One of the most important and most overlooked aspects of modern health is the quality and quantity of sleep. In our always-on and plugged in society, poor quality sleep can make us angry, irritable, fatigued, sick and unable to concentrate or memorise anything.
I also believe that a lot of obesity is started by people not getting enough sleep. They eat because they feel fatigued and they think they need something to give them more energy - but what they really need is more sleep. If you feel you aren't getting enough sleep, check out the advice here:
You can't get off to sleep:
- Kit your bedroom for sleep only - remove any computers, televisions, stereos, telephones, books or distractions.
- Keep it dark. No lights on. Fit black-out blinds to your curtains if they let the light in.
- No caffeine, drugs or alcohol. (Alcohol can help you to sleep, but your sleep will not be restorative).
- No big meals late in the evening - the food will sit heavily on your stomach.
- Practice meditation to calm you down before bed.
- Avoid sugary snacks in the evening.
- Check that your bed is comfortable. If it is not, fix it. There are some great products, like memory foam that are really comfortable. They are worth the investment.
You get to sleep OK, but you keep waking up in the middle of the night:
- Don't switch the lights on - light resets you body clock, so try keep a tiny torch if you need to navigate to the bathroom.
- Don't eat, unless hunger is keeping you awake.
- If you are woken by ideas, keep a pen & paper to write them down. You should be able to sleep after that. Only make sure you don't switch on the lights - use your small torch.
- Don't you dare touch a computer, book, phone, tv, radio, playstation, xbox or ANYTHING that will distract you.
Your circadian rhythm is your body's internal clock for sleeping and waking patterns. This clock can get knocked out by things like jet lag, changing work shift patterns, stress or lack of sleep. To get your body clock working again, get yourself a timetable for sleep and stick to it. Go to bed at the same time every night - even on nights when you are not working, like weekends and holidays. Also, get plenty of sunlight during the day. This will let your body clock know the difference between waking and sleeping times. Do some exercise during the day (like a martial art, swimming, jogging, walking etc.). Exercise will also tell your body clock that this is the time for waking, so the night is for sleep.
Finally, learn a guided method for progressive relaxation - in other words, think about each part of the body and imagine it relaxing. Go through all parts of the body until you are feeling totally relaxed. When you can do this on a comfortable bed in a dark, quiet room without any distractions, you will soon find yourself slipping gently off to sleep.