An increasing number of are us saying how much we are in need of a good night’s sleep. Even after an early night and a full 6-8 hours many of us still feel jaded and unrefreshed. This can gradually impact on several areas of our lives, causing energy levels, good humour and enthusiasm all to suffer. Consider how your quality of sleep impacts on your life in general.
Our ability to focus and make good decisions, think clearly, have a balanced sense of perspective and defined priorities are all affected by our energy levels and how well we feel. How often might someone say ‘sleep on it’, ‘don’t decide now’, ‘see how you feel in the morning’? After a good night’s sleep we often find that our attitude has subtly changed. Problems and set backs don’t affect us the same as before. We find it easier to shrug off annoyances and irritations.
Let’s look at ways to help when you need a good night’s sleep;
– Routine can support a good night’s sleep as it allows the body to become familiar with a regular pattern of activities throughout the day. Try to work, eat, exercise and finish ‘busyness’ at a reasonable time. Then you can switch off mentally and physically for a couple of hours before bed. Incorporate some pleasant activities into your evening so that you’re able to relax and wind down. Aim to eat at a reasonable hour and avoid heavy meals late at night. Use your bedroom for rest, relaxation and sleep rather than as a place of work, invariably catching up on last-minute reading. Emergency situations arise occasionally, but avoid them becoming a habit. Many people find that 9 pm is a good cut-off point, after which only real emergencies are attended to.
– Share tasks. Often a simple ‘If I do this will you do that?’ can halve your workload and besides, it’s often fun to do things together, working, chatting and enhancing your relationships. Allow others to help, either at home or at work, even if it takes longer initially. Encourage others to learn new skills. At work you may find they add value in unexpected ways, perhaps by suggesting new ideas, methods and innovations. At home they’ll start to notice what needs to be done each day. At first they’re unlikely to be as proficient as you, but taking time to teach others improves their confidence and ability to function more effectively. Encourage them as they gradually learn and improve. It’s important to share tasks, ease your pressures and devote time to things that are important to you.
– Food and quality nutrition are important in supporting good health, wellbeing and body functioning. Working continuously without regular food and water breaks causes the stress on your body to increase. Commit to having breaks for regular nutritious food and water. Minimise going for long periods without eating. It may seem a quick fix to grab junk food, sweets, sugary or caffeine laden drinks in an attempt to boost your energy levels and keep going but this creates a false high. Choose wisely, especially at those times when you’re busy, stressed and working to tight deadlines.
– Learn to manage the stress in your life. Many people have busy lives where there is too little time to properly attend to the demands of work, home and personal life as well as trying to find a window for some ‘me time’. Scheduling a little quiet time is an important way to manage stress and teaches the mind and body to become still and calm. Also, this discipline is an effective way of providing time for new ideas, new ways of thinking and solutions to problems to filter through.
– Some people work hard mentally but exert themselves rather less physically; others have heavy physical jobs with little mental pressure. This can affect the quality of sleep. Being mentally exhausted but physically restless or physically tired but with the mind in need of stimulus may need a little attention. Introduce activity to those areas that need it; go for a walk, a swim, a bike ride, do a crossword puzzle, read a book, join a class.
– Exercise supports good sleep. Fresh air, spending time in nature, on the beach, in the garden or the countryside, enjoying an outdoor game of tennis or football are all pleasurable ways of exercising and can include a friendly social element. Exercise doesn’t have to involve joining a gym or attending regular classes, though that can be an effective way of starting the day or having some ‘me time’ after work. Exercise can be enjoyed with friends or family as a group activity by going for a walk or playing a game. The combination of fresh air, exercise and fun supports better quality sleep.
– Ensure that your bedroom is a haven, your comfortable oasis of calm where you can retreat at times for peace and quiet, either on your own or with a loved one. Keep it free from clutter and work-related paraphernalia. Screen off your office space and try to avoid electrical and wireless equipment, especially near the bed. Try to keep your bedroom dedicated to calm, peaceful, personal time.
– Prepare to sleep. Wash away the cares of the day and enjoy a relaxing bath or shower. Use a little lavender on your pillow or when you’re laundering your bed linen. Keep your bedroom well ventilated. Avoid over-stimulation from scary films, difficult conversations or late night computer games.
Notice if you’re regularly tired and out of sorts. It’s an indicator that your sleep routine needs some attention. A few adjustments can make all the difference to your overall health and wellbeing. Learn to prioritise your commitment to sleep and notice how much better life is when you wake up feeling refreshed and ready for the coming day.