FROM DESPAIR TO SWEET DREAMS // how I saved my sleep sanity

Insomnia tips - main shot of bed

contains gifted items

Last night I crawled into bed, fell asleep, and didn’t wake up until the morning.

Sounds pretty basic, right? But this most simple of tasks was something that evaded me for six long years.

I’ve spoken several times about my long battle with insomnia, and studies show it’s something an increasing number of us are facing every night. But I’m ECSTATIC to say I’ve finally conquered my sleep demons. It hasn’t been easy, and I’ve literally tried all the insomnia tips known to humankind.

The answer, for me, lay in little bits of everything. I completely redecorated my bedroom to create a cosy, inviting sanctum. I painted the walls off black (colour-matched to F&B), cleared the clutter and replaced my ugly old wardrobe with a contemporary hanging rail.

Insomnia advice - shot of hanging rail
Insomnia advice - shot of pot plant _ artwork

I found some art prints I adored and added some house plants. I had a blackout blind installed, and bought a new bedside lamp that gave off a lovely soft glow.

Reading The Effortless Sleep Method, by Sasha Stephens, was a game changer. An ex-insomniac herself, she provided me with the holy grail of insomnia tips – the tools to tackle the psychological side of chronic sleeplessness.

The tips in her book retrain your brain from believing it can’t sleep, to knowing it can. With her advice I got serious about my sleep routine, refusing to let myself lay in more than one extra hour on the weekends, as breaking the established weekday pattern can confuse your body clock.

I’ve also made the bedroom more-or-less off limits during the day – no more lazy days sprawled across the bed watching Netflix. This way the brain associates the bedroom only with bedtime, and subconsciously instructs your body to go to sleep as soon as you get in there.

I made sure to work out every day, or get out into the fresh air if I couldn’t (like, when coronavirus shuts down all the gyms!). I started taking a multivitamin and magnesium supplement every day, just in case there was a vitamin deficiency adding to the problem, and each night I took a valerian tablet, believed to help promote restful sleep.

Do they work? I can’t actually tell you for sure, but even if it’s just the placebo effect making the difference, I’ll grab it with both hands!

I set the ‘Do Not Disturb’ on my phone for 8.30pm so I wasn’t distracted by work emails, or the pinging of message alerts, and stopped working late into the evening (a trap many working mums find themselves stuck in as they try to make the most of those child-free hours).

Then I downloaded the free Rain Rain white noise app. The soothing rain sounds relaxed me, but also distracted me from worrying about whether or not I was going to sleep – which would often become a self-fulfilling prophecy (it’s also proving very handy now to drown out the puppy’s whining at night).

On the advice of a sleep specialist at a workshop I attended, I made my sleep a priority. I unapologetically put my bedtime routine first, turning down (pre-Covid) invitations that would have interfered with my routine – particularly at the beginning, when I was try to reset my messed-up body clock.

Running on empty seems have become a badge of honour in modern life, so I rid myself of that ‘sleep is for the weak’ mindset, which, if you think about it is utterly ridiculous. Sleep isn’t elective, it’s an essential part of health and wellbeing.

Bedding has always been important to me, and I’ll go to the ends of the earth to get soft, crisp hotel bed feeling at home. Luckily, I didn’t have to venture that far, as (one of my absolute favourite online bedding retailers) got in touch to ask if I wanted to take part in a fun festive campaign.

The team at Dusk have done all the hard work, carrying out extensive scientific research (well, kind of…) to reveal the messiest snacks to eat in bed. The worst culprits? Nachos, and tea and biscuits are most likely to sully your sheets, while crisps are your least messy bet.

Insomnia tips - landscape shot of made-up bed
Insomnia tips - bed looking across bedspread

Not that you’ll see either near my sheets these days, as Dusk very kindly sent me this gorgeous Mayfair 400-thread-count duvet cover with dark-grey piping and Geneva velvet-feel bedspread to add some hotel chic to my abode.

Creating an inviting, super-comfortable bed is another vital part of my new insomnia-busting plan. I was gifted a Dormeo mattress a few years ago that I absolutely adore, and took advantage of this year’s Black Friday sales to pick up a new winter weight duvet.

The Dusk bedding (with a few finishing touches I already owned) completed the transformation. When I walked into my room I felt like I was at a boutique hotel; I couldn’t wait to jump into bed that night. When I did, it was every bit as luxurious as I imagined – the 400-thread count cotton sateen was crisp and lightweight, and felt buttery soft on my skin.

Bedtime had been a battleground for so long that I’d forgotten how nice it was to snuggle into fresh sheets, pull the covers up and drift off to sleep.

It was literally heaven.

The next morning I woke desperately wishing for another hour in bed, but this time it wasn’t because I’d barely slept a wink, it was because I was so comfy I didn’t want to leave. The power of great quality sheets!

Of course, the bedding alone didn’t conquer my insomnia, but making my bed a calm, comfortable and inviting space helped me to override the feelings of frustration and dread I’d come to associate with going to bed – which were, in turn, increased my anxiety levels and made it even more difficult to drift off.

I believe every single one of the insomnia tips I tried worked in combination to help me conquer my bedtime demons, like pieces of a puzzle slotting together.

Sleep is one of life’s simplest, most satisfying pleasures and I’ll never, ever, take it for granted again.

Those are my insomnia tips – do you have any to add?

• my bedding set was kindly gifted

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