Sleep 101

How well do you sleep?  Do you have a job that allows for a regular sleep time?  Do you work shifts where that routine is ruined?

Sleep is funny thing.  When you’re younger, you can survive on next to none.  As we get older, we seem to need more, but life sometimes means that we get much less.

Sleep and rest is so important for recovery and repair.  Nutrition and training is good for building the improvements, but they only stick when we get enough sleep for the changes to happen.  It’s the same with illness.  Being constantly sleep deprived can affect how quickly we get over sickness, and whether we’re susceptible to picking up every passing germ.

There are plenty of hints and tips to getting a better night’s sleep, but you need it all to fit your life (like most things), there’s no point in me telling you (advising) what you should be doing, if your lifestyle just doesn’t allow that to happen.

Have a think about your sleep pattern and see if there are any changes/ improvements that can be made:

  • Get into a regular sleeping routine – maximising the amount of sleep you can get.

The amount of sleep you get is important, but you clearly can’t magic more sleep time out of thin air.  If you have small children who wake early, maximise the quality of sleep you have, which will help you feel refreshed.  If you go to bed at 12 and they wake you at 6, then get the best 6 hours sleep you can.  Or can you juggle things around, so you can get to bed earlier?
I work an irregular shift pattern – some days I’m up at 5:50am to be in the office before 7; other days I’m not in until 10am, so can have a lie-in.  Most days I like to be in bed as soon after 10pm as I can, whether I’m up early or not.

  • Think about your bedroom. Is it filled with technology which can distract you away from what your bedroom should be for?

I have a routine where I plug my phone in and then forget about it until my alarm goes off, I have a book which I read to calm my mind down (nothing too taxing, just a trashy novel), so I have time before I turn in for my mind to stop thinking about things that have happened, social media or TV.

  • Another important factor when it comes to sleep quality and quantity is caffeine.

Imagine this – getting into a vicious cycle of caffeine reliance to get you through the day because you haven’t had enough sleep, then not sleeping due to having caffeine too late in the day, waking up the next morning and needing a strong coffee to wake up…… see the pattern?

By taking away caffeine too late in the day, we allow our bodies to get into the sleep pattern we need, meaning that we wouldn’t need to rely on caffeine to see us through the day.
For about the last 10 years, I haven’t had coffee after 12noon.  On the very, very odd occasion that I have, I’ve been wide awake and unable to sleep.  I don’t have the need for coffee to wake me up in the morning, but it’s part of my morning routine – not reliant, but I love a good cup of coffee first thing in the morning.  If I don’t have it, I can still function.

  • Alcohol is also a stimulant, so you might want to look at drinking before bed.

Ever have that feeling after a heavy drinking session that you just haven’t slept?  You probably haven’t had the best quality sleep, which can affect you for a few days afterwards.
I’m not saying don’t drink, but just think about how it affects your sleep pattern.  If you’re struggling to sleep properly, it might be an idea to limit alcohol intake for a while and see what impact that has.

  • Stress can also impact your sleep patterns.

Mind racing as you’re trying to drop off; waking in the middle of the night thinking about tasks for the next day; or waking early in a cold panic about something you’ve forgotten to do.
I know plenty of people who keep a notebook by the bed for this very reason.  Write a to-do list for the next day before you start your bedtime routine, then you can forget about it.

If you have any great tips or strategies, I’d be keen to hear them.

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