I put a message out to most clients a couple of days ago and did the same on social media asking the following: ‘If you could change one thing currently during this lockdown period which would improve your health or fitness, what would it be?’ The response was unexpected. A large percentage of you cited ‘improve sleep’ as your one thing you could change. On a personal level, I have never been too bothered with stressful situations – or so I thought. I would not normally fret or worry. I still don’t. However stressful situations would manifest themselves physically. I’d be about to start a race at school and would be quite chilled. Then all of a sudden I’d get sick. My stress and tension came out that way. In mid March, I too was having sleep issues. It was the time when many of us were concerned about the impact this unknown situation was to have – for us, for family and friends, for our businesses. Again, it was playing on my mind consciously. However, I was waking up with palpitations and slightly out of breath. I put it down to caffeine, I put it down to alcohol, I put it down to eating too late. The reality was that it was stress impacting on my sleep. Only when I was able to successfully pivot my work online, did this end. Had you asked me if I was stressed, I’d have said no. For many of you to be having sleep issues is therefore not surprising. But the impact of poor sleep is huge. I have previously written a blog about why we sleep and I’m going to reapply the 12 tips which I provided on that blog previously as I think that they may be more important now more than ever.
12 tips for better sleep
- Stick to a sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Sleeping later on weekends won’t fully make up for a lack of sleep during the week and will make it harder to wake up early on Monday morning.
- Exercise is great, but not too late in the day. Try to exercise at least thirty minutes on most days but not later than two to three hours before your bedtime.
- Avoid stimulants: caffeine and nicotine.
- Avoid alcoholic drinks before bed. Having a nightcap or alcoholic beverage before sleep may help you relax, but it’ll also keep you in the lighter stages of sleep. This means you miss out on valuable dream sleep which helps to improve your memory.
- Avoid large meals and beverages late at night.
- If possible, avoid medicines that delay or disrupt your sleep.
- No naps after 3 p.m. Naps can help make up for lost sleep, but late afternoon naps can make it harder to fall asleep at night.
- Relax before bed. Don’t overschedule your day so that no time is left for unwinding. A relaxing activity, such as reading or listening to music, should be part of your bedtime ritual.
- Take a hot bath before bed. The drop in body temperature after getting out of the bath may help you feel sleepy, and the bath can help you relax and slow down so you’re more ready to sleep.
- Dark bedroom, cool bedroom, gadget-free bedroom. Get rid of anything in your bedroom that might distract you from sleep, such as noises, bright lights, an uncomfortable bed, or warm temperatures. You sleep better if the temperature in the room is kept on the cool side, aim for around 18 degrees.
- Have the right sunlight exposure. Don’t get stuck in an office all day and miss out on a little bit of natural light (especially in the winter). Daylight is key to regulating daily sleep patterns.
- Don’t lie in bed awake. This is a little cognitive behavioural therapy whereby If you find yourself still awake after staying in bed for more than twenty minutes or if you are starting to feel anxious or worried, get up and do some relaxing activity until you feel sleepy. The anxiety of not being able to sleep can make it harder to fall asleep.
Download our sleep checklist
To help you analyse your own sleep, we’ve developed a downloadable sleep checklist. The aim is to be able to answer yes to all 12 questions. Once you can, we expect you’ll begin to enjoy significantly better shut-eye.