None of us are at our best when we are tired. A tired brain can also mean less blood to the parts of the mind where all our best thinking happens that allows us to make good, strategic decisions. It's therefore vital we get 7-8 hours of sleep a night for optimal brain performance, enabling us to face any challenges that come our way. Especially when we are stressed and being asked to make life changing decisions that will effect us and our children's future.
Here are some of my top tips for a good night's sleep.
- Natural sunlight during the day. Your body has a natural body clock known as your circadian rhythm which tells you when it’s time to sleep. Natural sunlight or bright light during the day helps keep your circadian rhythm healthy. It also improves daytime energy, as well as nighttime sleep quality and duration. Similarly, make sure you have good curtains or blackout blinds so if you do go to bed late, you aren't awoken by the natural light.
- Switch off at night. Exposure to light during the night tricks your circadian rhythm into thinking it’s still daytime. This reduces hormones like melatonin, which helps you relax and enter a deep sleep. Blue light from electronic devices is this worst for this, so switch off two hours before bed.
- Wind down. Start winding down an hour before you go to bed with calming activities, such as reading, yoga, meditation.
- Keep consistent times for bedtime - as soon as you start to change these it plays with your circadian rhythm.
- Daily exercise. Exercise is one of the best science-backed ways to improve your quality of sleep. Insomnia sufferers who exercise report a 55% reduction in time to fall asleep, wakefulness down 30%, anxiety 15%, and length of sleep improving by 18%. A word of caution, do NOT do it before bed as it increases alertness and hormones like epinephrine and adrenaline, which will have the opposite effect.
- Avoid stimulants in the evening. Caffeine stimulates your nervous system and may stop your body from relaxing at night. As for alcohol, no one wakes from a drunken sleep feeling refreshed, that’s because alcohol dehydrates you and is known to disturb your sleep pattern and increase the symptoms of sleep apnea and snoring.
- Beds are for sleep and sex only. It is best to take work materials, laptops and TV’s, or any other electronic devices out of your sleeping environment. Use your bed only for sleep and sex to strengthen the association between bed and sleep. If you associate a particular activity or item with anxiety about sleeping, take it out of your bedroom and your bedtime routine.
- Create a calming environment. We are hugely affected by our environment - temperature, noise etc. The optimal temperature for sleep is 18 - 20 degrees, more than that can cause a restless night. Also diminish noise to create a quiet, relaxing environment. This will improve your quality of sleep by 50%. Eyeshades, earplugs, “white noise” machines, or humidifiers can all help too.
- Avoid long naps in the day. While napping for 30 minutes or less can enhance daytime brain function; longer naps can harm health, and confuse your internal clock so keep them at bay.
I hope you find this helpful if you want to discuss in more detail feel free to contact me in the usual ways.