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Sweet Dreams

Sleep, sleep, that elusive eight hours of sleep a night. Is it possible and what can help us to gently ease ourselves into the world of dreams and relaxation?

Sleep, Sleep, Sleep

I am one of the thousands of people that has experienced problems with sleep. Not every night but some nights. I have been known to completely binge watch a whole series when I just can’t sleep and I can easily be awake until 3am for absolutely no reason at all. When I’ve been away with friends I’ve been in awe of their ability to just sleep. No fuss, no analysis, they just fall asleep. And I’ve lost count of the number of people that say to me ‘oooo you look tired’, sometimes when I’m not even that tired but the years of not sleeping well have given me some lovely under eye shadows.

I used to try and analyse why I don’t sleep so well, but that just kept me awake for even longer. Theories about sleep, or more specifically, lack of sleep abound, so it is easy to find yourself with so much advice. I’ve heard of meditating, having a warm bath, setting a bedtime routine, going to bed at the same time (which I think can be really helpful and even a cup of warm milk at night (I am not 6 years old, thanks)

Can Reading help?

The one thing I’ve tried with a fair degree of success is good old-fashioned reading. Yes, reading an actual book. I don’t read heavy books, nothing too taxing or upsetting, just a gentle fiction or autobiography, something that doesn’t require a degree in English to understand and I’m away. 15 to 20 minutes is usually enough to calm my brain, ready for a good nights sleep.

In 2009 the University of Sussex conducted research that found reading a book reduced stress levels by up to 68%. This is more than other activities, including, going for a walk or having a cup of tea. The theory behind the science is that reading becomes a distraction and offers the chance to be engrossed in the author’s imagination and enter an altered state of consciousness that relaxes the brain. There also isn’t a screen involved, which can also help to relax our brains.

Apparently just six minutes is enough to start the relaxation process in your brain, plus there is the added of bonus of finally working your way through the pile of books you’ve been meaning to read for months but never actually got round to reading. We’ve all got those piles of books at home or by the side of our beds. on my bedside table.

I’ve been trying this out for a while now and it has really helped my sleep. I still have some nights where no matter what I do, I just can’t get to sleep and I’m ok with that but I’d 9 out of 10 nights are now good for sleep, so it’s been a definite improvement.

With so many of us staring at screens before we go to sleep and increased reports of disrupted sleeping from more and more of us, maybe it’s time to rediscover books and a healthy bedtime routine that includes reading. There’s something about a book that is inspirational and transports us to another world, away from our everyday worries and anxieties and perhaps this is the reason so many of us love a book before bedtime.

Good luck and happy reading x

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