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Sleep is a funny subject because people approach it with the best intentions. We know how important it is and how bad a lack of sleep can make us feel, yet it is very hard to change habits for the better.
I have written about sleep several times before here, and here…. This post though sets out to be a little bit different. While there is no scientific evidence to back it up I am a firm believer in the old adage -
“One hour of sleep before midnight is worth two after”
The problem is fewer and fewer people are getting to bed before midnight, when I tell most people that I am in bed at 10-11PM each night they look at me like I’m mad. Instead of going to bed at 10Pm and waking at 5-6AM most people will go to bed after midnight and wake up whenever they can (depending on work, commitments, light etc) this leads to 5-6 hours of suboptimal sleep.
I have a confession to make in that I am far from an optimal sleeper, although I go to bed early I will often wake up too early and struggle to get back to sleep. Yet I know that when I get in the hours before midnight I feel great the next day even if I get up really early, as oppose to nights I go out and sleep after midnight getting the exact same amount of sleep but feel crappy.
Most people will find that a chronic lack of good deep sleep will cause:
- Irritability and Stubbornness - When running on a lack of sleep we can take the bad route in life instead of reconsidering the route, get easily annoyed by people and get stuck in a general bad mood rut. This has effects not only on our personal life but professional life.
- Creativity and Inspiration - Plummet. For me this is the first thing that goes when I have very little sleep. Without sleep you will stop coming up with moments of wonder, inspiration and a general lust for life. Coming up with solutions to even trivial problems becomes a nightmare.
- Mess With Body Function - A lot of people I know will get headaches, digestion trouble and low energy from a single nights bad sleep. Imagine what a build up of sub-optimal sleep is doing.
The problem is that the solution is not so easy. Regaining the ability to sleep deeply and soundly can be influenced by a variety of factors; General Stress, Adrenal/Thyroid Problems, Messed up Circadian Rhythm, the list could go on and on and the solution is highly individualised.
I have found a few things to really help on a basic level:
- Firstly avoid staring into the television late at night, this can seriously mess up your circadian rhythm as it your body will go from thinking its night time to thinking its day time all over again, the bright lights from the TV will disrupt melatonin production. I know this is not the most convenient thing but at least try to switch off the television 45 minutes before going to sleep.
- If you use a Computer at night install F.Lux this software is a piece of genius, changing the tone of your monitor at the appropriate time so that it is a less bright, more fire like orangey colour. This allows for the natural serotonin/melatonin cycle to take place and ease you into sleep.
During the day, computer screens look good—they’re designed to look like the sun. But, at 9PM, 10PM, or 3AM, you probably shouldn’t be looking at the sun.
- Read before bed. This alone can be a great way to calm down from the day and trigger sleep by tiring your eyes out. Something light and easy to read is best, you don’t want any heavy emotional novels at this time.
- Don’t listen to upbeat music. This should be an obvious one but many people I know have music blaring way into the evening, if you want to listen to music in the evening make it something mellow and relaxing that will calm you down.
- Avoid Stimulants Later in the Day. These are any type of stimulant (coffee, tea, green/white tea, guarana, yerba mate, ginseng) we often don’t realise what a disruptive effect these stimulants have until we stop having them.
- Try and Reset your schedule so you are in bed before midnight. Again this is not ideal for all of us and for some it is impossible, but if you can take advantage of the pre-midnight hours for sleep use them. This is usually a gradual shift and an easy way to do it is waking up earlier, or setting your alarm earlier each morning this should make you sleepy earlier.
These are the core basics and hopefully they will help get you on the right track in terms of sleep. The good thing is once you start cutting down on evening television, and brightly lit computer use you may find yourself getting sleepy earlier than normal. If you are already a pre-midnight sleeper then keep it up and rest assured there is nothing wrong with going to bed early, only benefits to reap.
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