Health and Fitness

7 Little Known Tricks To Help You Sleep Well

Woman sleeping on bed with gold stars in hair

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Believe me, I know how important it is to sleep well.  That fuggy headed, irritable feeling where you can’t concentrate on anything is the absolute pits.

If you’ve found yourself tossing and turning during this current strange period in history, you’re definitely not alone.  Feeling worried and stressed and having our routines disrupted inevitably has an impact on our ability to sleep well.


7 little known tricks to sleep well


My Story And How It Can Help You Sleep Well


I first suffered from insomnia 30 years ago (eek) when I was a student in my final year of university.

The pressure of final exams combined with a noisy next-door neighbour in my student digs led to nights of broken sleep.  This culminated in a thought which appeared in my mind which niggled away at me asking ‘what if I never sleep well again’.

That little niggle became a self-fulfilling prophecy in a way.  Of course, I did sleep again.  And I do have some nights where I sleep very well.  But I’ve experienced issues on and off with sleep ever since.

As is my tendency with most things that have gone wrong with me over the years, I do a lot of research!

I’ve read many books and articles on the subject of insomnia and sleep.  I’ve also tried lots of things to help – lavender oil, hot milky drinks, warm baths, exercise, limiting coffee, cutting out booze – so the list goes on!

I have found a number of things to be very helpful to have in my toolbox.  These have definitely helped me throughout the lockdown period and, although I’ve had some bad nights, in general, I’ve slept pretty well.


The Things I’ve Found Most Helpful

  1. Establishing a nighttime, wind-down routine.
  2. Making sure my bed is comfortable, my mattress bouncy and my bedding fresh.
  3. Having a cool bedroom and blocking noise and external lights as much as possible.  (I have earplugs and an eye mask to help me with this).
  4. Going to bed and getting up at roughly the same time each day.
  5. Making sure I get some light and fresh air outside each day.  Studies have shown that getting up to 2 hours of daylight a day can reduce the time taken to fall asleep by 80%!  (If you’re struggling to get natural light during the day, for example in the depths of winter, artificial natural light bulbs can help).
  6. Exercise (but not too late in the evening or I’m bouncing off the walls!)
  7. Locking myself out of my mobile phone after 9pm (I use an app called App Block).  I also have the ‘eye comfort’ setting on my phone turned on pretty much permanently.  This blocks the blue light which my phone emits (which can disrupt sleep).
  8. No other electronic screens after 9pm (with the exception of my Kindle which I seem to be OK with).
  9. A hot bath (don’t need an excuse for one of those!)
  10. Cutting out alcohol and also not drinking coffee after 1pm.
  11. Meditation just before bed.
  12. Reading a good book in bed.
  13. Not eating a heavy meal too late in the day.
  14. This one is important – not worrying about sleep or the lack of sleep and how it will affect me.


A comfortable mattress can make a huge difference to how well you sleep.  If yours is a bit, well, saggy, maybe it’s time to upgrade 🙂


Yes, I get that these things are easier said than done.


With the not worrying thing, I find that keeping a mental list of all the times that I haven’t slept well yet have gone on to have a good day to be really helpful.  (My wedding day plus running the Great North Run, both after about 3 hours sleep are cracking examples!)

(For more advice on how to stop worrying, check out my 5 top tips that really work).

I know some of this might sound boring, but getting the ‘sleep hygiene’ stuff right can really help.  And the benefits of getting a good night’s sleep are often overlooked.

How fantastic does it feel to be well-rested?  How much more do you feel like taking on the challenges of the day?

It can even help you to stay in trim (I know how much more I’m likely to crave comfort food and skip the HIIT session when I’ve not slept well…)


A Good Book


The book that I’ve found to be the most helpful is The Effortless Sleep Method by Sasha Stephens.  Sasha combines good ‘sleep hygiene’ (of which establishing a routine is part) with ways to tackle the anxiety of not sleeping.

