Sleep apps on smartwatches and phones might claim to analyse and assess our sleep, however, the most accurate measure is how we feel the next day.
When we feel refreshed we are operating at our peak, able to concentrate, recall information and maintain a positive outlook. Athletes now consider sleep alongside nutrition as being one of the primary contributors to their performance on the track or pitch. They set out to achieve the full five consecutive cycles of sleep (around 90 minutes each) every night. During each 90 minute cycle, we now know the brain flushes out the toxins and waste accumulated during the day rebuilding and restoring our minds, ready for the next challenge.
For many of us, the quality of our sleep is a consequence of our choices during the preceding day. Here are five effective tips to achieve great sleep.
- Ditch the devices – the most common sleep disrupter in 2018 is the phone in the bed. Two different factors mess with our rest:
i. The blue light emitted by LED screen confuses our brain into thinking it is still light outside, inhibiting melatonin production, the hormone that helps us to sleep.
ii. The content of social media or worse, work emails, stimulates our thoughts so that even if we nod off we are very likely to wake in the early hours with a racing mind, worrying about work or relationships.
The temptation to reach for a device from the comfort of the bed is great, so take control and put the device on charge overnight in another room.
- Stay off stimulants – the acceptable cure for feeling tired at 8 am is a coffee, followed by another at 10 am and more throughout the day. Caffeine has a 6-hour half-life and so by bedtime, it is fizzing through our system, resulting in? Another disturbed night, in which we sleep lightly at best rather than cycling through progressively deeper stages of sleep toward the vitally important stage of REM sleep.
Alcohol has a different but a similar consequence. We feel drowsy and nod off easily but again don’t get the quality REM sleep that reboots our brain.
- Be a routine warrior – late nights and early mornings might sound impressive but they can’t be sustained. Erratic bedtimes have a similar impact to jet lag, disrupting our circadian rhythm so that even when we do hit the sack our brains aren’t sure how long it will be for. Truly high performers are creatures of habit, going to bed at the same time every night, even at weekends! They typically wake naturally, without needing an alarm. This suggests that their critical final cycle of sleep is not interrupted.
- Make your move – it is harder to find the motivation to exercises when tired. Additionally, bad sleep increases the hunger hormone grehlin so we are more likely to snack. Movement throughout the day aids sleep as tired muscles are allowed to rest.
- Invest in rest – is your car worth more than your bed? You will probably spend the equivalent of thirty years of your life in bed versus 2 to 5 years in your car. If you wouldn’t by an unsafe car why risk your health with a bad bed. By putting aside some time and money to improve your sleep environment you will soon realise a very healthy return on your investment, take a look at how you can upgrade your mattress for under £100.
If you have a career that requires you to be at the top of your game, it is essential to take sleep seriously. Talk to a Sleep Coach to discover other ways in which you can be at your best each day by sleeping better each night.