Movement, Mindset and Mindfulness
Ideas and tips
I realise the irony of editing this late at night just before National Sleep Day.
How many of us stay up later than we want to in order to get 'that thing' done? How many of us wake up in the middle of the night thinking about something that we feel stressed about? Let's have a think about the importance of sleep before giving you some Office Om techniques to help.
Whilst sleep is a vital physical function, as a culture we are rather blasé about it. We wear our tiredness like a badge of honour, almost as if by declaring how little sleep we’ve had shows how strong we are or how hard we are working.
The fact of the matter is that if we aren’t getting enough sleep this impacts our health. Our bodies need sleep to perform all daily functions. Rest and recovery is an essential to allow our bodies to heal and grow.
When we don’t get enough sleep or if our quality of sleep is poor, our health begins to suffer. Waking up in the middle night and having difficulty getting back to sleep can be a sign of stress or that something is worrying us. Having difficulty falling asleep can be frustrating and stressful. The health impact of not getting enough sleep can include, obesity, increased risk of diabetes, depression, not being able to concentrate and ultimately it can shorten life expectancy. This is making me want to get to bed.
One in three of us suffers from poor sleep and the causes include stress, our addiction to our electronic and mobile devices, work load, and even what you eat and drink. If you wake up feeling as tired as you were when you went to bed, find yourself craving an afternoon nap, or feel like you are constantly tired and irritable, the chances are you aren’t getting enough sleep.
Feeling tired yet?
We don’t have to spend our entire lives feeling exhausted. As a society being tired is something we complain about a lot but shouldn't be an accepted state of being or the norm.
There are lots of simple steps we can take and small changes we can make to our daily routines that can have huge benefits of the quantity and quality of our sleep.
Sleep hygiene doesn’t mean clean sheets or brushing your teeth before you go to bed. Sleep hygiene refers to the habits and practices that promote sleeping well on a regular basis. Establishing good routines means better sleep and more of it.
Here are some small changes you can make if you find yourself constantly in a sleep deficit.
A relaxing and peaceful space can make a surprising difference helping us get to sleep. Try to make sure your bedroom is free of clutter and reduce all light sources, both natural and artificial.
Get into the habit of not taking your mobile device to bed. Many of us are guilty of our mobile phones being the last thing we look at in the evening and the first thing we look at it in the morning . The average person needs at least 8 hours sleep, maybe an hour more or less and the brain needs time to unwind at the end of the day. Reduce screen time in the evening to let your brain know bedtime is approaching.
Try to go to bed and get up at the same time everyday. The body and brain can be taught routine and our internal body clock is sensitive to change. Long daytime naps can disrupt our sleep patterns and make it much harder for us to fall asleep at night.
Artificial Energy Boosts
Try to reduce the amount of caffeine you consume throughout the day. Even small amounts of caffeine can have a big effect on our ability to fall and remain asleep. Don’t rely on artificial energy boosts to get you through periods of fatigue. This short term hit can have long term consequences on your quality of sleep.
Diet & Exercise
Regular exercise promotes and aids sleep. Sometimes we may be mentally exhausted but still physically wired. Many people suffer from a condition called “Restless Legs” which is often worse at night when lying down, making it difficult to fall asleep. Regular exercise improves circulation and can lessen this often irritating condition. Eating well and drinking are also essential self care practices that we should be doing everyday. By fuelling and hydrating our bodies properly our vital organs are able to perform their vital functions.
Relaxation Routines and techniques
Relaxation routines before bedtime have been shown to help people who are experiencing sleeping problems and disrupted sleep patterns. There are lots of techniques you can try including massage, relaxing music, herbal teas, reading and taking a bath. Essentially, anything that helps you feel relaxed.
If you do wake up in the middle of the night, often our bodies and minds have gone into a stress response. For me, this is a red flag that I need to sort something out in the day and sometimes when we are over-stressed, some sort of action is needed to do something about it. Just not in the middle of the night. We can see if you can mentally put it in a file or box for the daytime.
You can try the following techniques to help you feel relaxed and get back to sleep. They can also be used to get you to sleep in the first place:
Patience and consistency are crucial in forming new habits and it is important not to get hung up on perfection. If you don't manage to do get your routines done everyday don't give up. Taking care of yourself and making small changes over time will have a positive effect on your ability to fall and stay asleep.
Improved sleep means reduced stress levels, you are more alert during the day, improved memory, reduces the risk of depression and crucially, makes you more able to deal with the overall stresses and strains of daily life. Sleep also boosts our immune systems making it easier to fight off common ailments such as coughs and colds. Not getting enough sleep leaves us vulnerable to all sorts of health problems. Good quality sleep and enough of it has mental and physical health impacts that we each need to prioritise as essential in our lives.
Like most things, we all need different amounts of sleep and different techniques work for different people. It's important to build our self awareness of what works and what helps us feel good.
What helps you get a good night's sleep? We'd love to know your tips - comments below welcomed!
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Founder of Office Om, BACP registered counsellor, Yoga Alliance 200hr trained yoga teacher, Mental Health First Aid instructor and promoter of making daily life just that little bit better.