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- a condition of body and mind which typically recurs for several hours every night, in which the nervous system is inactive, the eyes closed, the postural muscles relaxed, and consciousness practically suspended.
Sleep is as much a natural process as breathing or blinking. So why for so many of us do we fail miserably at it? If only there was a button on our bodies that could put us to sleep instantly – or better yet if the need for sleep was completely eradicated by a new ‘science pill’. Unfortunately for many of us, sleep is an unanswerable question…how the hell do I do it?
Margaret Thatcher famously survived on four hours of sleep a night. In fact, she not only survived – she thrived. There have been a number of high profile CEOs, creative artists, and world leaders all famed for their lack of sleep endurance skills. Donald Trump boasts of a mere 3 hours a night. This lack of sleep was once considered a badge of pride, and those that required more were seen as weak. However, in more recent times perceptions are shifting.
‘A solid 8 hours’ can provide significant benefits – allowing for greater prosperity and achievement during our waking lives. Not only is a good night’s sleep touted as a winner for productivity but also for the benefits of our mental and physical health (Usain Bolt regularly gets 10 hours of sleep a night). Substandard quality of sleep can have devastating effects on the body and mind.
So How Much Sleep do I Need?
The average adult sleeps less than seven hours per night. This may well sound like plenty – especially to the likes of Donald Trump. In actual fact, it could lead to chronic sleep deprivation.
It should not be underestimated how much better you could feel with an extra hour or so sleeping. In reality, everybody is different. As a guide though it is recommended that a healthy adult gets between 7-9 hours of sleep per night – in order to function optimally.
Sleep for many of us is an art form. In order to be better at it, we need to practice and find what works best through trial and error.
Below are 5 ways to try and answer the question – how the hell do I sleep?
# 1 – Make Your Bedroom a Sleep Only Zone
One in three people have problems with sleeping, but there are many tips and tricks that can help alleviate or even solve insomnia. If you were to make a cross country car journey you would ensure the vehicle being used was up for the job. The engine oil would be checked, tyre pressure, windscreen wash and of course fuel levels. The bedroom is one’s vehicle to the world of sleep, and thus should be thoroughly optimised for the journey.
So if the bedroom is the vehicle then the bed is surely the engine. A quality mattress, comfortable pillows and clean and crisp sheets are all essential. The bedroom should be dark and quiet – so get rid of ticking clocks and turn smartphones to silent (morning alarm will still make a noise and get you up – don’t worry)
In the US 64% of households have a TV in the master bedroom. Blue light from electronic devices disrupts the quality of sleep. It is important that the bedroom is subconsciously associated with sleep – so ideally do nothing but within that environment. Obviously there are some intimate activities that are ideally suited to this particular room – but within your normal bedtime routine keep the bedroom for sleeping.
Room temperature is also very important. Make sure you don’t have electric blankets or overly thick duvets – as these can cause you to wake up sweaty – especially for women going through the menopause. The suggested room temperature for ideal sleep conditions is between 15°C and 19°C. Body temperature actually decreases in order to initiate sleep – and a cooler room helps to facilitate this process.
Now that we have the Sleepmobile fully optimised – here are some more tricks to speed up the journey to Dreamtown.
# 2 – Consistency – Get into a Habit
Get into the habit of going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. Now, this is difficult for some people, but the more consistent you are the easier it will be to nod off. Getting to sleep can be most of the battle for some people, so master this and overall quality of sleep will increase dramatically.
The circadian rhythm is a selection of behavioural, physical, and mental changes that follow a 24-hour cycle. These changes respond primarily to light and darkness within our environment. This is why it’s important NOT to burn the candle at both ends. Allowing for natural daylight in the mornings and darkness in the evenings will tell your body when it’s ready to sleep.
The biological clock is one’s internal timing device. It releases hormones to induce sleep or wakefulness. Developing a consistent habit for your bedtime timings can help your body clock predict when to begin the sleep induction process.
