Our top tips for getting a good night’s sleep

Sleep. It’s one of those things we all say we need more of. For me, sleep was always one of those “tasks” that I could catch up on later – much like the personal admin jobs piling up at the end of my to-do list. Constantly shuffling the priority of my sleep health onto other more “pressing” issues – like running a business. 

I fully expected that one day I would be able to catch up on all my hours of missed sleep, like toping up my water bottle to stay hydrated or refilling my car to get from A to B. And with that particular example, sleep is not something that we can effectively “catch up” on, contrary to belief. Sleep effectively allows everything else to carry on and without it, our body will start to deteriorate.

Reading Dr. Matthew Walkers’ ‘Why We Sleep’, opened my eyes (pun intended) to the real health complications associated with poor sleeping habits, including the onset of both physical and mental disease. Why spend some much time in the gym, so much time focussing on what you put in your body, then only to neglect it when it really needs your attention the most. 

Here are our top tips, inspired by the doctor himself, to get on top of your sleeping habits and start to prioritise your rest and recovery, as much as your physical health.

Find a routine. Your body’s internal clock follows a specific sleep-wake cycle. Going to bed late one night and early the next throws your circadian rhythm off balance. Attempting to catch-up on missed sleep (sleep deficit) over the weekend may not always be effective and can result in physical and mental fatigue. Thus, adhering to a daily sleep schedule can be highly beneficial for your overall health and well-being.

Reduce caffeine and nicotine consumption. Caffeine temporarily blocks the signal from adenosine, a crucial sleep chemical in your brain, which nonetheless continues to accumulate. This pent-up adenosine eventually breaks through, causing a dramatic crash, often at inopportune times. Nicotine, another stimulant, can lead to very light sleep. Tamp down on the alcohol. Alcohol before bed may help you relax, but too much of it can contribute to a lack of sleep. Alcohol robs you of REM sleep—the deep slumber your brain requires for optimal restoration. Heavy alcohol consumption can also impair your breathing at night and isn’t good for staying asleep, either (you tend to wake up multiple times, even if you don’t remember doing so).

Leave time to unwind. Create a relaxing routine before bed—like reading, listening to music, or doing light stretching. Matthew also recommends keeping a worry journal, which can help you process difficult emotions before bed.

Check your devices at the door. Think of the ideal bedroom as a prehistoric cave somewhere in the Great North: cool, dark, and gadget-free. Charge your phone in another room, get rid of electronics that cause noise, and ditch the alarm clock, which can make you hyper-aware of every passing minute.

Get some sun. Exposing yourself to natural sunlight for at least 30 minutes a day can help regulate your sleep patterns. Aim to catch those rays in the morning, which can make you more alert as you start your day. Also, turn the lights down before bedtime to avoid disrupting melatonin production.

Right now, you’re probably sitting there, berating yourself for doing the opposite of all of the above. But don’t. It’s all about finding the routine that works for you, it’s just important to understand the bigger picture and how the compounding effect of poor sleep can ultimately lead to more serious health complications than just being a little sleepy at your desk.

If you haven’t already, get your hands on a copy of ‘Why We sleep’ to learn more!

By Charlotte Griffin
TFS Founder & Trainer

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