If you struggle with sleeping well, I would definitely recommend checking it out.  I also find that reading in bed makes me sleepy, bonus!


To Nap Or Not To Nap?


The jury seems to be out on this one with different studies saying different things.

I used to nap a lot but since I gave up alcohol I don’t seem to need to as much.  (Alcohol interferes with the quality of our sleep which probably explains why I felt so tired in the day).

When I was napping regularly, it didn’t seem to interfere with my ability to fall asleep at night.

As long as you keep your naps short (20 to 30 minutes) and if they don’t stop you sleeping at night then I say keep them!

If I do have a nap nowadays, I find even 5 or 10 minutes can give my energy levels a boost.


When You STILL Can’t Sleep!


If, despite sorting out your sleep hygiene and your attitudes to sleep, you still find yourself tossing and turning, here are 7 little known tricks I’ve found to get you back to sleep and help you to sleep well.

(PS You may never get as far as number 7!)

Note:  If you have suddenly developed insomnia or if you think there may be an underlying cause to your sleep problems, please make sure you consult a qualified medical professional.


1.  Box Breathing

inhale exhale street art

  • Breathe in for 8
  • Hold for 8
  • Breathe out for 8
  • Hold for 8
  • Repeat 8 times

Another method is to make your exhale slightly longer than your inhale.

So, for example, you could breathe in for 6 and out for 8 in the above exercise.

(This exercise is also brilliant to use in the daytime if you are feeling stressed and in need of a moment of calm).


2.  Body Scan

This is one of my favourite forms of mindfulness meditation at any time of the day!  I realised early on that it has a wonderful side effect of making me fall asleep.

Here’s how to do it.

Focus on each part of the body in turn starting with your feet.

Concentrate on what you can feel in your feet. Whether they are cold or warm, the texture of your socks or bedding, any sensations you can feel.

Move up your body slowly, repeating the exercise with each and every part of the body.

If your mind wanders, breathe deeply and bring your attention back to the part of the body you are focusing on.

Can you make it all the way to your head?  I often fall asleep around about the hip area!!

(Here is a guided audio of a body scan meditation you can try).


3.  Sounds & Thoughts

If you are still awake after the body scan, or if you want to try something a bit different, I always find a sounds and thoughts meditation calming.  Here’s how to practice it.

  • Focus your attention on what you can hear.
  • Try not to name the sounds (easier said than done!)
  • If your mind wanders, bring your attention back to focusing on sounds.
  • Don’t wory if your mind does name the sounds, this is just your
    thoughts trying to stay active
  • After a few minutes, shift your attention to your thoughts.
  • Try not to get caught up in your thoughts, just notice them.
  • You could imagine them as images which come and go on a screen.
  • Notice how both sounds and thoughts arise, stay for a little while and then disperse.

You can find a guided sounds and thoughts meditation, along with 6 other different forms of meditation to try here.


4.  Word Game

I’ve often fallen asleep before this one so I haven’t played it all that often!  When I have played it, it has usually done the trick (and it’s quite good fun!)

Here’s how to play:

  • Think of a word. Any word will do, but preferably of 5 letters or longer.
  • Working your way through the letters of the word, think of as many words as you can which begin with that letter.
  • If your mind wanders, bring it back to the task in hand.

Here’s an example –

My word is ‘Orange’

Starting with the letter O, I think of octopus, ordinary, orangutang, order etc.

If you get to the end of the word, choose another word and begin again.


oranges on a table

Photo by Hannah Pemberton on Unsplash


5.  Stay Awake

Instead of trying to sleep, try really hard to stay awake!

Keep your eyes open and tell yourself that you must stay awake no matter what happens.

You will be surprised how difficult this is!

baby yawning and sleeping well with teddy bear

Photo by Minnie Zhou on Unsplash


6.  Get Out Of Bed

If none of the above exercises have worked, it’s time to get out of bed!

