improve the quality and comfort of my sleep but I hope that some of these tips may be of use to a number of you guys, that like me, struggle to catch twenty let alone forty winks per night but want them to at least be the best twenty winks of sleep they can possibly be:

  • Tryptophan is an amino acid that the body uses to convert into serotonin and melatonin (chemicals that help you sleep). Consuming food rich in tryptophan has been suggested to be able to help the body relax and settle into sleep more easily if eaten in moderation throughout the day along with your normal diet, particularly carbohydrates (more on this subject in a later post). Foods high in tryptophan include pumpkin seeds, peanuts, lentils, dairy products, beans, bananas, sesame seeds, oats and many more. Now I do naturally incorporate many of these foods into my diet already and so its no bother for me to keep it up in hopes that it is helping me get a more relaxing efficient sleep but if you have a strict food diet or you are allergic to any of these foods please speak to your doctor before introducing anything different into your diet in order to help with your sleep pattern.
  • Eating large meals before going to bed can cause the bodies digestive system to disturb you as it remains actively digesting your food whilst you sleep. In addition fluctuating hormones released after eating such as Insulin can drive rises and falls in your blood sugar level that may encourage the body to rouse from sleep in the night.
  • It may be hard, trust me I know but try switching off all your electrical devices an hour or so before going to sleep. This will give your brain the time to switch off and relax it's activity by calming down your surroundings. Now this doesnt mean stewing in your bed mulling over all the stress of the days events and the long list of to dos the next day, it means actively working to slow your pace, relax your mind and calm your hectic thoughts. Relaxing practices such as meditation may help you to relax your overactive mind and unwind from stressful events before trying to let yourself fall asleep. I have to admit I do like to try and unwind my mind for at least twenty minutes before I settle into bed even if I can't reach the magic hour otherwise there is pretty much no chance of me not tossing and turning from lights out till morning.
  • Try relaxing in a warm bath before bed to help relax your muscles and relieve the bodies tension. Adding epsom salts has also been suggested to help relaxation before bed as they are a good source of magnesium sulphate, a calming mineral that the body can absorb easily through the skin.
  • Finally if you tend to struggle to sleep because your mind is constantly whirling with a thousand things to do and remember whilst your climbing in to bed, a potentially useful tip is to write "To-Do" lists for the next day down on paper before going to bed. Extracting your hectic thoughts from your mind and placing them somewhere easily retrievable before sleeping is thought to help relax and reduce alertness in the mind before going to bed. I personally can't be without a "To-Do" list or notepad by my side right before I head to bed. Organizing my thoughts and setting my mind free of the anxiety that comes with trying not to forget things whilst I sleep is essential for me to get a good nights rest. So why not give it a try if you don't already love those To-Do's.

I hope that you manage to find something out of the little tips and tricks I've suggested, that might work to help you improve the quality of your sleep. Remember poor sleep in huge quantities does not make for a happy human being. No matter how much sleep you manage to cram in each night make sure it's the very best you can achieve by firstly helping the brain to relax and unwind before closing your eyes and enjoying your forty winks.

We've found some absolutely amazing gadgets and books to help you relax at bedtime that may be perfect for you.