Have you ever been kept awake at night by stressing about the fact you were still awake? Ridiculous isn’t it? You’re definitely not alone though, with one in three Australians regularly struggling with their sleep.
Here’s how to help yourself get to sleep, and stay asleep for long enough that your body repairs.
- Remove Stress
I’m not talking about life stress, although that will help, I’m talking about stress around sleep. Some sleep experts suggest that rather than aiming for eight uninterrupted hours of sleep per night, we aim for 35 sleep cycles per week. A cycle is around 90 minutes and involves going from awake, to light sleep, to deep sleep (repairing), and then REM sleep (dreaming). If the eight hours can’t or didn’t happen one night, don’t stress just catch up with a nap or a big sleep in on the weekend.
- Kill The Lights
Most of us have many bright lights and various screens on in the house up until we go to bed. When we are overloaded with light the body doesn’t produce the hormone Melatonin which signals the body to sleep. In fact, one hour of iPad reading before bed will delay Melatonin release by 3 hours, less is released overall and REM sleep is decreased. Turn the screens off at least an hour before sleep time, and even dim the lights in the house. Since we no longer sleep when the sun goes down, turn off as many lights as you can to start signalling the body it’s wind down time.
- Keep It Cool
Our bodies and brains actually need the temperature to drop a little in order to sleep well. Set the temperature on your heater or air conditioning to drop in the middle of the night and slowly rise again towards waking time. Or don’t use them at all and let the natural temperature changes do their work.
- Get Your Kit Off
Many of us swear by this and now the science backs it up; you will sleep better at least semi-naked. The body is better able to regulate temperature, and you’re not getting tangled in fabric. Just have a bathrobe handy if you need to get up and out during the night.
- Create a Ritual
Having both a regular bed time and a routine or ritual around bed time not only signals to the body and brain that it’s sleep time, it can also ease stress. Secure the house, have a hot bath, dim the lights or whatever will work for you, just be consistent.
- Eat and Drink
Being too full decreases the quality of sleep because the body is digesting instead of restoring. If we go to bed hungry though, the body stays in a stress state and we don’t get the restorative benefits of sleep. While sleep does dehydrate us, ideally we don’t want to get up for the bathroom through the night so ease up on the water an hour before bed. Ease up on the alcohol at the same time. We may feel like alcohol puts us to sleep but it’s actually sedating us, (not the same thing) and it causes us to miss out on REM sleep.
This may seem like a lot but it really is just a few little tweaks to your evening, and the payoff is huge. Good sleep repairs and restores the body, improves mood and brain function, enhances athletic performance and even skill acquisition. To me that is well worth the effort.