10 Steps to a Full 8 Hours

March 21st 2014

I speak a lot on the importance of finding the third space to help busy people cope with the crazy transitions life throws at you, but we seem to be missing out on the most important third space of all…sleep!

It is estimated that 60% of people in Western society have some sort of sleep problem. This is a significant issue considering that a poor night sleep can reduce your cognitive function the next day by 30%. 

However, a lack of sleep or poor quality sleep may have a bigger impact on us than simply just being tired. Research out of the US has shown that people who have reduced sleep tend to be more overweight than people with a normal sleep pattern. 

I’ve put together a short guide to simple things you can do to make sure you are getting enough shut eye – so that you keep performing at your best. One of the most critical aspects of a sleep routine is a regular bed and wake up time (of these two the wake up time is the most important – especially on weekends). When you are in a regular sleep routine your body gets used to the pattern and it makes going to sleep and waking up much easier. A sign that you have your routine right is when you consistently wake up minutes before your alarm clock is set to go off. 

  • Get Regular! One of the most critical aspects of a sleep routine is a regular bed and wake up time (of these two the wake up time is the most important – especially on weekends). When you are in a regular sleep routine your body gets used to the pattern and it makes going to sleep and waking up much easier. 
  • Don’t be hot in bed. An important factor that affects our sleep is body temperature. During the night we get a natural drop in body temperature however if we get too hot at night our body temperature will rise and trigger us to wake up. Avoid heating your room at night - it is much better to have a cool room and warm covers.
  • Relax before bed. Two hours before your normal bedtime start to wind down. Avoid doing work during these hours. Rather, read a book, have a bath, calm conversation or listen to soothing music.
  • Avoid stimulants. After about 2-3 pm in the afternoon stop your intake of tobacco, alcohol, tea, coffee or chocolate. Also a high intake of protein late at night will increase your mental alertness and keep you awake, so reduce the level of protein you eat at night.
  • Dim the lights. Whether our environment is dark or light impacts on our ability to get to sleep. A part of your brain called the Suprachiasmatic  Nucleus (SCN) detects light input from the eyes. The SCN controls the secretion of Melatonin, a chemical that helps you sleep. When the SCN senses light on your eyes it shuts down Melatonin production, likewise when it senses darkness it releases Melatonin. 
  • Drink up! Make sure you are hydrated properly (2 litres of water a day), as when you are dehydrated your body temp rises and you will often wake up during the night. 
  • Move it or lose it! Exercising each day is an easy way to improve the quality of your sleep. When you exercise the biochemical make up of your body changes in a favorable way to facilitate better sleep. 
  • Control the voices in your head! One of the biggest causes of not being able to get to sleep or stay asleep, is mental stress related to worry and anxiety. Meditation and relaxation are great ways to calm the mind down and help you drift off to sleep. 
  • Power On! Power naps are a great way to energise you and catch up on some sleep debt. The rule with power napping is to not let them go for longer than 20 minutes.
  • Catch the wave to bed. There is a 90 minute rhythm called the Ultradian Rhythm that controls how alert we are. During the majority of this rhythm we are alert, however towards the end we start to get drowsy. Have you ever been in a 90 minute meeting and you start to fall asleep? We can use this rhythm to help us get to sleep. During the night look out for when the drowsy part of this rhythm hits you, that is the time to go to bed as your body is naturally prepared to nod off.

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10 Steps to a Full 8 Hours
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