This week is Sleep Awareness Week.
We all know how much more of a struggle life can be if we’re tired and we all know we need to sleep, but how many of us prioritise sleep?
How often do you delay bedtime to watch an extra episode of your latest box set or lose yourselves in Instaworld? Hands up who goes to bed an earlier later than when they first think, “I should really go to bed,” because it’s easier to stay on the sofa? Mine goes up.
The science of sleep has become a huge topic in recent years. Check out Matthew Walker’s Why We Sleep and Arianna Huffington’s The Sleep Revolution. The upshot of both books is, if you value your brain, get more sleep.
How well and how much you sleep impacts:
Your mood – who isn’t crankier when they’re tired?
Your appetite - we’re more likely to reach for quick energy options when we’re tired, namely junk and caffeine.
Your coping mechanisms – if you’re tired, you’re more likely to feel overwhelmed.
If you’re a parent reading this, you’re probably rolling your eyes. I know. Yeah, we need at least 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep a night – great, but who’s telling our kids? Nothing can prepare you for the brutality of chronic sleep deprivation as a parent but whether you’re a parent or not, there are some things you can strive for each day, to improve the quality of your sleep.
Here are my top 6 tips for getting some better Zzzzzz…
1. Step away from the light… at least an hour before bed, PUT. YOUR.PHONE. DOWN. The blue light that screens emit suppress the production of melatonin, which helps our brain to regulate our circadian rhythm. To be avoided.
2. Try not to have caffeine after midday – caffeine has a half-life of 5-6 hours, so that post-lunch latte may be affecting how well you sleep, even if you don’t realise it.
3. Keep your bedroom as dark as possible – start with low lights in the evening to prepare the body for sleep. If your curtains or blinds let in light, try sleeping with an eye mask.
4. Keep tech OUT of the bedroom. No phones, no laptops or tablets.
5. Try and leave a few hours after eating before bed. The better you have digested your meal, the better you’ll sleep. And avoid late night snacking for the same reason.
6. Aim to do 5 minutes of relaxation before bed - this can take the form of deep breathing. This can be as simple as a series of deep, slow breaths. Try the 4-7-8 breath - breathe in for the count of 4, hold for the count of 7, and slowly let your breath out for the count of 8. It takes a little practice but give it a go. Build up to ten rounds.
So, if only for this week, aim to be in bed just half an hour earlier each night and see how you feel. More energised? Better skin? Less hungry? Happier? I'll take any of those.
Netflix can wait.