Sleep, or rather how to get a decent night of it, is something we all seem to be obsessed with these days. More sleep, promises sleep gurus, will make us thinner, healthier, more productive, better at our jobs. If they are to be believed all we need is a little more sleep to make this world a better place. Considering 39% of people in England suffer from disrupted sleep and insomnia symptoms according to recent data from the British National Psychiatric Morbidity Survey and only 17% of us sleep well most nights according to a Sleep Council Survey, there may just be some truth to this claim.
In his new publication Sleep: The Myth of 8 Hours, the Power of Naps… and the New Plan to Recharge your Body and Mind, bed salesman turned sleep guru Nick Littlehales suggests instead of obsessing over getting eight hours sleep a night, we need to think of sleep in terms of 90-minute cycles, much easier to manage than the eight-hour stretch.
Here are some quick tips to get your best sleep ever, according to Littlehales.
Set a consistent wake-up time – even on the weekends!
To adjust your circadian rhythm, keep to the same wake-up time every morning, ideally 90 minutes before you need to start work to allow you to wake up properly, get some exercise or meditate and have something to eat before you kick off your day.
Draw the curtains as soon as you wake up
Instant daylight pouring in from the window will kick-start your body’s production of serotonin, the hormone that wakes you up. In bleak winter months, you may cheat your way to sunshine with a dawn-wake simulator such as Lumie.
Avoid your phone for the first 15 minutes
Don’t check your phone as soon as you open your eyes in order not to induce any more cortisol (a hormone produced in response to stress) production in the early hours of the morning. You should try and avoid any work related emails for the first 90 minutes of the day if you can.
Refuel your body with breakfast
After the night’s fast, your body is in need of some fuel first thing in the morning. Even if you don’t feel hungry as soon as you wake up, try to have something light such as toast or a smoothie in the first 90 minutes after you’ve woken up. If you can, try to have your breakfast outdoors or in a sunny room so you can have some more natural daylight.
Try to get in some exercise
An early morning run or a swim might be a stretch for most of us, but easing yourself into the day by breaking a little sweat even if it’s in the form of a 15-minute exercise, will boost your serotonin levels.
Do drink coffee if you need do
Coffee often gets bad rep, but used in a controlled way it need not disrupt your sleep and can in fact be a great performance enhancer. Keep in mind that the recommended daily allowance is 300-400mg. and it takes seven hours to leave your system. If you enjoy a cup of coffee to wake up in the morning, by all means, treat yourself. Within the daily allowance, you can have a second cup of homemade coffee which is around 120-200mg. to fight the afternoon slump too.
Take regular short breaks during the day
Taking regular short breaks throughout the day will not only ensure our minds perform at their optimum but will also lead to better quality of sleep at night. No time? No problem. Force yourself to take short breaks even if it is to just get out of your chair and walk around the office or close your eyes and clear your mind for a few minutes.
Squeeze power naps into your day
Easier said than done of course, but even getting a 30-minute shut eye on your evening commute can make a major difference. A NASA study suggest that a 26-minute nap can improves a pilot’s alertness by 54% while according to a study by Univeristy of Düsseldorf even short naps can enhance memory processing. Set your alarm clock to 30 minutes, close your eyes and let go.
Eat your final meal of the day at least 90 minutes before sleep time
Try to aim for one or two cycles before bedtime for your last meal of the day. This doesn’t mean you cannot dine out and have a late evening, that is. The beauty and ease of seeing sleep in 90-minute cycles is what you miss the night before you can easily make up for the next day by going to bed one cycle earlier.
Unwind before bedtime
Meditation, yoga, running a bath, a cup of camomile tea; whatever it is you choose, try to establish a bedtime ritual to signal to your brain that it is time to unwind and relax. I opt for liquorice and mint Yogi Tea which helps me unwind. During this period, avoid any information overload, your smartphone too if you can, also try to move from light to dark – low lighting and candle lights work especially well. Spray your pillow with This Works Deep Sleep Pillow Spray to instantly create a sense of calm and relaxation.
Treat your bedroom like a sanctuary
Think of your bedroom like a physical and mental recovery room away from any technology, gadgets, paraphernalia which will keep you mentally alert. If you can, lose all the standby items like the TV, and avoid bringing your laptop to your bed. You should have a clear demarcation between your sleeping space and anything that can disrupt your sleep.