You may have now heard me bang on about the importance of two things, when it comes to health, wellbeing and optimising your performance. In no particular order, we have magnesium, and we have sleep. In this blog I want to focus back on sleep. If you have read previous blogs or head me speak, you will be very clear on why sleep is so important. In a nutshell, it’s the time in a day where you body can, Rest, Repair, Recover, Recharge (RRRR). Everything slows down and your body goes into self-maintenance mode. Like a car service, it takes time and a team of people to get the job done well. Sleep is very much the same.
I believe you should target somewhere between 6.5 hours and 8 hours of sleep each night. Always remember that it is about quality over quantity and recovery time is also impacted by your level of stress and exertion. That is, if you have run a marathon that day, you will need more time to RRRR than you would if you spent the day lounging by a pool in the sun.
However, so many people struggle to get deep and REM sleep. Shutting off the head and winding down into that relaxed state. So, what are some things to self-analyse, which may be impacting your sleep quality:
- Stress: Are you feeling stressed, anxious, or worried? Elevated cortisol levels and brain chatter that occurs with being in a stressed state will inhibit your ability to fall into a deep sleep. Try reading a physical book, journaling or a sub-10-minute meditation before bed.
- Caffeine or stimulants: Needed that pick me up at 4pm? Hit the gym after work and slammed down some pre-workout that has caffeine in it? Well, this is going to stay in your system as you try to wind down, relax, and fall asleep. Caffeine has a half life of 5 hours, so if you have your coffee at 4pm, the effect can still be present at 9pm.
- Digital devices: Little bright screens! The light alone is enough to convince your brain it is time to wake up and get going. The smaller the screen, the worse the impact. Why? Typically, the smaller the screen the closer we hold it to our face. Also, a phone is typically associated with scrolling through social media. This is a HARD NO! Read a physical book or hey, try talking to your partner and even having some ‘sexy times’. We have lost our human interactions because we are too worried about what 30 second video has been posted that may make us laugh.
- No routine or structure: Give you body the chance to get into a rhythm. Train it to know when it needs to wind down. Will every night be perfect? No! But if we set a ‘sleep reminder’ at a set time (e.g., 8:00pm), we know we need to wind down and get ready for bed. What is often the alternative? We go to bed at 11:00pm, then 9:00pm, then 9:00pm, then 10:00pm, then 1:00am etc etc.
- Environment: Is your bedroom (or house) filled with light, tv’s on every wall, set to a nice warm temperature all night? Lovely….but your sleep will be terrible. Create an environment that is support of great sleep. Keep the room cool overnight. About 19 degrees. Make the bedroom as dark as possible or wear a sleep mask. No tv in the bedroom, even use red lights or salt lamps in the bedroom to keep the brightness low.
Sleep is one of the biggest components to out overall wellbeing and output. Give yourself the best chance to enjoy quality sleep and RRRR.