As a business coach and life coach, I’m not going to lecture to you and tell you that you must get your 8 hours of sleep every night. I know some people function perfectly well on less and some people need more. But what I do know is that a lot of people these days are really struggling to get a good night’s sleep and they want it! So, I’m going to briefly talk about the benefits of getting decent sleep and more importantly, how to get it.
Why sleep is important
Here are all the good things about sleep. Don’t forget too, it’s essentially free.
- It allows your body to restore, rebuild and gives your immune system a boost.
- Helps improve your memory, decision-making, sharpens judgement and memory processing.
- Helps control our behaviour and emotions. We can handle much more, much better when we are not sleep deprived; which can mean better relationships both at work, business and family.
- Sleep is an awesome stress reliever.
- Some say that sleep issues can lead to mental health issues.
- Adversely affects our performance; physically and mentally. The physical implications include time reactions, muscular and fine motor skills. Why do you think there is such a large “Driver Reviver” campaign on our roads? Falling asleep at the wheel can kill.
- Sleep actually helps you maintain better body weight through hormones that affect hunger and appetite.
- If your body is well and you’re well rested and your immune system is at its peak, you’re less likely to suffer from illness, including more serious illnesses like heart disease and diabetes.
- You just feel more alive and positive when you are well rested.
Strategies to improve your sleep
I’m no doctor, but these tips are good common things that we sometimes forget to do. Here are my practical ideas and solutions:
- Build, and then endeavour to stick to a routine. Just like those of you who had kids, there were things we did before bed and things we did not. Roughhousing with the kids, hyping them up, soft drinks or juices before bed – all those things were avoided. Often a bath or shower before bed is a great start. If you tend to get distracted by TV, work or other things at night, perhaps even setting a little reminder on your phone to “go to bed’. Sounds silly, but sometimes we just lose track of time and before we know it, it’s late. That may also mean not going to bed too early so that you are just lying there staring at the ceiling or tossing and turning.
- Physical activity as part of your daily routine is great and helps with sleep. Remember those big weekends where you hit the garden or went for a long cycle or swam heaps of laps … and invariably feel asleep before your head hit the pillow? However, try to avoid doing this immediately before bed. Myself, I know I can’t even think about sleeping till more than an hour AFTER I’ve finished playing sport.
- Create the right environment. A cooler room, which is dark and quiet with little light is ideal. You may need to invest in heavy curtains, or if you work night shift, or live where it’s very hot, may need aircon in the bedroom. Quiet may also mean restful ambient noises. There are so many sleep apps these days, or just creating a sleep playlist with gentle waves and light rain might do the trick.
- Wind down before bed. Worry can be a big thing, but also often business owners work at night and that’s not inducive to a good night’s sleep. You’re thinking about work (or your worries) … so instead consider some other activities before bed. A little light TV, reading a book, listening to music – whatever helps clear your head and allows you to relax and start that pre-bed routine. If you have stress or concerns, endeavour to face and manage those issues. Burying your head in the sand frequently achieves nothing.
- Think about what you’re eating or drinking before bed. A huge and heavy meal immediately before bed is not conducive to feeling good or sleeping well. On that note, avoid lots of alcohol and caffeine, sugars and cigarettes before bed.
- Put a limit on longer daytime naps. For some people, a cat nap or power nap is great, but they should be short and just a little top-up.
- Limit potential issues. A mozzie buzzing around your head all night is bad – so I’ll never leave windows and doors open at night without screens.
- Change your sheets/linen more regularly; doesn’t a fresh set of sheets always feel great?
- Consider natural products, like lavender oil. This is great; a few drops on the soles of your feet or on your wrists can have a very positive effect (and it smells nice too). Another product I know is Canna-Calm which is an organic hemp extract. Check out Honey Bloom Health.
- If noise is an issue; perhaps noisy neighbours, a snoring partner, road noise etc, consider earplugs. Some work better than others, so you may have to trial a few till you get what works right for you. Personally, the foam ones from the chemist are my favourite.
- If this is a recurring problem and you just can’t get to sleep, make an appointment with your doctor. A visit to your GP doesn’t mean necessarily asking for sleeping tablets; there are many options out there a professional can advise.
Things to avoid before bed!
Other than the above, such as a big late meal, or light in your room, here are some specific things to avoid:
- Coffee (or caffeine) at least 4-6 hours before bed. For me, It’s more like 8 hours, and I do know some people who will have a coffee before bed no problem, but if you’re struggling, visit this first and eliminate the caffeine factor.
- Stimulation – things like TVs in your bedroom, gaming, working right up to bedtime, being on your phone and even reading on your iPad … those blue lights tell our brains it’s daytime, not time for bed. Those screens and stimulation can definitely keep us awake! If you like reading, but only read from a screen, try the night background OR revert to books you can listen to, like Audible or BorrowBox (free linked to your library card) and set the sleep timer on them. But again, I would not listen to a business book or educational book at this time; make it relaxing and enjoyable.
- Avoid tough conversations. There is more than one reason that it’s said a couple should never go to bed with an argument between them. One of those reasons is that you (or both parties) go to bed thinking about the argument and cannot sleep. If you’ve a tough discussion to have, make it a morning chat, rather than night. In the light of day, things are more positive and you’ll likely be in a better frame of mind.
- I’ve said it before, but worth saying again – caffeine, sugar and other stimulants.
- Also avoid lots of fluids before bed; if you don’t have to get up to visit the bathroom every couple of hours, then you’re more likely to get decent uninterrupted sleep.
- Getting up, turning the light on, going to do something you thought about. If you absolutely can’t let something go, keep a little notepad by the bed and have a bedside lamp which isn’t bright … make a note and then go back to sleep.
So, on that note; wishing you a good night’s sleep! 😊