― Jim Butcher
“Sleep is God. Go worship.”
Sleep. An underrated gem. A time of rest, restoration, renewal and, more often than not, neglect. What follows, are seven steps for significant sleep.
We’ve all gone through times where sleep has definitely not been a priority. For example, a list of tasks await us; and they end up creeping into our sleep time. On the other hand it’s play time creeping continuously into sleep time. You, like many others, wake up feeling unrefreshed, and hit those afternoon lows coupled with sugar cravings.
Or maybe sleep is related to your chronic pain? Well, neglecting sleep may allow chronic widespread pain to creep up on us too. Sleep has a complex, reciprocal relationship with pain. Difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, waking up earlier than desired and non-restorative sleep were found to predict the onset of chronic widespread pain over a 5 year period (Aili, et. al, 2018) . That is to say, not only is sleep deprivation linked to pain, it is also associated with depression, metabolic problems, memory loss, cardiovascular disease, and an increased risk of death from all causes, among many other problems.
This shows the importance of improving your sleep- focusing on quality and quantity. As a result, here are seven steps for significant sleep.
The Seven Steps to Significant Sleep
1. Get enough of it
Ideal quantity: 7-9 hours of sleep is required each night. How do you figure out how many hours you need? Take a week to do an experiment. Firstly, go to sleep at an early hour, giving yourself at least 9 hours of bed time. Then, make note of what time you naturally wake up over 5 days. After 5 days, you would have caught up on sleep you may have missed and your body finds its natural rhythm.
2. Establish a bedtime routine
We’re creatures of habit and do best in our own body’s rhythm. Once you’ve established how many hours you need, create your bedtime routine. Start it at the same time everyday. Your mind and body will notice the routine and gear itself up for restful sleep.
3. Control your exposure to light
Light determines our circadian rhythms and the sleep/wake cycle, therefore controlling our exposure to it is a useful way to regulate our sleep. Here are some helpful tips:
- Avoid or minimise the use of computers (any screens!) at bedtime
- Dimming, covering or removing anything that emits light in your bedroom. E.g. alarm clocks.
- If you do need to work on a laptop at night, wear orange glasses to reduce exposure to blue light.
4. Reduce the amount of caffeine and alcohol
Both caffeine and alcohol can have a profound effect on sleep and are best left out if you have sleep problems. That’s to say, if you do drink, have a glass of wine before 6pm so that it has time to get out of your system before bedtime. When your body is highly stimulated by coffee and it is metabolized slowly by your body, this will disrupt your sleep. Therefore, Avoid it in the afternoon. If you’re drinking a lot of coffee this might be difficult for you. Therefore, make sure you wean yourself off it slowly rather than cutting it out cold turkey.
5. Move your body
It’s important to get adequate exercise in your day to prepare your body better for sleep. Add exercise to your daily work and home routine. For example, use a standing desk, take walking meetings and take the stairs!
6. Manage your stress
Going from daily work and family chaos to calm and relaxation takes time and definitely has an effect on sleep. Our mind and body needs to wind down to allow restful sleep. Calm your system with meditation, deep breathing or yoga. Here are some tips to master your meditation practice.
7. Create a relaxing sleep environment
Make sure your bedroom is set up for quality sleep.
- Firstly, reserve your bedroom only for sleep and sex – make sure you leave electronics out of the room.
- Secondly, control the temperature of the room. You sleep better in a slightly cooler environment.
- Then, get a comfortable bed!
- Finally, reduce the level of noise and sleep-time distractions. If there is lots of outside noise, use a noise machine or ear plugs. Also, leave pets outside of the bedroom if they disturb your sleep. You can cuddle them in the morning!
If you’re a mouth breather while you sleep, have you tried Mouth Taping? A relatively new technique that has shown good results clinically. The theory is that it improves your quality of sleep by readjusting the blood flow to your body and brain. Here’s some more information about it.
1 Aili K, Andersson M, Bremander A, et al. Sleep problems and fatigue as a predictor for the onset of chronic widespread pain over a 5- and 18-year perspective. A 20-year prospective study. EULAR 2018; Amsterdam: Abstract OP0072.