My current favourite thing would be a full nights sleep. There was a time in my youth when I could go from parties to the workplace on a couple of hours sleep and remain a fully functioning person. Currently, I am fully functioning until about 9 pm.  I should be watching edgy box sets until midnight, instead of wondering if I can stay awake until the end of Bake Off.

Sleep becomes such a precious thing once you become a parent, something to covet. The ultimate parenting achievement seems to be a child that sleeps through. Although babies aren’t designed to sleep for 8 hours. Once babies become less night owl, they grow into dawn loving toddlers and a parent’s main outlay is DVD’s to fill the gap between 5 am and the start of Cbeebies at 6. Tiredness becomes a wearying companion. It has shades from  absolute brain frying to a shallow film, that renders the world as if viewed through a slightly grubby window. Those years are behind us but sleep is something I still chase.

Every so often I have periods of insomnia and then without explanation, or reason, sleep returns in a to normal pattern.

Over this summer, my brain has developed a pattern of waking in the night, mostly for an hour or so. On difficult nights, longer. Some nights, I seem to gently wake. On others I feel as if I’ve been ejected from a dream, jerking awake as if a brake has been applied too suddenly. I lie in the dark for a while. Check the clock hoping to see 6 am, mostly it’s a development on 3 am; 3.09, 3.17 or 3.23.

For an hour or so my mind wanders like a car looking for a space in a busy car park, round and round it goes. Randomly moving through insignificant things; Need to clear out my wardrobe. Must reply to that email. The photos on my phone need downloading.

A sandwich of sleep, with an hour or so of wakefulness in between.  Then in the morning, the time awake seems almost dream like and all the small things easily forgotten (unless I write them down).

In the past, I’ve tried imagining a tropical paradise, via hypnotherapy recordings. Until paradise stopped inducing sleep, maybe I needed a holiday. I can’t concentrate on mindfulness apps, syrup voices a background drone to thoughts of re-organising my desk or other minor concern.

Over the counter sleep tablets, which wrapped me in the a wonderful bundle of deep sleep and smoothed all the creases. Waking up was like swimming to the surface of deep blue pool. Then the negative press, ended that.

While not being cure-all, things induce a better nights sleep are internet free evenings, reading, a long bath and bath oil, specifically this one, which I reviewed last year and still eke out on an emergency basis.  Practically, this arsenal isn’t always possible to deploy and currently, isn’t working.

Regular sleep helpers currently include;
Sleep. Lifestyle. Sleep. Little things for a good nights sleep.

It’s not hammer on the head soporific, I find the scent and application to pulse points of ‘Sleep balm by This Works’ comforting.

Drops of lavender oil on my pillow and a sprig of lavender in a vase.

Counting backwards from 100, but often by 88 my mind is in-car park mode again,  going around and around. Counting slowly and more deliberately focuses the mind.

Putting my pillow at the other end of the bed and changing ends. I’ve no idea why and I’m always loathe to do it.

Yoga breathing, in for the count of 4, hold a moment, and out for the count of 4.

On very bad nights, after a couple of hours of real restlessness, I take a pile of blankets and book and settle on the sofa. A some reading and a change of room works.

I was wondering what works for other people? Any top tips?

Lifestyle. Sleep. Little things for a good nights sleep.


  1. Purple Ella

    I had a period where I woke at around 2am every night. I was beyond tired and frustrated. I found acceptance the best answer. So when I woke I didn’t aim to go back to sleep, I read a book or did some colouring in. That way I took the pressure of and often got back to sleep, then the phase ended. 

    Of course all the usual stuff also, like you mentioned less electronics close to bedtime, no stimulants, relaxing baths, tidy bedroom.

    Good luck. 

  2. Lianne

    i started wearing one earplug since husband started snoring a bit (for 15 years I was the proud ‘owner’ of a non-snoring husband and now he started, i’m so puzzled by that!) Funnily enough this one earplug seems to help me stay asleep better, as my brain doesn’t do that mama thing anymore of ‘was that one of the kids out of bed, what was that noise, are they ok, car door slamming outside could trigger dream-thoughts like ‘did I lock my car’, etc etc…

    1. helloitsgemma

      Snoring is difficult to live with. I actually use ear plugs when I camp and might try that. I worry less about the ‘mama…are they all right thing’ too. Mostly, because he comes to tell me!

  3. Emily

    I am such a sleep nerd, so this post is perfect for me. I too, have been struggling. I tend to get woken, either by the OH snoring or the kids waking me, maybe early early morning and once I’m awake I find it so hard to go back to sleep. Like you, I think a proper wind down is essential and I love a lavender scent in the room. I made some pillow spray once and loved it. I also love an eye patch and ear plugs, although I don’t like using the plugs all the time, so save them for when I really need sleep. 

    1. helloitsgemma

      I get so grouchy if I get woken by someone else, after I’ve drifted off from sleeplessness. It seems such an injustice. This is another vote for ear plugs and I think I will try that. It’s so hard not becoming slightly obsessed by what makes a good night’s sleep when struggling.

  4. Over a Cuppa

    I would love a full nights sleep too. Now Lottie my retriever is diabetic it means pretty much every night she wakes me up. Once up the cool blast from having the door open to let her out, getting back to sleep can be tricky.

    With a million and one things whirring about in my mind, rather like you 10 minutes can turn into hours…

    I still swear by magnesium which really makes a difference to me. The night I have done yoga again this means I can go back pretty much straight to sleep after the 2.30am garden run! Which has just become a waking habit for Lottie as mostly she goes out and rolls around happily in the garden…yes I know!

    And finally and one that really seems to work bizarrely is when I have turned out the light, saying to myself ‘Tonight I am going to have a really good night sleep’. It may sound weird and I think you really have to mean it but ironically it does work!

    Oh and not quite finally then…at our age…the age we are opposed to our mental age, hormones do come out to play to screw things up. So maybe worth looking into hormone balancing foods…pear and flax seeds are very good xxx

    Wishing you a restful night sleep soon…if not do you want to have Lottie as you are awake to do a garden night run! xxx

    1. helloitsgemma

      Oh my goodness that sounds difficult! Some great tips Ali, thank you. I’m going to try magnesium and I think the flax seed and pear sound like a good idea. Hormones could be at play I guess. I also like the idea of yoga, I tend to tense up when I’m restless, so I might try that too.
      Poor Lottie and poor you. X

  5. BySarahMostly

    I have awful spells of insomnia and have tried just about everything over the years. I am never sure if any of the tips really work but I’d say just keep on trying anything and everything. Taking a magnesium supplement seems to help me and I use a This Works pillow spray. Winding down gently on an evening is important too but most of all I learnt to accept that some nights, sleep just won’t come. And instead of trying to sleep I have taught myself just to lay there and rest and ignore the whirring of my brain. Not that easy I know. I swear by an afternoon power nap too. Just 10-15 minutes does the trick for me I think sleep aids sleep.

    I’ll be checking back here on the comments to pinch some more tips to add to my ammunition I think 😉 

  6. Eleanor

    Don’t even go there! Heavily pregnant and a chronic light sleeper with restless leg and anxiety. Beta blockers do the trick if I’m desperate when not pregnant, but lavender spray always helps too. 

    Nothing to drink, as in absolutely nothing, from about 8pm onwards, too!

    I love your tips though. Am fascinated by those adults that nap during the day, I wish I could do that. 

    1. helloitsgemma

      Oh Eleanor! I feel your pain, I remember that stage, it’s awful and make the day, being pregnant, dealing with the world so much harder. I had restless leg when I was pregnant and occasionally get it when I’m really tired – a grim combo.
      I think power naps should be on your list of things to try. X

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