At least once per day, I have a conversation with someone about having a healthy sleep. See, I’m a Psychologist, Clinical Trainer, a friend and a mum. Whether the conversation is with a client, a group I am training, any of my friends or colleagues who are managing the work-life juggle or with my kids; I feel like I’m constantly talking to someone about sleep.
I’m really good at helping other people get their sleep hygiene and bedtime routine in check, and I love doing it. Sleep is one thing that seems like it should be so easy to do…you just lay there and shut your eyes right? Yet, so many of us struggle to do just that. There are many reasons why this might be the case; stress, anxiety, medication, pain, illness, dysregulated cycle, and the list goes on, But I’m not here to ponder the ‘whys’. I want to talk about what we can do about it and how a few simple changes to your routine can make a difference to not only your sleep but the rest of your life too.
I want you to think for a second about sleep. We’re ‘supposed to have about 8 hours of sleep a night – that is a third of our day and across our lifetime, a third of our whole life!!! To be healthy human beings, we need to sleep for at least a third of it. That is 121.7 days per year. If someone told you that you had to do something for 121.7 days this year to keep yourself healthy and happy…you would give it a fair bit of your attention. And yet, when it comes to sleep, we don’t give it much attention at all. That’s the first thing I want you to do, give your sleep the respect it and you deserve. Make your sleeping space somewhere you want to be. Invest in a good mattress, good pillows and nice sheets. Wash them regularly. An investment in these simple things can make you more inclined to invest in your sleep.
Ever stay up late to finish a project, a show or a report? What about introducing activities and items not conducive to sleep into your sleep space? Look, COVID has made it hard to delineate or compartmentalise our lives and our space, but we can work around it. Set yourself some realistic boundaries around your sleep routine and sleep space. You want to be in bed by 10? Don’t start the next episode…it will be there tomorrow, I promise. Take things out of the room that keep you awake (T.V.s, laptops and phones) or at least move them as far away from you as possible. It also makes your phone alarm much more effective in the morning because you can’t snooze so easily.
A solid sleep routine is what will bring you back to good sleep when things will, inevitably, go awry. I want you to look at your night-time routine as a transitional exercise. This is about telling your body and mind what is happening and lets it get ready to shut down for the night. A firm sleep routine should start in the morning. Get up at the same time each day. Make sure your choices during the day support healthy sleep. For example, if you’re a coffee drinker, reduce your caffeine intake and don’t drink caffeinated drinks after lunch. Start the clock at least one hour before you go to bed. This is the time of quiet transition. Warming your body slightly will help slow your brain and body down, so I recommend a warm shower or bath, then follow this with a quiet activity such as reading or doing a simple word or number puzzle.
Lastly, I wanted to share how important healthy sleep is to our mental health. It scaffolds our physical and mental wellbeing. So, if you are struggling with your mental health and experiencing stress, anxiety, or depression, make sure you give yourself space to nurture good sleep.
*Written on a beautiful morning after a great night’s sleep.