Fail to prepare, prepare to fail!
A good night’s sleep is all in the preparation. Starting your day by preparing for the night of sleep ahead can make a real difference. Listed below are factors worth considering to help you sleep better:
Light – The Suprachiasmatic Nucleus (SCN) is a built in clock in your brain that regulates the circadian rhythm. It is located just behind our eyes and because of this it responds to light and dark and can affect our ability to sleep.
Many jobs are desk bound or indoors which lessens our exposure to natural light. Getting out into natural light for even 10-20 minutes can have a positive effect on this response and help you feel sleepy at the right times.
Creating a regular sleep alongside this will allow your circadian rhythm to become more in tune with your habits and result in a deeper, more restorative sleep.
Caffeine & alcohol – can have a significant effect on the quality of our sleep. Caffeine effects both the ability to fall asleep and the quality of that sleep, while alcohol effects the restorative quality meaning you may sleep however your body will not be in recovery mode. This means your body will not reap the benefits of sleep and will most likely wake up feeling below par and low in energy.
Try to keep alcoholic drinks to a minimum when trying to promote good sleep, 1 – 2 drinks maximum.
Caffeine is best consumed before 1pm, that way it will not affect your natural cortisol levels and prevent you from falling asleep at night.
Eat and drink moderately before sleep – try to taper your fluid intake down 2 hours before bed. Waking up during the night to go to the bathroom will disrupt your sleep and not allow you to have a continuous 7-9 hours.
Go to bed! One of the biggest causes of lack of sleep is voluntary sleep delay. Many of us push our bedtime back to watch another episode of a box set or finish a film. Research shows that going to sleep before 12am means sleep quality is better and the body is able to recover much more efficiently. Some research even says that an hour of sleep before 12am is worth 2 afterwards so hitting the pillow earlier is better.
Minimise the blue light – blue light from our phones, laptops and tablets has the same effect on our circadian rhythm as bright sunlight. If we are looking at these devices until the moment we go to bed, when we finally turn the lights off we will be wide awake and most likely unable to fall asleep.
It is now possible to turn blue light off from your devices with a night mode that can be timed to fit with your schedule, turn it off 3-4 hours before you go to sleep. If you have to work on a computer until late at night it might be a good idea to invest in a pair of blue light omitting glasses, they might not be the next feature in vogue however they completely cut out all blue light and allow you to get the deep restful sleep you need.
A positive sleep environment
The environment we go to sleep in is just as important as our actions before we go to sleep. Below are a few tips on how to make your bedroom a sleeping sanctuary.
Temperature – a bedroom needs to ideally be on the cool side to promote good sleep. The optimal temperature is around 20 degrees.
Create a bat cave – the darker the room the better. Investing in some blackout blinds and curtains, switching off all LED lights or any other light pollution in your room and turning your phone off or turn it face down will make sure you are not disturbed.
Create a calm & clutter free environment – a room that promotes calm and makes you feel relaxed will help you switch off and sleep well.
Avoid TV in bed – for the similar reasons to the blue light, watching TV in a dark room will not help you switch off. Instead try reading a book, listen to music or stretch.
Use a dawn stimulating alarm clock – if you have created a bat cave, waking up to natural light is going to be near impossible. Using an alarm clock that slowly wakes you up with natural increase in light has been shown to leave people feeling much more awake and alert compared to a jarring alarm clock.
It allows the cortisol levels to slowly rise which helps us feel awake and switched on in the morning. Similarly to this, using a progressive alarm clock that slowly builds noise in the room will help you wake in a more calm and natural way.
If you just can’t sleep, don’t panic!
Although going to sleep in the best form of reaching a restorative state that allows the body to repair and recover, research has now shown that we can still go into restoration mode whilst being awake and therefore still allow the body to recover and repair.
Lying in bed unable to sleep and becoming stressed about not falling asleep will only worsen the situation and lessen your chances of falling asleep.
If you are lying awake try to avoid looking at the clock, this will only cause your mind to start working and heighten stress levels. Focus on slowing your breath down and take deep breaths lasting 3-4 seconds in and out. This will lower stress levels and will most likely cause you to fall asleep.
If you are still unable to sleep be assured that when we slow the heart rate down and mimic the type of deep breaths taken during sleep our body is still able to get some rest and go into a restorative state.