“I’ll sleep when I’m dead, right?”
Wrong. Keep going with ‘I’ll sleep when I am dead’ philosophy and you may find yourself dead sooner than you achieve what you are striving for.
Sleep is a big topic. Insomnia verging on an epidemic as stress and anxiety levels crescendo with the speed of life in the digital, dual income, working parent age.
Not only that but, sleep debt has become something of a peer pressure comparison whether in the playground or the boardroom – “I only got 4 hours sleep last night shouts I am more tired than you!” Or “I pulled an all-nighter last night – says I am so important.”
Yet it needs to contribute to a large portion of our lives, in order for us to live out the lion’s portion as a true Lion or Lioness. This is a long post with a lot of information, but given the messages and comments I received on my Instagram post, I am going to spell it all out for you. Take from it what you need and as always, my contact details are at the bottom of this blog or on the contact form at the top of the website. In the meantime, get comfortable, and read on!
Simply, no amount of juicing, clean eating, exercising, praying or believing will help you on your path to true, full and holistic happiness, if you are not allowing your body, mind and organs to rest, recuperate, rebalance, sleep and dream.
Before you dive right to the point where I share my tips for getting good sleep, you are more likely to take this seriously and introduce some or many of the habits suggested, if you understand why sleep is so incredibly important for you.
Good quality sleep will contribute to the following, and therefore, conversely, a lack of good quality sleep will severely impair the following:
For me, this is the most important reason to get sleep. When sleep levels are low, your body becomes highly vulnerable to stress. In times of stress, our immune system cannot operate as well, and our hormones start to function incorrectly. Rises in inflammatory proteins and blood sugar respond to lower levels of insulin in the night. These spikes in inflammation and blood sugar increase the risk of disease – including hypertension, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Oh – and don’t forget the common cold and manflu.
Mental health & Mood:
After a night of no sleep, I am sure everyone can remember making bad choices and silly mistakes in life, in business and with food. Repeated over time, this can leave us irritable and mentally exhausted with frustration, sadness and anger. For long periods of time, this can escalate to depression and even burnout.
Cognitive Function & Productivity:
Without sleep, our mental performance suffers, impairing clarity and reducing productivity. Not ideal for anyone, especially in the fast-paced lifestyles and workplaces of today.
Dreams are present with good quality sleep. Dreams have been shown to consolidate your memory, sift through the information and help with emotional healing, subconsciously allowing you to ‘let go’.
Sleep deprivation has been linked with obesity and weight gain. It will mess with your hormones by increasing levels of one (ghrelin for those interested) which then suppresses the hormone that regulates your appetite (leptin). If you want to stop eating so much, snacking on the wrong thing, one of the best things you can do is get to bed! Sleep is your natural appetite suppressant. And its FREE!
When your body and organs haven’t been given the time they need to recover from the day, heal and rest, over time, you may find yourself exhausted. This exhaustion, inability to get up, speak or move is often a sign of adrenal fatigue and a clear sign your body is stressed. The answer is simply to sleep.
Skin and hair:
‘Beauty sleep!’ It’s true, getting your 7-9 hours will slow down the aging process, especially when you realise that your skin is your biggest organ and also needs to rest and repair. Don’t forget, sleep costs less than the pretty pots in Duty Free.
When ‘I’m too tired’ no longer becomes an excuse! When you have good sleep, you feel good in your body, you are in a good mood, your energy is peaking. You are in good health and spirits – the perfect combination for your libido.
That’s a good one to finish on! Having appreciated the reasons why good sleep is crucial to a good life, even if it is just one or two of the above that you want to bring in to your life, then read on and find 1 or 2 habits or ideas that you can introduce to make it a reality:
Create a Technology and ‘tipping’ free, sleep and romance only sanctuary.
De-clutter and reclaim calm in the bedroom. That means no screens – no tv, no tablet, no laptop, no phone. The blue and artificial lights mess with your brain and its ability to switch off naturally. If you need an alarm, a torch, a way to communicate – go old school – re-install your landline, get a battery operated torch and one of those things called a ‘clock’. In desperate times, go for a media fast. There was life before the internet. You will survive. As will your kids. As will your career. But you may not, if you are depriving yourself of sleep.
Time for Light’s out and noise free.
Invest in black out blinds or eye masques and ear plugs. If you have little ones who love to see you in the night– take it in turns to get a good, full night sleep. This may mean separate bedrooms, but isn’t it worth it for a handful of nights in the week? (On a personal note, I wish I had done this over the 5 years it took our youngest child to sleep more than 2 hours in a row. Perhaps my corporate career would have lasted longer!)
