Sleep is a crucial part of our wellbeing, approximately 40% of adults report having sleep difficulties and also 40% have sleep quality issues. That’s a lot of adults walking around sleep deprived! Life, kids and family all play a part but once you get through to that next stage, I believe good quality sleep is possible.
During my teaching days I would drag myself out of bed each morning and fight the need for sleep for the rest of the day. Sometimes it would come to 9pm and I would get my second wind. Other times I was falling asleep by 7pm on the sofa after dinner. On the weekends I was too exhausted to do the things I loved and would spent way too much time continuing to work, or nap to try to get through the day.
If my overthinking or worrying mind took over at night. I would never sleep well and my sleep pattern was disrupted even further.
There were times I also remember waking up after 9 hours of sleep and still feeling exhausted. So the coffee, sugar pick me up cycle would begin.
I just presumed it was a part of working life and that’s what happens. I took it as a normal way of being and accepted the fact that I could only feel great when I was on holidays.
After looking into my sleep routine, what things affect sleep and reflecting on my days as a teacher. I have come to realise my hormones, stress levels and emotional wellbeing were all out of whack.
I take my hat off to my parents as the routine they did install in me as a child, certainly did help during these stressful times. I was trained by my parents to go to bed at a set time every night, and wake up at a set time each day. I now know that our bodies no matter what age, are able to do this as well.
We are able to program our bodies to slip into this routine. Our bodies do have this nature tendency, like when we get jet lag from travelling overseas. This clearly shows our bodies natural rhythm to sleep and wake up, its called the Circadian rhythm.
Our hormones also play a big part in getting a good night’s sleep.
The stress hormone Cortisol is needed to help us wake up and the sleep hormone Melatonin is needed to ensure we get quality sleep at night. Melatonin starts to increase in the body around 4pm and Cortisol will start to decrease, which is another reason you start to feel tired at the end of the day.
If we have too much coffee, refined sugar or stress, then it tells our body to release Cortisol to keep us awake. That is one of the reasons we can not sleep properly. Or we feel so pumped after watching an intense movie, out with friends or watching your favourite band or team play at night. You get home and you can not sleep straight away. Right? It’s because of this reason.
If you do not sleep properly that is where the coffee, sugar or stimulant cycle kicks in as well. You rely on the Cortisol to keep you awake during the day, which is released if you have all these stimulants. Our body perceives it is the energy that you need, from the sugarly food.
We need 7.5 to 9 hours of sleep a night and only a few percentage of the population can function on less than that.
Are you managing to get enough good quality sleep?
Below are my tips for changing your sleep routine, so you can wake up feelng more refreshed and ready to take on the day. This in turn will have a massive affect on the people around you as well.
Top tips to get a better night’s sleep
1. Set Bed time and wake up time – organise a set bedtime and a wake-up time somewhere between 9 and 11pm. This is where your hormone system is replenishing. If you are still working and not resting, your system is not able to fully recover, therefore your sleep hormone will not release itself at the right time. During our sleep we have 3 to 5 sleep cycles in a night, and each sleep cycle goes between 90 mins and 2 hours. Therefore, to work out the best time to go to bed, you start from when you need to wake up and work backwards. For example: if you need 8 hours sleep and you have a sleep cycle of 2 hours. This means you will have 4 cycles of 2 hours. So its best to go to bed around 10pm and get up at 6am. There is nothing worse than waking part way through a sleep cycle, as you feel terrible.
2. Training yourself to a sleep pattern – If you stick to regular pattern, your body will begin programming itself with this routine. It’s like when we travel overseas, we get jet lag because of the natural circadian rhythm. So, we can train ourselves to sync into this natural cycle of sleep. I recommend changing 1 thing at a time to your sleep routine and see the affect it has on you.
3. Wind down routine – 30 – 60 mins before you go to bed it’s important for you to wind down. Do something that you love – a bath with Epsom salts and essential oils, read a relaxing book, mediate, listen to relaxing music, some deep breathing, gentle stretching. Whatever works for you. Think of it like when we put children to bed. We give them a bath, they are then in their PJs and finally they are read a story before they sleep. Although we are adults, our brains need the same kind of routine, to clear the head from our day.
4. In the Bedroom – it needs to be dark, at the right temperature, a good pillow/mattress which assists in producing the sleep hormone Melatonin. An eye mask or even ear plugs can be super helpful as well. Sometimes clearing the space of clutter, can assist your mind into a more relaxed state.
5. Reduce stimulants – reduce the consumption of coffee, sugar, alcohol, fruit high in fructose and more. This allows the body to not react and release the stress hormones Cortisol. Particularly after lunch reducing these stimulants will help in training your body to release the right hormones at the right time.
6. Switch off TV and mobile devices 30 to 60 minutes before sleep – these devices again stimulant the production of Cortisol in our body, keeping us awake.
7. Food – eating too much or even not enough leaves our body in a state of stress. It’s trying to digest too much food or not enouch and therefore disturbing the hormones necessary for sleep.
8. Stress – reduce stress as much as possible. Deep belly breathing technique by Dr Andrew Weil where you breathe in for 4 counts, hold for 7 counts and breathe out for 8 counts, repeat 4 times. This is an excellent way to get your body to relax, even if you wake up in the middle of the night. If you are unable to keep up with the counts, then start slowly with what you can handle. Resource Therapy, Reiki, EFT Tapping and many other modalities can also assist if the stress gets too much.
9. Exercise – allows our bodies to burn off excess adrenaline. Therefore, balancing out the hormones in our body. Also releases happy hormones, Serotonin and Endorphins. Be careful on how late you exercise after work, as it will increase your stress hormone Cortisol.
10. Overthinking or worrying – firstly write down a list of all the things that you are worrying about. This helps get all the information out of your head and on to paper. See it like all the tabs that are open on your computer closing down. Then write down “What is the worst that could happen?” Third question “What can I do to prevent it from happening?” Finally a back up plan “What can I do if it does happen? Answer these questions a couple of hours before bed to sort out your mind. After you finish this exercise do some deep belly breathing.
There is no quick fix to the sleep puzzle but I would suggest changing one thing each week. Having a journal or some paper by your bedside to note down what you are changing and what you are feeling is a great way to start to train your body to sleep.
Let go of expectations and be curious to see what happens to your body. Like anything consistency is the best method to obtain the results you want and commitment means you will do what ever it takes to make sleep a priority for you.