Preferably go somewhere not too warm.   Do something non-stimulating such as reading a book or performing a mundane task.  For example, you could mop the floor or clean out the fridge.

Try not to worry that you are losing sleep.  Worrying about lack of sleep is more harmful than the sleep deprivation itself.

Once you start to feel sleepy, go back to bed.  Run through the previous exercises again if need be, but hopefully, you should just fall to sleep!


7.  The Ultimate Exercise To Sleep Well

Don’t try this one if you are driving or operating machinery. (Hopefully not at 3 am!  Unless you’re a shift worker of course).

This is one I came across in an article by Paul McKenna a few years ago.  I’ve tried it many times and can confirm that if you do it properly, it does work!

What you need to do is to silently describe to yourself whatever comes into your mind.  Images and anything else you are aware of.  You must do this in a slow, relaxing, silent monotone voice.

For example:

I can see the sea.

Now I can see a bowl of oranges and I can almost taste the orange juice.

I am aware I can hear the sound of a friend’s voice.

Now I can see a dog.

And so on.  Don’t worry if the things that come into your mind seem a bit bizarre, just keep describing them in a monotone voice.

[tweetshare tweet=”There is a time for many words, and there is also a time for sleep – Homer” username=”alisonw30″]

I hope that I have given you plenty of ideas and tools to include in your ‘sleep well’ toolbox?!

From experience, I would recommend addressing the practical things (bed comfort, sleep routine, the temperature of the room etc) along with mindset around sleep plus trying out some of the relaxation techniques mentioned above.

You may find that what works one day, doesn’t work on another.  Don’t despair, keep building your toolbox and practising with the tools.

All that remains is for me to wish you sweet dreams!


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  1. Kayteebeexx

    Thank you for this, I need all the sleep I can get before my baby is born! I also need to learn to to turn my phone off at a certain time. Thank you for sharing xx

    1. Alison

      Hi, I definitely notice the difference between not turning my phone off and turning it off at a decent time! Hope all goes well with the baby 🙂

  2. Geraldine

    Great tips Allison! Going at the same time every night definitely helps, although I haven’t set the same exact time for myself every night, although I like to think it’s about roughly the same time if not exact 😁 I still struggle with not touching any piece of technology a certain time, I take my phone with me into bed and I scroll through for a few more minutes before I actually go to sleep. I used to worry so much about not being able to sleep that I’m not actually able to sleep, strangely it only fell on Sundays haha but it’s all sorted now! Thank you for sharing 😊

    1. Alison

      There is some science behind the Sunday thing, it’s because we change our routine at the weekend x

    1. Alison

      I’m going through a bit of a patch with waking up really early, I’ve been trying the word game a bit more, it really works! Hope you find the tips helpful 🙂

  3. Chloe Chats

    These are fab tips, I know that I’d sleep better if I went to bed at the same time every night and woke up at the same time every morning but sadly my job is shift work so it changes every week 🙁 I like the idea of the word game and also the idea of telling yourself that you must stay awake no matter what… I might try that and see if it helps me get to sleep when I’m struggling! Thank you for sharing <3

    Chloe xx

    1. Alison

      Shift work must be really hard, I know I’d find it difficult, I have problems when the clocks change 😀 The word game and the telling myself I must stay awake pretty much work every time for me. Hope they do for you too 🙂

  4. The Tinker Bug

    Great tips! I find meditation to be almost impossible for me but I will most definitely try it again with these tips. Maybe I can finally get some better sleep!

    Thanks for sharing!!

    1. Alison

      Hope you find at least one of them works! I’ve been doing the word game a bit more this week, works for me like a charm 🙂

  5. hanmwill

    Some really great tips here, Alison! I used to have so much trouble falling asleep at a reasonable time when I was in uni so I would always force myself out of bed when I couldn’t and I’d usually be asleep within the hour! Bookmarking this post for the times when sleep inevitably becomes more difficult again! x

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