Five Steps to a Better Night’s Sleep

Explore five tips and simple practices to build healthy sleep habits and patterns.
Linda is a meditation teacher and coach.
good nights sleep
Linda is a meditation teacher and coach.

If you suffer from sleep issues, there are five steps you can take that will help to re-establish healthy sleep patterns naturally and lead to a good nights sleep.

5 Ways To A Good Night’s Sleep

1. Manage your stress levels during the day

Managing your daytime stress will lower the amount of adrenalin your body takes to bed that makes it difficult for you to fall asleep, and prevent cortisol spikes from waking you up in the middle of the night. 

To help you manage your stress levels, set healthy boundaries around taking short breaks from your computer and work station. It’s easy not to notice your stress levels building up when you’re pushing to meet a deadline.

Remind yourself, that a good night’s sleep will enable your brain to be more efficient, productive and creative.

Practising healthy boundaries is especially important when you work from home as they can all too easily become blurred. It’s a good idea to set a regular time for your ‘work’ day to end and homelife resume. Remember to switch off your computer to avoid the temptation of ‘just doing one more thing’.

Mindfulness can support you to maintain boundary keeping, because the more present you are – the more in touch you’ll be with your need to take a break or simply slow down a bit. Check-in with how your body is feeling at intervals throughout the day: notice when it’s tense, over-stimulated, running-on-empty, hungry or thirsty.

Learn to read the signals your body gives you, especially when you’re pushing it past its natural limitations. Recognising these signs means you can choose to take appropriate action to avoid overwhelm, exhaustion and your nervous system being ‘wired’.  

Perhaps, like many people, you’re used to living mainly in your head and ignore your body’s needs? If so, bear in mind, that when you repeatedly push your body past its healthy limits, you upset its natural equilibrium and that this will disrupt your sleep patterns. Looking after your physical needs will not only help you cope with everyday stress better but will enable you to sleep more soundly at night.

The following short mindfulness practices will help your body to release stress. I suggest you practise them as often as you can throughout your day.

  • Notice the position of your shoulders then allow them to lower and sit back as you breathe out
  • Notice if your back or your legs are positioned in a way that’s causing them to hold tension, and allow them to re-position as you breathe out
  • Notice if you’re holding on to your breath, then breathe out fully; slow your breath down and allow it to lengthen
  • Notice how much energy you’re putting into your current activity, then put in a quarter less. Turn your inner intensity dials down and allow yourself to sit back a little from your activity
  • Notice any pressure you’re putting on yourself and notice the physical tension this is causing. Let the pressure go and breathe the tension out from your body

Read more: Discover our full guide to sleep better and with more ease.

2. Manage your anxiety levels

Step two in investing in a good night’s sleep is to manage your anxiety levels. If we look at anxiety it’s merely a way of thinking and perceiving situations. In other words, it doesn’t necessarily reflect the truth! And, because your mind and body form one integral whole: where you go in your head, your body goes too!

Each time you have an anxious thought, it instantly triggers your body’s fight-or-flight stress response and releases hormones and chemicals that induce the uncomfortable feeling of anxiety. The following short mindfulness practices will help in these situations.

Notice any anxious thoughts as they arise and step to one side for a moment:

  • Notice the stress they are causing you
  • Notice you are ‘giving’ the stress to yourself by having the thoughts
  • Ask yourself, do I really want to do this to myself? Is it helpful?
  • Let the thoughts go
  • Breathe out the stress from your body caused by thinking in that way
  • As you do so, notice your body’s weight being supported by the surface beneath it
  • Become aware of the sensations of the here and now around you
  • Reassure yourself

Try one (or more) of Linda’s popular sleep and stress-releasing meditations to get a good night’s sleep:

  1. Sleep Talk Down Linda Hall 25:00
  2. Sleep Well Linda Hall 21:00
  3. Resting, And Releasing Stress Linda Hall 27:19
  4. Sleep Meditation For Managing Overwhelm Linda Hall 52:39
  5. Settle Into Sleep Easily Linda Hall 27:00

3. Look at what you eat and drink

Limit your intake of stimulants such as sugary drinks, caffeine and alcohol. Avoid overly spicy, heavy meals late at night, and be careful not to skip meals. Maintain your blood sugar levels during the day, so they don’t dip at night, by eating healthy protein snacks rather than high calorific ones.

4. Practice good sleep hygiene

Practicing good sleep hygiene means following practices that support your sleep and avoiding those that disrupt it. Avoid activities before bedtime that are likely to overstimulate or overstretch your nervous system. Switch off your computer at least two hours before you go to bed, avoid video games and limit time on your smartphone. Switching off your wi-fi connection can also be helpful. Make sure the bedroom is not too hot and that the bedding isn’t likely to over-heat your body’s natural thermostat.

Read more: Learn the different factors that help improving your sleep quality.

5. Support your body and mind

The last step is to help your body and mind to enter the most conducive state for sleep. Allow yourself to let go of the day along with any thoughts about the day ahead. Each time a thought comes in, let the thought go and bring your attention gently back to the ebb and flow of your breath and the sensation of your body being supported.

Holding an attitude of acceptance will help you surrender to the process of falling asleep. If you become aware of any discomfort or holdings in your body and mind, notice them without judging or attaching to them and let them be there.

Use your breath to help you release any tension or emotions left over from the day by doing a gentle body scan. Breathe into the parts of your body that are holding tension and allow them to release as you breathe out.

Whilst preparing for sleep, allow your attitude towards yourself to become kinder. What you say to yourself really counts, so use self-soothing words to lull your mind and body into the feeling of safety. Remind yourself that challenging times pass.

Should you find yourself awake in the middle of the night, avoid getting caught up in negative thinking patterns. Reassure yourself that sleep will come in its own time. Difficulty sleeping is often, largely, a learned habit and it’s just a question of re-training your body and mind how to ‘do’ sleep. Above all, remember that sleep is a natural process, let go of the need to control and trust instead that sleep will come when it’s ready.

Read more: Learn how to manage thoughts that cause you trouble falling asleep.

Ready For A Good Night’s Sleep

To recap, the five steps to re-establishing healthy sleep patterns naturally are:

  1. Manage your body’s stress levels during the day
  2. Manage anxiety thinking patterns
  3. Avoid types of food and drink that disturb sleep
  4. Practice good sleep hygiene at bedtime
  5. Adopt mental attitudes that support sleep 

And finally, remember that your body and mind know how to sleep.

Meditation. Free.