Saturday, 28 October 2017

Sleep | The Third Pillar of Health

A good night's sleep, what we all want every night, "I'd like to go to bed and have a really bad sleep", said nobody, ever!

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Over the years I've become more and more attuned to how important sleep is and I'm now fascinated by the subject. Whenever I hear something on the radio on the topic, read an article or see something on TV I store the information and as a result am now my very own personal sleep expert! I can see a huge difference in how I feel - and even look - when I get a good night's sleep. Medical experts have also noted its importance, along with healthy eating and regular exercise sleep has now become the third pillar of health.

Owing to my sleep obsession I've realised that if I want to be cheerful, energetic, mentally sharp and have more patience especially for my children, I have to get a good night's sleep. When I get the right amount of good quality sleep it restores me, it's healing and puts me in the best possible mindset to have a calm, fulfilling day; and that's what I want every day.

Here are some of the tips I've learnt on the topic of sleep over the years and now apply every day...

SLEEP PREP

I mistakingly thought that getting a good sleep started the moment you got into bed. Not the case... you can and should gently prepere for sleep throughout the day.

NAPS

It may sound obvious but don't nap before bedtime. That sleep on the couch in front of the TV at 9.30pm is NOT going to help you get the best possible night-time sleep. If you do find naps beneficial take a short nap before 2.30pm and only if it's not interfering with your night-time sleep. I never napped during the day until I was pregnant and had young babies and back then I always stuck to power naps but that's definitely a sleep topic for another day..

EXERCISE
One of the pillars of health and so beneficial to our well-being, however don't exercise close to bedtime. A rule of thumb is no more than 2-3 hours before. In my case a brisk walk after dinner is perfect as it leaves enough time between exercising and sleep.

ALCOHOL
Alcohol does NOT help you sleep and for that reason I do all my drinking during the day - Ha! Not really, but I never drink before bed and always limit my alcohol intake. It's so beneficial to our health if we don't over do it in the 'drink' department. Alcohol can send us off easily into the land of nod but really interfers with the quality of our sleep.

CAFFEINE
I love coffee but it's a well known fact that caffeine is directly related to insomnia so here's how I get around that. I have two strong cups of coffee in the morning but by 10am that's it, my coffee is over for the day. I have a cup of green tea or matcha at 3pm when Ross gets home from school. After that, no caffeine at all.  

BEDTIME DRINKS
Some people have a bath before bedtime but I just don't have time, so an easy way for me to relax before bed is to make myself a hot steaming cup of herbal tea - rooibos or camomile work great, I also like Yogi bedtime tea and have on occasion made Tim Ferris's unbeatable bedtime drink which I wrote about here.

WINDING DOWN
Winding down time works great for kids but it's something adults can benefit from too. Preparing for bed an hour or so before is a great way to get a good night's sleep. 

Screens 
Screens before bed interfere with the quality of our sleep. About an hour before bed I to try to turn off all screens and read a book instead.

Low lighting
We have three lamps in our bedroom which I switch off apart from one for reading that way I'm gently winding down with low lighting. Also harsh bathroom lights are a no-no, brush teeth and take off make-up earlier in the night so you can benefit from the soothing low lights before bedtime. Lighting lavendar candles in the bedroom (blown our before sleep of course) helps me to unwind too.

Preparing for the following day
When your head has too many tabs open write out any must-do tasks for the following day. You'll sleep better knowing everything is under control and nothing has slipped through the cracks. Also preparing for the following morning like laying out your clothes can help keep your mind free of any unnecessary thoughts during sleep. I do all of this a good hour before bed so my mind has time to relax and I'm not thinking about to-do lists right before bed.
 
THE BEDROOM
Like the rest of my home I follow Feng Shui principles when it comes to my bedroom. Again it may sound obvious but make sure the bedroom is dark and quiet. Having a calm uncluttered room is key, and never store anything under the bed! 

INTERRUPTED SLEEP
There's nothing worse than preparing perfectly for sleep only to wake up tossing and turing in the middle of the night. I rarely have trouble falling asleep, which I put down to waking early, a habitual 'winding down' routine and a busy daytime schedule. What does interrupt sleep for me is the night-time waking and trying to solve the problems of the world and my life at 3am. This is the time when I worry about as many random things as I can think of and regularly obsess about how much nutritional value was in the food the boys ate during the day - really! Also when my boys were younger and woke up during the night I often found it difficult to get back to sleep myself. When this happened I did two things...

Mindful meditation


Pretend I'm going to fall through the bed
It relaxes your body and really works!



Having said all of that the best sleep tip is to have a regular sleep routine with no wild differences by going to bed and waking up at around the same time everyday, and getting a minimum of 8 hours sleep to function at your optimum.

When you get a good night's sleep you do a great day's work. Onwards and upwards!

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