I often get asked about the elusive sober sleep. Better sleep and waking up refreshed and energized as a result are one of the many benefits you will experience when you ditch the drink. But, if you find yourself tossing and turning all night or staring at the ceiling until your eyeballs hurt, then it’s hard to imagine that you will ever sleep like a baby. Trust me though when I say that you will because wonderful, beautiful, glorious sober sleep will come to you – it just takes time and a little work. I was frustrated in the beginning because I assumed that not drinking would mean that I would sleep better immediately and although it’s true that the waking up in the middle of the night with feelings of regret and guilt did stop straight away, I found that I just couldn’t go to sleep successfully.
In fact I always thought that alcohol helped me sleep but in reality it just helped me pass out. Turns out that alcohol is really, really bad for your sleep and if you regularly get poor sleep it will have an overall effect on your well being in general. While alcohol may help you fall asleep quicker, it gives you very poor quality sleep because we spend less time in the deep stages of sleep. This is the stage of deep rest, when we dream which is also very important in mental and physical healing which affects our focus, energy, creativity and overall well-being. Alcohol plays havoc with this and this is why even if we stay in bed longer we can still feel tired and sluggish the next day. It is quality, not quantity people!
The trouble is that because a few drinks can help us fall asleep quicker, we believe it gives us better sleep – it doesn’t. As drinkers, we’re so used to anesthetized sleep, we find it harder to fall asleep when we don’t drink. Don’t despair because after a while you will fall asleep easier and you will sleep so much better. But what to do when you just can’t seem to fall asleep and spend hours in the dark wide awake and fretting? Below are some tips on how to switch things up a bit at bedtime and help you get that glorious sober sleep.
Often worrying about something will make it worse and if you worry that you won’t sleep, then chances are that worry will prevent you from getting to sleep. I know it is easier said than done, but if you accept that yes, when you first get rid of your nightcap you might not fall asleep as quickly as you did before, then it makes it easier to deal with. Know also that it won’t last forever.
Prepare your bedroom
Creating a space that you love and look forward to entering will make bedtime so much more appealing. I believe that your bedroom should be your sanctuary and while mine is not quite there yet, I am very protective of my bedroom and try to make it as nice as possible. It is a good idea to get rid of clutter, make your bed every morning, keep the space tidy whenever possible and don’t keep anything connected with work in there as our unconscious minds will associate the room with doing work and at bedtime you don’t want to think of that. Keep the room cool and dark as this will help contribute to a more restful nights slumber.
Try a new bedtime routine
It takes us a good few hours to properly wind down in order to relax enough to go to sleep but this can be a tricky concept to get to grips with if you’re the type of person who checks your email or messages just before turning the light out. If you can though, start getting ready for bed about an hour earlier than you usually would. Turn off all your electronic devices – no switching off the telly and jumping into bed – it’s bad for you! Instead have a bath or a shower, make a warm caffeine free drink and just sit and relax either on the sofa or in bed. I find it helpful to clear away the dishes, have a quick sweep round the living room and if possible jot down a few things that I need to do the next day so I am not thinking about them when it’s time to go to sleep.
Read (a real book)
Studies show that reading for just 20 minutes before going to sleep will help you fall asleep quicker and enjoy good quality sleep. It relaxes your body and clears your mind which are essential for sleep. However, you need to read an actual, old fashioned book with real pages that you can hold and smell! Ditch the ipad or e-reader and especially don’t try reading anything on your phone! All that horrible blue light and tiny writing will stimulate the brain and cause unnecessary stress in our minds and eyes which is not conducive to good sleep.
Meditating before you go to sleep is a really special way to get into the mood for some delicious slumber. There are loads of free guided meditation apps out there and I can recommend yoga nidra for sleep which helps with total physical and mental relaxation. Even just sitting up in bed, eyes closed and breathing deeply is enough to help ease you into a more relaxed and calm state of mind that you need for sleep.
Sort out your lighting
As well as keeping your bedroom tidy, cool and clutter free it is much better to have table lamps, candles, dimmer switches and soft diffused light as opposed to harsh, bright overhead lights as they can trick your brain into thinking it is still daytime. I have had a wonderful Lumie Body Clock Starter for about 5 years now and the best feature is that when you set the alarm, the light slowly fades, mimicking the sunset – I am always asleep before it goes off fully. Similarly in the morning the light gets brighter and brighter as if the sun is rising in your bedroom so you wake up gradually and are not shocked awake by a noisy alarm clock.
Make it special
Making bedtime something special and something to look forward to is a great way to reassure your mind that this is something good, to be enjoyed. Have a delicious caffeine free drink at bedtime that feels like a treat. I just love Clipper Organic sleep Easy Infusion before bed. Make your bedroom a place of warmth and love not just a tidy, functional space, so scented candles or essential oils all add to that feeling of luxuriousness as does great nightwear that you just long to dive into – for yourself and your bed. There is nothing I love more than getting into gorgeous pajamas and under freshly laundered bedclothes!
I encourage you to give these things a try, you don’t have to go out and redecorate the whole room or buy new bed linen and pajamas straight away of course, but gentle changes can have a powerful effect. Even if you do spend some time during the night lying awake, then just focus on the positives: You are in a safe place, you are warm and comfy, you are sober and you will wake up the next morning hangover free, which is something to celebrate even if you don’t sleep as much as you would like!
I’d love to hear about your own experiences of sober sleep, has it come easy to you or have you had difficulties? Let me know!
If you’d like more help and advice on how to get sober to improve your whole life and not just your sleep, then sign up to the newsletter for your FREE Steps to Sober Bliss