Stop the stimulant, relaxant cycle.
You are tired. Exhausted. You take a hit of expresso as your race out the door, get a latte for the road /rail, get a coffee with first meeting / or after school drop off, another when you need to get away from your desk / while you doing the daily chores and perhaps one more after lunch for a pick me up. By the time you get home / got the kids to bed you are so wired and yet weirdly tired, you need a G&T with your pipe and slippers and a bottle of red to wash down your meal or a handful of pills to help you fall asleep. But it isn’t real sleep as you twitch and tinkle through the night. So, what’s the first thing you reach for when the alarm goes?
You are smart – you know what to do. Less caffeine, less stimulants, less relaxants. More water! If you like the energy boost from caffeine, you can get the same from a green tea or a good home made fresh juice (see recipe of the week). If you like the taste, take a decaf.
Keep your cool.
If your room is too hot, your body will overheat and that will prevent your body reaching the cool temperature it needs to repair and heal. This is even more important as you reach menopause, when the hot sweats can wake you up. So, a light duvet, light cotton, breathable clothing and if you need to or can, sleep with a window open.
Exercise, fresh air and natural light.
Get some. All of these will trigger your beautiful and clever brain to release the right chemicals (melatonin) which promote natural and healthy sleep cycles. So factor in a walk, preferably in the morning.
Eat supper like a pauper.
Or eat earlier, but definitely lighter. Aim to reduce your food intake to at least 2 hours prior to going to bed to sleep. When eating too close to going to bed, the energy needed to repair and heal your body from the stress of the day is used to digest your food. Or if you have a lazy body, it will just store the food as fat. And we don’t want that. Whatever you do, make sure you eat good, whole foods with nutritional value (see earlier blog).
Routine your way to a good night’s sleep.
Find the time and give yourself permission to relax. Take a bath, turn off the lights, light a scented candle. You do have time. The box set can wait. Listen to an audiobook if you can’t bear your thoughts! But ideally, this is the time to be mindful of those thoughts, let them float in and allow the bad ones to wash away with the bath water.
Write it out.
Stress, anxiety, worry are all natural stimulants that can keep us awake. Thoughts flying around in circles as you lie looking at the ceiling, worrying you may forget the answers and solutions when it is time to wake up. Journalling is a wonderful release. It doesn’t have to be pretty, but just write. It can be anything from shopping lists to angry thoughts, meeting agendas to gratitude memos. Get it out of your head, it will be written there on paper (not an ipad!) in the morning.
Stretching or massage.
I know which I would prefer! But given you are often lying next to someone else who is just as shattered as you, unless they are happy to oblige and reciprocate in the new routine, go for some simple yoga stretches. My favourite has been to cool down after my warm bath with a simple stretch with my legs up against the head board of the bed.
Meditation, Mindfulness and imagery.
If you didn’t do it in the bath, you can do it while you stretch, or as you lie in bed. There are some fantastic apps you can learn from (Calm, Headspace) or YouTube (I loved 30 days meditation challenge by jbittersweet). But make sure you turn whatever device you are using off until you can do it without guidance!
Trick your mind and believe what you are saying is true. Repeat as you fall asleep: ‘I am so excited to wake up in the morning refreshed after a full and long night sleep.’ ‘I am so grateful that I am an incredibly deep sleeper.’ ‘My son is the most amazing sleeper’ “ I am so grateful my son/daughter and I slept through the night.” (It works… it only took 5 years for that to manifest for my youngest, but it did!)
Desperation may call for a return to circadian rhythms – awake in the day light and as the sun goes down, so does your head. Potentially tricky with kids / work, but aim to start your bedtime routine earlier. An extra 30 minutes could change your whole life! Forget the emails you need to send, the load of washing that needs doing – they can wait until the morning, when you are going to be bouncing out of bed and considerably more productive and focussed with the extra sleep and rest.
So which one or 2 are you going to go for? Any idea?
If not, keep a sleep journal for a week and include food, drink, mood, work / life issues and events. See what comes up. What is obvious? Too much caffeine? Too much social media? Too much stress? Whatever you do, I wouldn’t advise trying to do all of the above at once. Pick one or 2 and try those for a week or two. And then reassess. Add in another one. Or two. And see what happens?
I would love to know your feedback – what worked for you? Do you have any tips to contribute to the community?
In the meantime, dream big and in the words of Ariana Huffington – ‘sleep your way to the top!‘
Sources and recommended reading:
- Thrive by Arianna Huffington
- The Blood Sugar Diet – Dr Mark Hyman
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