Six steps to unlocking the Power of Sleep

Are you getting enough Sleep? Are you waking feeling Restored?

For many years I didn't get enough sleep - despite going to bed sometimes at Nanna o'clock! I often share about sleep and rest because I struggled with this for so long.  The quality of my sleep was so poor that the wearables tracking my sleep pattern looked like a barcode on a soft drink can.
There are enough things in this world we can't control or influence but we can impact how we feel each day by getting enough sleep. With the right mindset, tools and techniques, you can improve the quality of your sleep and allow your body and brain to restore.

Some Science

Most of your body's essential processes such as your body temperature, hormone release and hunger run in 24hr cycles called circadian rhythms. Sleeping during the night and staying awake during the day can help keep these internal rhythms in balance and help you perform better throughout the day.

A good night's sleep stretches across light sleep, REM and deep sleep. the amount of sleep needed varies from person to person but as a general rule, the younger you are, the more sleep you need. (Try telling your teenagers that and see if they listen :P ) Most adults need 7-9 hours to perform well and stay healthy. Ideally, your sleep midpoint (yes the halfway mark) should fall between midnight and 3 am. REM sleep balances and re-energises your mind with dreaming, memory consolidation, learning and creativity. Deep sleep is the most restorative and rejuvenating sleep stage, enabling muscle growth and repair.

Efficient sleep is usually indicated by the ability to fall asleep easily and stay asleep through the night.  A restless night - whether you wake up for a long period during the night or a few times for short periods - can have a big impact on your cognitive performance the next day.  Whether your sleep is disturbed by partying neighbours, babies waking in the night or your partner's snoring, the sleep debt from restless nights is difficult to catch up on.

Sleep latency is the time it takes for you to fall asleep. Ideally falling asleep shouldn't take more than 15-20 minutes. Falling asleep immediately (in less than 5 minutes) however isn't a good sign - it is usually a sign you aren't getting the sleep you need.
Here are 6 things that helped me get a better night's sleep and wake feeling restored:

1. Steady Rhythm

You probably know if you've read some of my blogs that I commute interstate for work (yes, I catch a plane the way other people catch a bus) and so I understand that it can be hard to go to bed at the same time every night but the more consistent you can be with this, the better. At first, I found it difficult to regulate my sleep as some days were busier than others and I didn't feel tired but pushing through has really impacted the quality of my sleep - and my energy the next day. Similarly, other than enjoying a Sunday morning lie-in, waking at the same time each morning (which really hurt in the beginning) has now become routine and I often wake without an alarm. I'm a fangirl of the Bedtime function on the iPhone which covers morning and night, pulls in the do not disturb function and helps you visualise your night's sleep.

2. Slide into Sleep

The hour or two before you go to bed shape your sleep experience. I start my slide into sleep 1.5 hours before bedtime with an alarm to remind me (I am all about the tech help). All my devices have the nightshift function enabled so that from sunset to sunrise, the light is warmer and blue light is reduced. I wish I could say I leave my phone in another room in its own bed etc etc but that is still on my development plan (we are all a work in progress!). I figured I would use every setting on the technology to help me fall asleep - and stay asleep. I read on my iPad, I catch up on friends updates on social, I listen to podcasts or low key music - it's my way of winding down. I am NOT checking work email in that last hour before bed. Low light, soft music... it all adds up to a more restful sleep.

3. Sleep set up

Invest in your Rest sounds like an ad for a better bed! A good quality bed and pillow make a big difference to falling asleep and staying asleep. Sheets you love and cools coverlets for summer or weighted fluffy blankets and doonas for winter all help. Too fashionable and your bed might look good but not feel inviting. Aim for a bed you love and one you look forward to getting into each night.

4. Cool

I read somewhere that an optimal temperature to sleep in was 18 degrees - which is pretty hard to achieve in sub-tropical Queensland! "Cool" for our home is more like 21 degrees, especially during summer when it is over 30 degrees outside. Like me, you may not like sleeping under airconditioning unless its the heat of summer, but a cool room whether natural breeze, ceiling fan or aircon, makes a noticeable impact to how deeply I sleep.

5. Dark

A few years ago we invested in blinds in our bedroom - not blackout blinds but dark enough to make a difference to the morning sunshine that usually beats my alarm. For the last 12 months, I've added an eye mask to the mix. I originally bought the eye mask for long haul international flights as a treat for myself and in an effort to not arrive grumpy and tired and lose the first day of every trip. It was a bit of a treat - gorgeous silk - and feels so great to wear that I ended up wearing it in the hotels (which helped with jet lag too) and now wear it every night at home. Here's a link (no affiliations but hey @endota I'm open :)

6. Quiet

Quiet works except when it doesn't. Generally, I find I need quiet to concentrate and for a daytime nap, I would need quiet (grateful for noise-cancelling headphones) but at night-time, my best sleep comes when I'm listening to the sound of waves crashing in the distance and since the beach house is still on the dreams list, its a Spotify playlist that gets me through. Check out Ocean Escapes and let me know what sounds you prefer to fall asleep to.

I am still not sure how I survived for so many years with so little sleep. "Survived" being the operative word. Gradually, each step I tried, each habit I adopted has improved my sleep until I unlocked the power of sleep. I've found my formula for a good nights sleep. What's yours? I'd love to hear your sleep tips, tech, tricks and traps.


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