Tops tips for better sleep

Stress or too much work can keep you up all night. Don't underestimate the importance of a quality night's sleep, says Kathryn Lovewell

Slogging through long lessons and the piles of marking and planning can leave you on your knees, exhausted and seriously lacking energy. Add to this a bad night’s sleep or, worse still, chronically restless and regularly interrupted sleep, and you have a recipe for disaster, never mind classroom chaos.

The Great British bedtime report

According to the Sleep Council almost half of Britons say that stress or worry keeps them awake at night. As many as 7.9 million have used alcohol, and 6.8 million self-medicate with over-the-counter tonics just to try to get some sleep. If you are one of these, you may like to address the underlying causes of your stress by seeking one-to-one therapeutic support. You can also address your sleep routines and environment.

Sleep is a serious issue 

Do not underestimate the importance of a quality night’s sleep. It has a profound impact on your health and wellbeing. According to the Institute of Medicine in Washington, people experiencing sleep insufficiency are more likely to suffer from chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, depression, and obesity, as well as from cancer, increased mortality, and reduced quality of life and productivity.. 

Sweet dreams

If you don’t wake refreshed and relaxed, feeling fit and alert for each day, here are just a few gentle top tips to guide you back to form.

Basics you already know

Ideally, give yourself eight hours sleep, go to bed and rise at the same time each day, unplug from technology at least an hour before bed, sleep in a darkened cool room and get to bed by 10.30pm to allow your liver to do its healing job.

Support your body

Invest in a good quality bed that supports your body and gives you (and your partner) enough room to move uninterrupted during sleep.

Eat and drink mindfully before bed 

Avoid eating a big meal too late. Avoid rich, stimulating foods and drink, such as coffee, cola and sugar-rich treats. Drink plenty of water during the evening to help cleanse your body of toxins ingested during the day and enjoy a soothing cup of chamomile tea. (Adjust timings to support your bladder - you know what I mean!) Fruits like kiwi, banana and cherries can help you get a restful night as well as warm milk and oats.

Relax and recharge

Both your mind and body need to be relaxed to enjoy a night of healing, rejuvenating sleep. Use creative visualisations to release tension from your mind and body such as my 'Body Scan’ and 'Taking down the Armour’ audios.  These and other meditation/relaxation resources will ease away worries and bring you to the present moment.

Set up some bedtime rituals

Like young children, we all need a bedtime routine to start the wind down to sleep for the body and mind. Lower the lights, turn off the tech and make yourself comfortable. 

Be kind to yourself

Give yourself permission to pause, to stop the marking or prepping and go to bed. Put the slave driver 'stick’ down and give yourself a break literally! Turn down that inner critic that might pester you with all the things you have not yet done. 

Soften your thinking

Your thoughts will make or break your capacity to sleep well.  A series of negative, depressive and critical or judgemental thoughts are not conducive to restful sleep. Do your best to be kind to yourself. You are human! You are not a machine! Just like your students, you need time to rest, reflect and let your body heal from the stressors and toxins it is exposed to during the relentless and often stressful rigours of the day.

Calm your mind

Your productivity and efficiency will be greater if you have had a decent sleep. One way to calm your mind is to write your action list for the next day before you go to bed. Better still, do this at work and leave it there! If your mind begins to rush as soon as you close your eyes, either with worry or another mountain of things to do, simply note them down on a pad by your bed and then let them go. Employ what I call 'The Power Breath' to bring yourself to the present moment. Or simply watch your breath flowing gently in and out.

The gift of presence...

A good night’s sleep can come naturally to us all. It is time to set aside the frenetic mind-set and the toxic chemicals. It is time to be fully present and embrace a natural, mindful approach to accessing the restorative power of sleep. This is the bedrock for a happy and healthy life. Give yourself the best present ever... a relaxing and rejuvenating night of deep healing sleep (tonight and every night) so that you can enthusiastically and energetically embrace the following day!

How we can help

  • Help for individuals  
    Sometimes work (or just life) can be tough. A challenging student, an Ofsted inspection, personal financial worries; there are many stresses on those who work in education. That’s why we offer free, confidential help and support, no matter what your problem.
  • Help for organisations 
    Working in education is demanding so we’ve designed a set of services to help you check how your teams are coping, troubleshoot problems and boost everyone’s wellbeing.

Kathryn Lovewell is a teacher trainer specialising in emotional resilience and author of 'Every Teacher Matters – Inspiring Well-Being through Mindfulness.'