Melatonin can help reset circadian rhythms – for those suffering from insomnia, shift workers or stress-related sleep issues. There are many foods that naturally contain melatonin, so a top tip is a glass of almond milk before bed. It is high in sleep-promoting hormones and minerals, including tryptophan, melatonin, and magnesium.
# 3 – Breathing Method (4-7-8) | Try It
This is a technique developed by Dr Andrew Weil. It is based on a traditional yoga breathing technique call pranayama and can calm nerves and help to fall asleep faster. Dr Weil described it as a “natural tranquillizer for the nervous system.”
The process of counting whilst breathing causes the mind to relax. It becomes unburdened of any stresses or anxieties it would otherwise be feeling. If mastered correctly one should slip seamlessly into a totally relaxed state – with a peaceful sleep not too far behind.
The following steps outline the 4-7-8 breathing process:
- Open your mouth and place tongue behind front teeth
- Slowly breath out and empty lungs
- Close your mouth
- Breathe in through your nose – slowly for 4 seconds
- Hold your breath for 7 seconds
- Breathe out through your mouth for 8 seconds
- Rinse and repeat 4 times
This truly is a great way to entice the fickle sleep mistress – but can also be used to relax if in a state of anxiety.
# 4 – Sleep like a Solider – The Military Method
One of the most annoying things about the whole falling asleep process is becoming restless. I don’t know about you, but when I start overthinking it becomes perpetually worst. Staring at the clock becomes a ritualistic nightmare. It acts as a never-ending reminder of how far away from sleep I actually am.
The NHS recommends the average person needs around eight hours of good-quality sleep every night to function properly. A lack of sleep can make people more prone to obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease. Having less than five hours of good quality sleep can also increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. So wouldn’t it be nice to get to sleep quickly?
Here is a fantastic method that is purported to get you to sleep in 2 minutes or less. Outlined in the book Relax and Win: Championship Performance – the technique was developed by army chiefs to ensure soldiers could get to sleep – and not make life-threatening mistakes through exhaustion.
The following steps outline the Military Method:
- Relax your whole face – including the jaw, eye muscles and tongue
- Drop your shoulders as far as they will go
- Drop your arms – one at a time – as far as they will go
- Breathe out to relax your chest
- Relax your legs
- Imagine a relaxing scene and clear your mind for 10 seconds
- If this doesn’t work – say to yourself ‘don’t think‘ over and over again for 10 seconds
After six weeks of practising this technique – 96% of people said it worked – and got them to sleep in under 2 minutes. How great is that!
# 5 – CBD Oil
If you’re considering using CBD oil, you should speak to your GP or another healthcare professional to ensure that it is safe and appropriate for you to do so.
CBD oil is a product which is derived from the cannabis plant. Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting you get ‘high’ in order to fall asleep. In fact, unlike THC this cannabinoid does not contain any psychoactive elements or any form of toxins.
In the UK, CBD is legal but must not contain more than 0.2% THC. The Journal of Clinical Pharmacology produced a study that showed subjects who took 160 mg of CBD reported sleeping more than those taking a placebo.
Another study, conducted by Scott Shannon MD produced some very interesting results. A total of 72 patients were involved – 47 of which suffered from anxiety and 25 experienced difficulties with sleeping.
- 79.2% of all the participants said that CBD resulted in reduced anxiety
- 66.7% of all the participants said that CBD increased quality of sleep
If you are considering CBD as an option towards achieving better sleep, you must first conduct your own research – as the industry is relatively new. Ensure you obtain high-quality products from reputable sources and always consult a health professional – especially if you have existing medical conditions.
A good nights sleep is the envy of all. It can be achieved by following some or all of the suggestions outlined above. I have found that after just a few weeks of implementation – my sleep has improved dramatically. It is truly unbelievable how much of an impact on all aspects of our lives sleep really has. There’s been a massive improvement in my daily mood, my energy levels and my motivation. I now look forward to my nighttime ritual and the eventual reward that awaits…sleep.