Eat, Move, Sleep by Tom Rath has rocked my world. Unfortunately, it has not yet rocked me to sleep but I remain hopeful that in the very near future I will, as Shakespeare wrote, “sleep, perchance to dream”.
Rath posits that sleep, or rather the lack of it, governs the choices we make for the rest of the day – especially those around food, which in turn impacts the way we choose to move, or not, which then affects our quality of sleep – and so the cycle continues…
Noticing that on the days I was not bouncing out of bed in the morning, a carb-laden breakfast always beckoned and the mere thought of a walk or exercise was more than I could bear, was enough for me to put some of the Roth’s research to the test. If you too dream of getting more sleep, here’s what I’ve been finding to be helpful, thus far:
Hours of sleep
It used to be a source of pride that I could function well (ostensibly) on 5 or so hours of sleep. And then I had 3 nights in a row of about 8 hours sleep and experienced the difference in my energy and mental vibrancy. Now I have a ‘lights out by 10.30pm at least 3 nights a week’ policy. Research aplenty supports the need for between 8 and 9 hours of quality sleep per night.
Research says that we need to set aside our screens for at least an hours before turning out the lights to ensure that our brain realises it’s time for sleep. This has been a tad problematic for me as I read most novels on my ipad. However, there is no doubt that when I read from paper, I go to sleep faster. Plus of course, you can’t ‘browse’ (Facebook or whatever else takes your fancy) away from a book.
Sleep in total darkness
Melatonin (the sleep hormone) is produced in the dark. So having any sources of artificial light in your room such as a bedside clock, the standby light on electronics or even streetlights, suppresses melatonin levels making it harder to fall asleep and/or decreasing your quality of sleep.
Slow your brain down
What are you doing in the 2 hours before bed? Are you watching action TV or a thought provoking TED talk? Having a stimulating phone conversation? Working or surfing the internet on your computer? None of these are helpful. Breathing deeply, yoga, meditation, light exercise, reading something light or listening to music with a slow beat in the wind down before bed are much more likely to induce sleep.
Adhere to rituals
Much as we do or did for children, repeatable behaviour signals to our subconscious that it’s time for sleep. Helpful rituals could be: following the same pre-bed routine; going to bed at the same time each night; Reading (in paper form only!) for a set amount of time or reflecting on your daily ‘grateful for’ moments. (I don’t recommend thinking about what you are looking forward to the next day as a bedtime ritual. I used to do that but my brain would wind up, inside of down, as I got excited about the possibilities for the day ahead).
The right temperature
Figure out what is optimal for you – duvet or blankets, heavy or light, warm or cool? Research says that the best sleeping temperature is between 62 – 70 degrees Farenheit or 16 – 21 degrees Celcius. That’s quite the variation but ideally you would sleep at 2 – 4 degrees cooler than your body is accustomed to during the day, regardless of season.
For more suggestions I recommend Rath’s book. Or try Google – last time I looked for ‘tips to get more sleep’ there were 436,000,000 references listed. Surely investigating those would be enough to send anyone to the land of zzzzz!
What do you recommend to send us off to sleep?