Do you dread the jolt of the morning alarm?
Do you count down the minutes until the first (& second… ) coffee of the day?
Do you often forget where you left your keys/wallet/phone?
Do you feel as though you’re constantly dashing from one thing to the next?
‘Why don’t you get more sleep?’ might sound like an obvious suggestion, but for many of us, its not that simple…
If you feel tired & short of time during the day, the odds are that you are also short of sleep time at night. Sleep not only replenishes our energy levels, reinforces memories & frees up capacity for learning; it also soothes stress & anxiety, giving us a greater sense of control.
The trouble is the more stressed we feel, the less time we tend to devote to sleep, & the lighter & less restorative that sleep becomes. It’s easy to get stuck in a negative cycle of stress, fatigue & sleeplessness, fueled by regular doses of caffeine & sugar.
To wake up with more energy, we need to focus on improving the quality of our sleep as well as simply making time for it.
There are 3 systems which control the timing & quality of our sleep (which I explain in more detail in the audio sessions).
- Circadian rhythms, or body clocks When we stick to a regular wake time, our internal clocks help us to prepare for sleep 16 or 17 hours later. As it gets dark, the brain produces melatonin: the hormone which signals sleep. Light, food & movement all have alerting effects, so can delay sleep timing.
- Sleep pressure The longer we stay awake, the more drowsy we feel. Sleep – including naps – resets sleep pressure & makes us less sleepy. Caffeine temporarily blocks the effects of sleep pressure to make us more alert, but can also disrupt the quality of sleep six hours later.
- Stress system The fight or flight stress response evolved to help us take action against predators. Feeling overwhelmed or lacking control kick-starts the stress response which makes it harder to fall asleep, & makes us more likely to wake up during the night. To get into a deep sleep, we need to relax, & convince the brain that it’s safe to switch off.
How well you sleep at night will be related to how you spend your day. You can use your knowledge of all 3 sleep systems to plan the ideal daily routine.
The below shows an average pattern of alertness over 24 hours, & what to do at different times of day to promote a good nights sleep.
1. Morning routine
• Aim to get up at around the same time, i.e. within an hour, so that your body clock can anticipate your wake-up time with a burst of energy.
• Get plenty of early bright light to banish the last bits of melatonin from your system.
• Get active to wake up the body clock. Your body temperature starts low in the morning, so warm up thoroughly before doing anything vigorous.
• As alertness is increasing, this is a good time to tackle juicy strategic problems your brain may have been working on overnight.
2. Early afternoon
• Eat lunch at the same time every day.
• Most people experience a circadian dip in alertness between 1pm & 3pm – try a walk outside, a chat with colleagues, a quick power nap or sit next to a window to pep you up.
• You may be more prone to mistakes in the circadian dip, so try scheduling work which requires a lower degree of precision or effort.
• If your day has been non-stop, try & schedule 15 minutes to practice the art of relaxation. This might be mindfulness, slow controlled breathing, or try Poppy’s tapping.
3. Late afternoon & early evening
• Try & switch to decaf from now on since it could interfere with night-time sleep.
• Your circadian rhythms in strength & reaction time will typically reach their peak between 3pm & 6pm so if you want a PB at the gym, now could be the time!
• Aim to finish eating at least 2 hours before you get into bed.
• Put the day to rest by writing down your priorities for tomorrow.
• Start to reduce the intensity of lighting 2 hours before bed. Turn overhead lights down on dimmer switches or use lamps.
• Stick to calming exercise like yoga in the late evening, or if you need to get active, allow plenty of time to cool down before getting into bed.
• Protect the last 30-60 minutes of the day to wind down & relax – e.g. switch-off technology, read a book, take a bath, listen to calming music or soundscapes, or practice relaxation.
• Try Rob’s yoga nidra or Zephyr’s sleep meditations to ready the mind & body for sleep.
• Keep your bedroom cool, dark & quiet. Earplugs or white noise from a fan can help if you are exposed to snoring or other noises overnight.
• Protect your bed for sleep & intimacy only – keep stress, & pets, out of the bedroom.
• If you really don’t feel tired, read or relax under dim light for another 20 minutes before you get into bed,
6. Woke up and cant get back to sleep?
• Our logical minds take a break overnight. Try not to get too bothered by irrational thoughts in the middle of the night – you will feel different in the morning. Remind yourself that waking up is a normal part of sleep.
• Try a distraction such as slow breathing, progressive muscle relaxation or a sleep meditation.
• If you’re still wide awake after 15 minutes, get out of bed. Prepare a comfy space where you can do something distracting such as reading, ironing, meditation or watching TV. When you feel your eyelids getting heavy, only then get back into be