Most people crave a good nights’ sleep where they wake up feeling refreshed, re-energized and ready for the day. We have busy demanding lives and feel we deserve a rest. Yet adequate sleep seems to elude many of us. I refer to sleep as “the ultimate act of self-care”. For the month of September, our focus is on getting the message to people that they can create an environment that promotes sleep, that fosters self-care, that gives people the permission and the knowledge to get the nights sleep they deserve. We will help you let go of the obstacles and break down the barriers that are preventing you from getting a deep, restful and restorative sleep.
How Many Hours Of Sleep Should We Be Aiming For A Night And Why?
Our requirement for Sleep changes through the lifespan. Children and teenagers require a lot more sleep because they are developing and growing rapidly. As adults, the general recommendation is between 7-8 hours. We sleep in cycles of 90-minutes and the recommendation is based on getting five 90-minute cycles of sleep per night. There is variance within this of course as some people operate well off 6 hours per night and others may require 9 hours. Other factors also powerfully influence our sleep through life such as pregnancy, various types of stress, menopause and as we age, we tend to experience more difficulty with sleep. Developing good habits and routines around sleep become more important as we age and for those living very active lifestyles, good quality of sleep, sleep regularity and consistency become crucial. Overtime maybe we have developed poor habits and sometimes we may not even be aware of these.
Main Factors In Poor Sleep
When working with top athletes I quickly learned that their absolute focus is on “controlling the controllables”. Focusing on what they can influence and the process rather than the outcome. Many of us have allowed technology, stress, work, a lack of boundaries to take over our lives. These things combined with a poor bedroom environment have negatively impacted our sleep. Here are some of the key drivers of poor sleep.
- Stress – Unmanaged stress can get out of control and heavily influence our ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.
- Technology – Phones, tablets & laptops capitalize on many aspects of our reward systems to keep us awake. We must learn to manage and control our technology, or it will rob us of our most healing and restorative time.
- Boundaries & Balance – If you feel overwhelmed by the demands in your life, your sleep will be impacted. We need to reset and re-evaluate our boundaries to prioritize our health.
- Stimulants & Sedatives – Poor choices around food, caffeine and alcohol negatively impacts our sleep-depriving our brains and bodies of rest.
- Sleep Environment – We need to create a haven for relaxation, unwinding and sleep. Every aspect of our bed and bedroom should be the most supportive and nurturing to a good nights’ sleep.
- The Sleep Narrative – We must recognise that sleep is crucial for health & wellness and take actions to change our approach and improve our sleep.
Many people tell me about not being able to control a racing mind or they are unsure of what to do to fix their sleep. I am here to reassure them that they can take back control and they can improve their sleep. It’s simply about making small lasting changes and investing more into their sleep process. The right solutions are available, we tend to reach for things line technology that gives us short term relief but may hinder our rest. An executive from Netflix was recently asked about who their biggest competitor was, and he answered “Sleep”! So, let’s find some better solutions.
Benefits Of A Good Night’s Sleep
There isn’t any aspect of our health and wellbeing that a good nights’ sleep doesn’t benefit. Let’s just look at some of those and understand that we can all improve our habits around sleep.
Mood & Energy
Waking up feeling rested will automatically put you in a better mood. Sleep influences our mental state profoundly as our brain decouples stressful events from the previous day and wipes the slate clean if we get sufficient sleep. Sleep increases feel-good hormones and restores our energy levels.
Health & Immunity
Sleep is regarded as a protective behaviour and in the scientific community known as a “biological investment”. According to research, all health outcomes improve when we get regular sleep. We produce many types of immune cells while we sleep, and we regulate our immune response as well. Regular quality sleep is a pillar of health and the best way to maintain a healthy immune system.
Mental & Physical Repair
Most of the repair that occurs in the body and the brain happens at night while we sleep. Our brain cleans itself at night while we sleep, and our body heals the daily damage. We re-wire our brain to adapt and learn and we heal and repair muscle and soft tissue.
Many hormones are secreted at night while we sleep, and our natural daily sleep-wake cycles are dependent upon us producing and secreting these in the right quantity and at the right times. Regular sleep ensures this happens and keeps our endocrine system in balance.
Tips To Improve Your Sleep Routine
Firstly, we must change our mindset and attitude toward sleep. We must realize that this is the most powerful restorative state we can place ourselves in to protect our health and to optimize recovery. More and more demands on our time and resources seem to take this valuable commodity away from us. Sleep is after all the “master conductor of health & disease”. Here are my simple tips to improve your sleep.
Your Sleep Space
Your bedroom should be a safe haven for you. A place to retreat to sleep, rest, restore your energy. Make sure it is dedicated to sleep and relaxation and not full of distraction and chaos. It should be very softly lit, and well ventilated. It should be cool and calm. Invest in it and put some thought into creating the right atmosphere.
How You Use Technology
Most of us bring our phones into the bedroom but how we use it is more important. Apps are highly addictive and stimulating. Make sure if you do bring your phone into the bedroom, you use it to wind down. That means using it for music, meditation or relaxing sounds and not scrolling on social media or checking messages. Create healthy habits and boundaries with technology.
Winding down mentally after a busy is hugely important. Many people arrive to bed wired and tired and struggle to sleep even though they are exhausted. Reading, light stretching and breathing exercises can really help put you into a relaxed state and bring about sleep. This may take a little practice but be patient. Try to recognise and manage stress levels. Develop the skills to counteract negative stressors in your life.
All of the decisions we make during the day will impact our sleep. Make sure you get lots of natural sunlight during the day. Regular exercise will also improve many aspects of sleep. Avoid or reduce stimulants and sedatives. And don’t’ eat too close to sleep time. Gradually improving your choices and behaviours will vastly improve your sleep quality and help restore you to your full potential.
Invest In Yourself
Sleep is the ultimate act of self-care. Think about how you can improve your sleep. Invest in a supportive mattress and pillow. Change your sheets regularly and make your sleep routine and timing a priority in your life. Be patient and gentle with yourself. The more you benefit from getting things right, the more encouragement you will get.
Having spent over a decade working in this area, I have found that those people who are open to new solutions and are willing to make changes can transform their health, their bodies, their mood, their sleep and their lives. Take the first steps today and watch the transformation happen for you.