So, what is so important about sleep anyway?
A good sleep is one of the most sought after resources in the world. It seems the more we yearn for it the less we get it. According to a study by the University of Hertfordshire 60% of Britons do not get enough sleep and sleep deprivation costs the American economy $411 billion in productivity. Loss of productivity relates to absenteeism, when people fail to turn up to work, but also presenteeism where people turn up to work and do not engage.
Not only is not getting enough sleep bad for productivity it also comes with some health concern. People who are sleep deprived are more likely to suffer from depression, heart disease, obesity and diabetes. Similarly tiredness can impact decision making and may lead to impulsiveness which may affect people’s relationships, career, or even accidents on the road.
Create a sleep sanctuary.
The bed, a place dedicated to sleep, has been corroded in the modern era. How do we help it to return to the sanctuary that it is?
Unplugging your life-line: Removing your phone, tablet or laptop from your bedroom can help you disassociate work and worry from your sleeping ritual. Not only are phones and other electronic devices a part of your busy active life, they also use a blue light which disrupts your sleep hormones.
Keeping them out of the bed or bedroom allows you to leave the business of work behind, and helps you to focus on relaxing and psychologically transitioning into sleeping mode.
Lighting in your bedroom is also important, as light activates the brain and wakes you up. Scientists suggest making the most out of natural light in the morning and making sure that bedrooms are dark with thick curtains and dimmed lighting. You should consider using a light bulb that isn’t so harsh for your lampshade. Similarly, using a night mask might also help with blocking out any light that you can’t control.
Invest in a good mattress and pillows. Mattresses often have a lifeline of around 9-10 years, so investing in a new comfortable one might be worth it if it is going to help you sleep better. Most recent tech is an anti-snoring mattress which might help you and/or your partner get some quality uninterrupted shut eye.
Try and disassociate sleeplessness with your bedroom..
So if you are struggling to get to sleep in your bed, try and move to another room to do something that is not stimulating and will make you tired. If you associate your bed with sleeplessness it may be difficult to break the pattern.
We have all heard enough about what we should and shouldn’t eat this january. As dry January or Veganuary has taken its hold it is difficult to remember that eating healthily and not drinking alcohol is not just for show is not only good for our waist-line but also our sleeping patterns.
Scientists suggest that we should limit heavy food around 2 hours before we go to bed and should stay away from spicy food that might mess with our indigestion. Similarly, while alcohol might be useful to help us get to sleep but it will not keep us asleep nor will it be a quality sleep.
Caffeine is well known to keep us awake. It might be our lifeline through the day but when it gets to the afternoon it may also be our nemesis. The caffeine in our system can build up throughout the day and come to affect us later in the evening. Studies suggest that caffeine intake ( including tea, coffee and energy drinks) should be limited after 2pm.
Want better sleep? Activity is encouraged… Whether this is 30 mins a day in the gym or a 10 minute walk around the park at lunch. Activity and exercise is a necessary element to encouraging your body to feel tired.
However, it does matter when you do your exercise. It is suggested that you do it in the middle of the day rather than in the evening as exercise. Like coffee, exercise is a stimulant which can keep you alert for hours after you’ve finished. While libidos may decrease with sleep deprivation, sex is one of the only forms of exercise that can help you get to sleep.
Prepare yourself for sleep
The way that we prepare children for sleep, we must also prepare ourselves for sleep. Whether that be a hot bath, a few sprays of lavender on your pillow or setting up a dimmed lamp to read a novel. Slowing down activity up to two hours before sleep can help aid your brain into a relaxed state.
Relaxation, not sleep should be the goal.
While relaxation does not replace sleep it can also be a useful way for you to enter the realm of slumber.
In the period before sleep you can plan for the next day, write a to do list for what you want to achieve the next day, set out your clothes or even go through a mental list of what you have done that day and what you want to focus on the next day. Reflecting can be a great way to relax and close off.
By focusing on relaxation as a goal, rather than sleep, you can take the attention and worry away from it so it comes more naturally. Similarly, we should move away from the aim that we must get 8 hours to function. While, eight hours may be a recommended guideline: sleep is different for everyone and the quantity and quality differs from person to person meaning that focussing on the golden eight hours might actually be shooting yourself in the foot rather than putting yourself on the road to a good sleep.
So, while sleep is different for everyone, the benefits of it are indisputable.
Try and find what best works for you. Reflection can be a useful tool to understand how and why you want to get better sleep and can put you one step closer towards actually achieving what you want.