Sleep is something that I discuss regularly with my clients and yet, despite most of us knowing, at a deep level, that sleep is fundamental to building and maintaining a healthy life, we let other things take precedence over it – screen time, stress, poor time management, the distractions of modern life.
I have personally struggled to maintain a rigorous sleep routine for years. Burning the candle at both ends in my youth and then again, albeit unintentionally, as a young mother. Is it any wonder that now, when I feel the calming allure of my melatonin increasing in the evening, I still find distractions that prevent my body’s natural sleep cycle from beginning its healing process.
As a nation we are in poor sleep health with millions suffering from diagnosed sleep disorders, snoring and drowsiness or fatigue during the day. Many of my clients list sleep difficulty as one of their issues. Poor sleep leads to poor cognitive function and less effective neural detoxification. If we don’t sleep well, our immune systems may be unable to function at their best – which can result in compromised immunity and impaired ability to fight infection and disease.
Sleep specialist, Dr Bruce states that if you are trying to pinpoint the best time to go to bed, work backwards from the time you need to wake. So, if you need to rise at 7am, minus seven to eight hours from that time, plus the fifteen minutes it should take to get off to sleep. Research shows that seven to eight hours is about right in terms of sleep duration, but that the quality of sleep is also important. But how do we go about achieving a lengthy, high quality, rejuvenating sleep?
- Sleep in a cool, dark room.
- Do not use screens within one hour of your pre-sleep routine.
- Reading a book before bed is good but the content needs to be neutral.
- As much as possible go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day. This will help train your biological clock.
- A hot bath before bed is an effective preparation for good quality sleep, add Epsom Salts to the water as the magnesium and raised body temperature have been proven to help induce sleep.
- Try to avoid stressful conversations within an hour of bed.
- Exercise, such as yoga can have a very positive impact on your ability to sleep and is best completed at least an hour before beginning your sleep prep.
- Blood sugar dysregulation can impact your sleep so ensure your meals are balanced throughout the day.
- Finish eating two to three hours before you go to bed.
It’s only human to focus on negative messaging when we feel we can’t do something – and sleep is no different. Be aware of your own sleep-mindset and like you would approach a physical challenge or an anxiety inducing work project, focus on positive thoughts, images and messaging around sleep. The Sleep Council suggest setting yourself a sleep challenge. You might want to try this yourself, using the suggestions above as a guide.
Know this, your body is designed to make the most of the healing power of sleep. With a few of the pointers in this post and a positive sleep attitude, you might be surprised how easily you drift off.