With so many studies around the impact of sleep deprivation, it seems we are only just beginning to realise the fundamental importance of getting a good night’s sleep.
It’s a particular passion of mine. Often I would joke that I could sleep any time, any place, anywhere. I didn’t realise that was a classic symptom of sleep deficit, a consequence of simply not allowing enough time for the optimum 7 to 8 hours a night.
I saw sleep as a necessary interruption to doing much more interesting things (I saw preparing balanced meals in a similar way), and because I was still able to function, I thought I was OK.
But because I read so much about the negative effects of too little sleep, I began to take it much more seriously. In fact, one of the students on the hypnotherapy diploma courses that I run for CPHT, took the very wise move of treating sleep as a second job. She prioritised it as much as her day job and made sure she was giving herself the best possible chance of a restorative night’s sleep. What a brilliant solution.
Over the years I have run several workshops on the subject of sleep, exploring why we sleep, what happens when we sleep, and what happens if we don’t get enough. The summary slide is purposely light-hearted, but it carries an important message:
Lack of sleep causes you to become:
• Seriously ill
• Stressed out
• A danger to others
Of course, if you’re not sleeping well, worrying about the harm that is doing is not at all helpful.
So here are my top tips for getting a good night’s sleep:
1. Allow enough time for a full 7 to 8 hours
It might sound obvious, but I come across many people who turn in after midnight and have to be up at 6am. Studies into the benefits of sleep, show that we need 7 to 8 hours to operate effectively, both mentally and physically. Studies also show that the last 1 to 2 hours are even more important to learning and memory consolidation, so you are really missing out if you are getting less than 6 hours.
TIP 1: adjust your routine to allow for 7 to 8 hours in bed.
2. Create a decompression zone
Many people live full-on lives and they are still ‘wired’ when they turn in for bed. They may have been working late on paperwork or household tasks, they may have been watching TV programmes with negative story lines, or they may have been checking emails or interacting on social media. All of these things stimulate the mind, and the chances are you are generating adrenaline when you should be winding down.
TIP 2: start winding down an hour before bedtime. Turn off your laptop and put the phone away. Listen to music or watch something harmless on TV. Consider brushing your teeth or removing your make up an hour before going to bed, as these activities can make you more alert.
3. Focus on what you have achieved
Many people go to bed with a mental ‘to do’ list, or they beat themselves up for not getting enough done. Going to bed with a head full of loose ends is not conducive to a good night’s sleep.
TIP 3: when you get into bed, review the day and find 5 things you have achieved. They needn’t be big things, they could be things like sorting out the recycling, changing a lightbulb or arranging to meet a friend.