Get Some Bo-Peep
We can't underestimate the importance of sleep for our long term health and performance, and it is often neglected and overlooked. Our modern day lifestyles have become fast paced and highly stressful, with many people working late, eating poorly, and being exposed to external stimuluses before bed that all contribute to poor sleep.
Poor quality sleep weakens the immune system, increases our risk of diabetes and heart disease while negatively effecting our mood, concentration and memory. Studies show that after one night of sleep deprivation there is 6% less glucose reaching the brain. Glucose is a primary fuel source of the brain, and when depleted it can make us feel confused, and we can find it difficult to carry out simple tasks.
Poor Sleep also leads to cravings of sweet and salty foods. Our hormones become out of sync and our bodies become less adapted at processing sugar and these foods get stored as body fat allot easier. We've all had the feeling of walking around in a zombie like state, and have experienced how much of an effort daily tasks can be. Unfortunately this can start to feel 'normal' and we can end up on a vicious cycle of sleep deprivation.
But it doesn't have to be that way, and I've listed 6 strategies that can help improve the quality of your sleep.
Strategy No. 1
Have a Caffeine Curfew. Caffeine is a stimulant and disrupts our natural sleep cycles. Studies show it stays in our system up to 6-10 hours, and regular caffeine drinkers can lose an average of one hour of sleep a night without even knowing it. This can be a catalyst of a caffeine cycle, where we wake up feeling groggy, use caffeine to get us through the day, only for the effects to disrupt our sleep again at night.
Tips: If you have a set time you go to bed, count 6 hours back and cut caffeine off at that time. Even having a curfew of 10am or 12pm can dramatically improve the quality of our sleep that night.
Go 2 days on 3 days off. It takes 3 days for caffeine to completely leave our system, which will obviously impact our sleep. Also, when intelligently reintroduced caffeine will provide us with full cognitive and fat burning benefits it did when we first started drinking it.
Strategy No. 2
Avoid screens before bedtime. Blue light emitted from screens, disrupts our natural biological clock and hormone production. Being exposed to blue light before bed decreases production of our sleep hormone, Melatonin. This dramatically delays the onset of sleep when he do finally hit the sack.
Tip: Avoid watching TV, or using laptops and mobile phones at least two hours before bed. Use night mode on devices or the free app f.lux if you are doing work on your laptop in the evening. Dim the lights inside, when it gets dark outside and try to avoid prolonged exposure to bright lights too close to bed.
Strategy No. 3
Sleep only. We want our brains to associate our bedroom with sleeping only. Our brains are looking for automated behaviour based on our environment. Certain things become automatic when we walk into certain rooms at specific times of the day.
An example of this is strolling into the living room after a long day at work and turning on the TV. Or walking into the kitchen early in the morning and switching on the kettle or opening the fridge. We don't have to consciously think about these things, they just become automatic and part of our behaviour.
If our bedroom is a busy place where we watch TV, scroll through social media or work on our laptop, our brains will light up expecting us to do these things when we walk into our bedroom.
Tip: Get the TV out of the bedroom, or make the bedroom a no mobile and laptop zone. Create a peaceful environment in your bedroom, this will ensure you get a restful nights sleep.
Strategy No. 4
Brain dump. Our minds can be clogged up by the end of the day. To do lists, work related issues, e mails, or life stresses can make us feel anxious, upset or angry and our minds can start racing. We usually start thinking of these things when we're in bed, and everything can feel allot worse than it actually is. We end up wide awake, staring up at the ceiling or toss and turn throughout the night.
Tip: All you need is a blank piece of paper and a pen, to write everything down. No matter how big or how small an idea or thought is, just unload everything that’s on your mind. Leave that piece of paper in a place where you can find it in the morning and tackle it then. This clears our mind, relieves any anxious feelings and helps release any tension we might be holding, helping us fall asleep faster when we decide to go to bed.
Strategy No. 5
Read fiction books. Reading fiction books can help us fall asleep faster by tapping into parts of our brain. Reading fiction books taps into our right side brain associated with creativity imagination and present attention, and shuts off the left side of our brain associated with rational thinking and future planning.
Tips: Avoid reading any work related, business or motivational books. Choose fantasy books or autobiographies that are easy to read, and help separate us from the world we are in, and into the world we are reading, calming our nervous system, sending us into a dream like state.
Strategy No. 6
Make your room as dark as possible. Artificial light from LED lights, street lamps or screens, interfere with our sleep cycles. We have light receptors in our skin that picks up artificial light, sending messages to our brain and organs that interfere with our sleep cycles.
Tips: Get TV and devices out of the room, cover LED lights, or replace appliances that might be projecting blue light into your bedroom. Buy a set of blackout curtains to block out any unwanted light. Having your room as dark as possible will create the natural environment for the body to do it's job while your sleeping.
Sleep should be something that's respected and cherished. We all want to have more energy, be happier and healthier each day, and this all starts with getting quality sleep.