Wake up to healthy sleeping habits
“So how do we go from “doing” sleep to ensuring we get quality, restorative sleep each night?”
IF YOU’RE like most people, you probably don’t think too much about the process of sleep. You just “do” it.
But sleep is more than something you should just do. It’s a secret weapon you can utilise to increase your performance and be at the top of your game in work and in life.
Even though it is as vital for the body as food and water, more than 60 per cent of Australian adults are sleep deprived.
So how do we go from “doing” sleep to ensuring we get quality, restorative sleep each night? Follow these tips and you’ll be sleeping your way to the top in no time.
Make sleep a priority: Did you know that being awake for 19 hours has been shown to result in the equivalent performance of someone with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08? Sleep isn’t an evolutionary error; it’s something that we all need in order to perform each day. The four primary functions of sleep are to conserve energy, repair and rejuvenate our body’s cells, improve our brain plasticity and improve learning and memory function.
Cut out caffeine after 3pm: Caffeine has a half-life of about five to six hours. This means, it takes about five hours for your body to eliminate half the total caffeine you have consumed. So while that 5pm coffee hit pepped you up enough to get you through the last part of work, you’re going to be feeling its effects later when you try to go to sleep.
Keep active: Having a healthy physiology and ensuring you eat well and exercise regularly are factors for improving your sleep and health. You also need to start timing your exercise properly. Time your high-intensity exercise at least three hours before bed. Try to avoid working out too late as it won’t give your body enough time to cool down. Try combining aerobic exercise in the morning with a follow-up protein meal. This will increase the serotonin in your body, which converts to melatonin (sleep hormone) in the evening.
Learn to relax: At The Performance Clinic in Sydney we teach our clients the importance of having a sleep countdown and integrating time to relax and wind down at least 30 to 60 minutes before bed. It’s the same concept that our parents used on us when we were children. Watching action movies, listening to Metallica or doing work before bed will not get you into the right mindset to drift off (and stay) asleep. Stick to warm baths, soothing music and calming fragrances.
Disconnect your technology: Switch off your mobile, TV, laptop and iPad at least 30 minutes before going to bed. This will help you wind down and ensure that you’re not disturbed when you do fall asleep.
Have a routine: I understand how hard it can be to stick to a routine when the demands of daily life change minute by minute. But by going to bed and getting up at the same time every day you are increasing your chances of having deep, undisturbed and restful sleep. Your body settles into a rhythm. If you can’t stick to your routine every night, commit to having at least three nights a week when you go to bed and wake up at the same time.
Be realistic if you have rug rats: If you have young children, you need to accept that it might take a few years until you get back into a decent sleep routine. That’s the reality. If you’re really feeling short-changed on sleep,
try to set up a sleepover with the grandparents or a trusted friend.
Keep the TV out of the bedroom: Your bedroom should be kept for two activities only – sleep and sex. Avoid watching TV or doing work in bed. You can read, but stick to material that’s light and will allow you to fall asleep easily.
Don’t sweep things under the carpet: What do you think about before you fall asleep each night? Unpaid bills? That dentist appointment you keep putting off? An argument with a co-worker? Don’t let these things disturb your sleep and your mental wellbeing. Realistically address the complications in your life so that they don’t become major problems and continue to worry you.
Practice makes perfect: Keep at it. Developing a healthy lifestyle and a good sleep routine can take four to six weeks, so keep practising.