Getting Serious About Sleep

Tuesday 1 March 2016

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You work hard, you play harder. That's the reality for many people in today's busy modern world. 

Getting an early night, especially at the weekend when fun and friends beckon, can be no easy feat. 

Severe FOMO (“fear of missing out”) can set in. Adequate rest and even just regular breaks have started to get a bad name. Eating at your desk has becoming expected. Showing up with eye bags and downing an energy drink is now the dorm.

Eight hours sleep a night is considered a luxury. A lunch break in which you can actually eat something nutritious or get away from your desk - maybe both - sounds decadent to some. But it’s time to start emphasising our down time.

Work and family commitments may make it impossible to rest and unwind during the day. That means it’s more important than ever to get serious about sleep.

Sleep may seem dull and dreary, but afterwards we can return to our battle stations ready to kick some butt.

Good sleep means more creativity, productivity, and probably being nicer to everyone around you. And that’s got to be good.

Where the Magic Happens

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Take a look around your bedroom and describe it in one word.

“Messy” might be an obvious one. “Cramped” another. But is it peaceful? Calming? Tranquil? If words like that seem a world away from what is staring you in the face, then it could be time to take action.

Many doctors and experts on sleep claim that your environment is half the battle. A room that is cramped and cluttered can have a corresponding impact on our mind. When we settle down, we feel uncomfortable, claustrophobic, and like we have a lot on our mind.

Similarly, if your bedroom is where you work it can be important to make the distinction. Don’t work while in bed, for example. Have a designated area where you work and get creative and stick to it. Don’t allow work and worries to spill over physically or they will do so mentally.

Your body and brain learn a routine quickly. Your bed should be for sleep, and sleep only. Stick to this religiously and your brain will soon learn that when you touch that pillow and duvet, it’s time to switch off.

Technology is the Enemy

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Facebook and its interminable scroll. The pretty pictures of Pinterest. The insatiable images of Instagram. They’re all training you in distraction.

Very few people could sustain an all-out social media ban, but it is definitely wise to restrict it at certain times.

Check all emails and notifications at least half an hour before you climb into bed, for example. Train yourself (and your brain) to go off-grid and actually enjoy it. All the posts and pictures will still be there when you get up but won’t have excited your mind right before you drop off to sleep.

Did you know that the blue light emitted from screens sends messages to your brain to stay awake? This can actually be quite harmful in the long term.

If you have to be on your phone or computer after sundown, then invest in an app that neutralises the blue light.

Getting Comfortable

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Setting the mood before you finally fall asleep can be an important part of the process.

Surround yourself with comfy textures like blankets and cushions. Investing in something like a John Ryan by Design Latex mattress from a reputable company can really pay off.

It’s very important to own a quality mattress that supports your back. If you’re waking up stiff and uncomfortable, there’s a good chance that your mattress needs replacing.

Whether you prefer a warm room or a cooler one, ensure that you have reached a temperature that suits you before you go to sleep.

There is some pretty persuasive research on the benefits of sleep sprays. If they contain relaxing ingredients like lavender and camomile they are even more effective.

Scented candles can also help to create a safe and fragrant atmosphere (as well as looking pretty).

Feeling Peckish?

What you eat and drink before bed can have a big impact on the quality of your sleep.

If we haven’t eaten enough throughout the day, our body stays alert because we still need nutrients.

Eating a heavy evening meal might make us feel sleepy at first, but the quality of the sleep will be poor if we struggle to digest it. Eating regular, nutritious meals and snacks throughout the day will help us to sleep better at night.

Adequate hydration is also very important. A cool glass of water a while before we sleep can help us relax and also lower our blood pressure. Avoiding caffeinated tea, coffee, or fizzy drinks is an obvious one but the sugar in juice can wake us up too.

Milk (whether cow, goat, almond, soya or other) can be a great evening drink as it soothes us and makes us feel full. Heat it in a pan or in the microwave if you really want to maximise its sleepy properties.

If you’re still feeling peckish after a drink then a handful of nuts or a banana is a good evening snack. They are not difficult to digest and have a low Glycemic Index, meaning they won’t spike our blood sugar levels and keep us awake.

Take a Deep Breath

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Taking several deep breaths as we lie in bed and focusing on them above all other distracting thoughts, can be beneficial. Not only does this help us to immediately relax but over time it has also been shown to improve our concentration.

By training ourselves to focus on a singular object, we become accustomed to concentrating. Simply focus on the breath itself ot the rise and fall of your chest. As our thoughts arise, we should try not to follow them and simply return our focus to our breathing.

By the time we’ve done this a few times, we should feel a sense of peace and clarity - or even have fallen asleep!

Sweet dreams.

1 comment

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