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How to get high-quality sleep. zzZ

Forget F.Lux if you Want to get a High Quality Sleep you need to do More than Reduce Blue Light in your phone.

What I have found both in my own life and with my clients is that if you can wind down before bed you are much more likely to a) fall asleep quickly and b) enjoy a more restful and nourishing deep sleep. And. Perhaps you’ll even have that wonderful, but all too rare, experience of feeling well-rested on waking.

Sleep is important to my clients because their brain runs so hot during the day… and really their whole business is built around their ability to think clearly.  A frazzled, tired brain cannot do its best work!

Your Brain needs Cooling Down Time!

Think of it like this. Let’s say you drove from Lands End to John o’Groats (the whole length of the UK). You could do this in about a day. But let’s say your engine needed some maintenance and re-mapping by the time you got there… You wouldn’t expect the mechanic to stick his hand right in there as soon as you arrived. It would be too hot to handle after the long drive. The engine would need to cool and stop ticking before the mechanic could do his job.

This is analogous to sleep. You need to cool down your engine so that the repair work can be done. Your brain actually shrinks by nearly 20 percent so that the build-up of waste (basically like plaque) can be washed away. Studies show that if this process is not happening or it’s not effective there is a higher risk of Alzheimer’s. If your brain is still firing it can’t cool down and repair itself.

Ok, got it! So how do I Cool Down and Support my Mind to loosen its Grip on the Dilemmas and Stimulation of the Day?

On the basis that you might be sleep deprived and looking for a genuine solution… I’ve broken down what works for me and described the process I often take my clients through:

  • Decide your wake-up time (whether it’s natural or alarmed). (Studies show it’s better for your body clock to wake at the same time every day.)

 

  • Now take 8 hours off that. This is your target time to fall asleep (8 hours may be unrealistic or not the right amount for you, work with what you need).

 

  • Two hours before you want to be asleep (or, at the very least, 30min for now) put a recurring entry in your calendar as a reminder to yourself, call it: “Wind-Down pre-high-quality sleep in order to perform at my best”. Have it remind you at the start of this wind-down. When you get the reminder, here’s what to do:

 

  • Put your phone on silent and on charge somewhere you won’t see it until morning*. Same for laptops, tablets etc. This is nothing to do with Blue light (although there is data evidencing that this does affect sleep). This is to let your mind have a break.

 

So what to do with the 2 hours? For me that’s family time, putting the kids to bed and tidying up. Some light reading. Nothing too stimulating or fascinating. What’s my favourite activity just before bed? Doing the dishes, loading the dishwasher and tidying the kitchen. Why do I love this so much? I have found that it leaves me feeling good. I get a mini sense of achievement to end the day and I find my mind calms and mostly just tends to the activity. If cleaning up the kitchen doesn’t sound like your thing… what might be? The key here is: the sense of achievement, the lack of uncertainty and the mindful nature of the activity, that’s what it’s all about. Consider these alternatives:

A yoga class can be great for getting you into your body and taking the spotlight of attention away from mind-stuff.

Personally, I find meditation much too stimulating just before bed. When I sit motionlessly my mind jumps at the opportunity to dream, scheme, analyse and re-live and this is the opposite of where I want to get to. But maybe sitting quietly might work well for you.

You could experiment with taking a bath or a cold shower both of which people report really helps.

Doing a puzzle…, Baking…, Making something with your hands… What can you think of that will help you wind down before sleep?

If this all feels like a heavy lift, yet you aren’t getting high-quality sleep… Or, you’re not waking up feeling refreshed… try the above steps for one week. Or, just pick one action and try that (e.g. stop using your phone an hour before bed*). Don’t set yourself up for failure, do something that’s doable –tonight– and ideally every night for 28days (that’s how long it takes to form a new habit).

 

  • * Just so you know… the reason it’s important to put your phone on charge and out of reach early is that as the evening wears on our willpower fades. This is a recipe for disaster. Or, at the very least, a recipe for scrolling and tapping in a way that you just wouldn’t do when fresh and awake. And that leads to less sleep and disturbed sleep. I’ve found it’s not a good strategy to rely on willpower in the evening, best to plan around that!

 

Sleep well!

James

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