Secret #1 Switch off
Forget sleeping pills and potions, sleep-trackers and gadgets because Dr Nerina believes deeply entrenched sleep problems can’t be fixed with quick fix sticking plaster solutions.
She says the key to good sleep at night lies in making sure everything about your day is sleep-friendly. And that means regular pockets of ‘nothingness’ where you switch off your fizzing brain and give it a chance to download.
But it’s good to just stop what you’re doing and stare at the wall for a few minutes, if you don’t want to end up skidding into bed on two wheels at the end of the day, unable to get tomorrow’s ‘to do’ list out of your brain.
Secret #2 Tire your body out
There are plenty of studies to show that exercise helps improve sleep: it increases the time you spend in deep sleep (the bit which helps you control stress and anxiety), extends the time you are able to sleep, and reduces the chance of sleep disturbances like sleep apnea and snoring.
Try: Aim to go to bed physically tired each day
Secret #3 Spend time in nature
We all need a blast of natural light in the morning to trigger our body’s production of the hormone melatonin which controls our body clock and ensures a good night’s sleep, so getting outside is important.
Besides, being close to nature has been shown to give significant and wide-ranging health benefits too (a 2018 study by the University of East Anglia found exposure to green spaces could reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stress and high blood pressure).
If you really want to maximise the benefits of nature immersion you could go one step further and do it in silence.
Try: Get walking out in the fresh air
Secret #4 Fall back in love with your bed
Insomniacs learn to hate bed time, bedrooms and beds because after a lifetime of sleeplessness they associate that space with discomfort and stress. But in the quest for a good night’s sleep, it is important to ensure that your bed is a haven of rest and relaxation.
Try: Invest in the best pillows, duvets and soft sheets
Secret #5 Cut back on caffeine
A hopeless coffee or tea habit is never going to be conducive with happy sleeping habits (and many insomniacs rely heavily on caffeine to keep them functioning through the day) but Dr Nerina advises caution rather than abstinence, and mercifully there was coffee on offer at breakfast on this retreat for those who want it.
But only in the mornings. The half-life of caffeine (the time it takes for your body to eliminate HALF of the stimulant in your beverage) is around five or six hours, so any coffee or tea in the afternoon could be ruining your sleep.