Oct 31, 2022
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Don’t Underestimate The Importance Of Sleep, Here’s why…
I would love for you to not underestimate the importance of sleep in your own wellbeing.
In your ability to show up.
In your ability to be less reactive.
In your ability to be more tolerant of others.
In your own happiness.
It’s so, so easy, as I say a lot, to underestimate the small things or the simple things that can make the biggest difference to you.
It’s also so easy to go after something we feel is a more ‘obvious’ fix to how we’re feeling about ourselves day to day, or looking for a quick fix unicorn that promises to blast away all your problems in 5 minutes. But if we had more mental capacity that thing would change on its own or at the very least change the way we look at that particular issue or thing we’re struggling with.
I’m always trying to show you the simple ways in which you can make big changes and transform your life and it’s all too easy to ignore or simply underestimate the basics.
There are obviously going to be people listening to this who have many reasons why their sleep is bad. From parenthood to sleep disorders. I get it, I do. So please don’t beat yourself up for anything I go into here. And please do speak to a professional if you think you might have a sleep disorder.
Of course your full 8-9 hours would be glorious but life gets in the way.
This is about finding ways to improve the quality of what you CAN get and making sure you can try to prioritise it in even small ways like asking someone for support whether that’s a loved one or a professional.
Don’t let the fact you might struggle to get your full 8 hours stop you trying to make incremental improvements.
Remember it’s all about the slowly slowly catchy monkey.
You don’t have to change everything at once but you can try to improve your habits bit by bit.
Now, I’m not a sleep expert of course and I will give you the name of a couple to go investigate for yourself so I'm merely talking from my own experience and also seeing the difference in my clients when they do and don’t have good sleep.
It’s not just the amount of time you spend in bed, it’s the quality of that sleep.
My sleep is something I've tracked with my fitbit and prioritised for many years now.
Back in 2013/2014 when I was at the height of my anxiety I would probably get about 3-3.5 hours of broken sleep per night, and it definitely wasn’t great quality sleep.
It had a profound effect on my life.
I was far more reactive and short tempered.
I couldn’t concentrate or focus well at work.
I felt tired ALL the time.
I felt foggy and had this feeling of dissociation and confusion a lot of the time.
I was moody and far more irrational.
I craved comfort/junk food ALL the time.
I was also super forgetful and that’s not like me at all.
I just didn’t feel like me!
Lack of sleep in general has also been linked to a decreased immune system and other health factors, sleepfoundation.org has lots of resources on this too.
This isn’t something I've absolutely nailed but it’s something I strive to improve every day.
I do get 7-8hrs of sleep every night now without fail. I also don’t have children which helps that, so again, don’t use anyone else as your bench mark, simply aim for changing small things you can to improve the quality of your sleep where you can.
My focus is looking for ways to improve the amount of deep sleep and REM sleep I get because they’re just so important.
I’ll give you a few of the ways I've improved this and you can also do your own research with the experts I'll give you too.
Sleepfoundation.org is a great resource. I also love listening to Andrew Huberman who is a neuroscience professor at Stanford university and he has his Huberman Lab podcast which is also a great resource and he’s done lots of episodes on sleep.
So, let’s take REM sleep. Most of us are aware of REM sleep and most will associate it with dreaming. REM stands for rapid eye movement.
It’s important and serves several functions such as memory and learning consolidation and emotional processing and brain development. It looks after your brain!
Slow wave/deep sleep is super important because it looks after your body too. This is where the body repair takes place and some more lovely brain stuff too.
So essentially without these stages of sleep you aren’t repairing your brain and body efficiently. That’s not going to help you in your waking hours to feel your best!
I’m not going to go into the sciencey stuff too much because as I say, I’m not an expert and I certainly don’t want to tell you the wrong thing but I can tell you how much of a difference focusing on it helped me and the small improvements I made that really helped me achieve that. Please do go to the resources I've mentioned if you want to understand deeper.
There’s a cascade effect throughout your life when you prioritise sleep.
You feel more alert.
More capacity to cope with what life throws at you.
Your focus and memory improves.
Your mood improves.
And with all that it’s not difficult to see how much easier life could be.
So here are a few of the things that really made a difference for me.
I block out all light and sound. I look glorious when I sleep because I have a mouth guard to stop me grinding my teeth and I have a black silk sleep mask and jelly earplugs.
My alarm is my fitbit which I love for 2 reasons. Firstly it vibrates on your wrist to wake you up which is much kinder and there is also a function called ‘smart wake’ which wakes you up in the most efficient cycle of sleep for you to feel alert and awake. It’s always harder to wake up if you’re in a deep sleep cycle so I find this super helpful.
Not eating late is a big one. I don’t win this battle every day and I notice the difference when I do. I believe the ideal is 4 hour before you go to bed.
Alcohol is an absolute sleep stealer for me. If I know I'm going to have a drink I adjust the next day accordingly because I KNOW my sleep isn’t going to be good.
We switched to decaf tea so we can still enjoy it when we like but I don’t have caffeine after lunch.
I use blue blocker glasses (you can get prescription blue blockers which mine are) for any screen time from the afternoon.
I try to get outside as soon as I can because natural sunlight sets your circadian rhythm.
I go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time every day.
Making sure you have a cool room is also a biggie.
Warm baths and showers about an hour before bed help me drift off more quickly.
I use a sleep pillow spray or essential oil roll on on my pillow and wrists.
HeartMath, meditation and my Sensate also help. Particularly if I do wake up in the night, they help me drift back off quickly.
Yoga nidra is great for sleep.
I exercise most days but in the morning, not late at night.
A night time routine is helpful to prepare your body and mind for sleep. I personally journal at night and I might read a bit to help me drop off too.
This isn’t an exhaustive list but I’m hoping there might be some super simple things in here that can help you start to make incremental improvements.
For you it might be enlisting a loved one by saying ‘Hey, I desperately need some good Zzzs please could you x, y, z’ That could be look after the kids, sleep in another room, go for a nap in the day…I don’t know, you do you!
I’d just love for you to remember the cascade effect it can have.
We’re SO quick to label or diagnose or beat ourselves up if we’re not feeling our best and it’s easy to ignore the things that can make a profound difference.
Could you simply really need a good night's sleep?