A better nights sleep- 5 top tips!
How much sleep we get on a nightly basis has a direct impact on our physical and mental health, that is a known fact. However, what is less known is how and why we are no longer achieving restful sleep and what we can do about it.
If we have had a good nights’ sleep we feel rested and ready for the day, we can cope better in stressful situations, we think more clearly, we are more rational and we have an overall feeling of wellbeing. Without sleep we feel on edge, grumpy, have a foggy mind, are irrational and lack the ability to be able to cope often resulting in behaviour that is not akin to who we are.
Here’s the science….
The basic human biological ‘drives’ are hunger, thirst, sex (for reproduction) and sleep. Social ‘drives’ might include love, success, bonding etc and are considered secondary to the primary biological drives.
The definition of biological drive is ‘the fundamental drives which govern human behaviour. They pertain to the most basic physiological needs for survival’ (as above ). Thus, there is an internal motivation state produced when the person is deprived of water, food, oxygen and sleep. This motivation is the body’s need to maintain a state of equilibrium, known as homeostasis.
What to do now….
Now we know that sleep is a drive, and not simply a thing that just happens around 1030 at night when we want to turn in for the night, we can begin to address the problem of wakeful/sleepless nights in a different way.
No amount of herbal tea, lavender infused baths, herbal sleep remedies or whale music will make you sleep! Simply because these behaviours don’t affect your drive to sleep. They do have a relaxing element to them, absolutely, but will using them result in a full night’s sleep? The answer is ‘no’.
So, what can you do to influence your sleep drive?
1. Get up and out of bed at the same time, EVERY day, including weekends! This is a tough one, but the most important one. Your brain needs to understand when it is time to be awake and when it is time to sleep and it does this according to our circadian rhythms (our sleep/wake cycle). Consistency is absolutely key.
2. Only go to bed when you are ‘sleepy’ tired. That’s not the same as exhausted/wired/shattered, it is when you are nodding off and fighting your eyelids.
3. If you don’t fall asleep within 15 minutes, get out of bed, leave the bedroom and go and do something you enjoy until the sleepy feeling returns.
4. Once you are up, get natural daylight. This tells the brain it is time to be awake and sets our body clock accordingly. This is easy in the summer, you can sit by a window or go for a walk. In the winter invest in a daylight lamp (Min 10,000 lumens) and sit by the lamp for a minimum of 20 minutes, as soon as you get up.
5. Eat regular meals at the same time each day and get some moderate exercise, a walk will suffice.
Follow these tips consistently and your sleep should improve within 3-7 days, sleep well!
And remember, what is considered a good night’s sleep varies from person to person, we are not all needing the 7-8 hours that is often talked about.