Complete Bliss or a Total Nightmare?

Sleeping

February 20, 2017

 

How was your sleep last night? Did you get a solid, uninterrupted 8 hours of bliss? If you’re like most people, last night probably looked more like dragging yourself to bed once you’d reached complete exhaustion, tossing and turning, waking up randomly at 3am and feeling wide awake, then being rudely awoken by your alarm. Sound familiar?

There’s a spectrum of the quality of sleep between the complete bliss and the complete nightmare, and if you’re sitting closer to the latter then it’s time for a reset.

If you feel like you’ve tried everything from pills and potions to plants and night-lights, a new study from the University of Colorado has shown that there may be a much simpler way and it comes from the great outdoors.

Think about the way that our ancestors used to live, they’d rise with the sun and go to sleep with the sun. Their circadian rhythm was very much dependent on natural light which kept the body clock in check.

Fast forward to the way we live and we are not only deprived of natural light, spending hours under artificial lighting in office blocks, but we’re also forcing this artificial light into our lives late into the night. This is causing chaos with our circadian rhythm, and is a significant contributor to the lack of quality sleep.

Melatonin is the hormone that is released that helps us go off to sleep. It is well known that light destroys melatonin in our bodies. Going to bed late not only contributes to tiredness and productivity throughout the day, but is also now linked with obesity, diabetes and mood disorders.

So how do you hit the ‘reset’ button? A recent study has shown that just a couple of nights in the great outdoors are enough to retune the body’s internal clock. This not only allows you to fall asleep more easily, but it allows the body to move through the five stages of sleep more rhythmically.

So say you’ve done your weekend reset, how do you keep it up? Here are the top five ways to bring the traditional outdoors elements back in with you:

1.     Embrace the darkness. The natural environment has one key element that we seem to be missing in our modern world – complete darkness. I love when staying at hotel rooms they have those blackout blinds. I could be sleeping in the middle of the day and think it’s the dead of night because it’s so DARK! At home, do your best to make your bedroom as dark as possible. Remove all sources of artificial light – even a TV light is enough to keep you wired. Invest in some good blackout blinds (or get creative with your own DIY version). Even using an eye mask can really help to take your body into full darkness.
2.     Turn off the tech.  This is often the hardest one for a lot of people. When you go camping (and you do it right) there is no technology. Phones, ipads, ipods, all i-things are off. While it is not realistic in the modern world to throw away your phone, try weaning yourself off before bedtime. Start with switching it off (or to flight mode) 5 minutes before bed. Then extend that to 10 minutes, 30 minutes, 1 hour, up to 2 hours before bed. Not having contact with a screen before bed REALLY helps to unwind the mind and help you switch off before going to sleep. All those thoughts that come racing in as soon as your head hits the pillow will have time to digest BEFORE bed if you allow them.

3.     Lessen the lights. Unlike in camping where you have to follow the sun for the hours you can be awake and active, I’m not going to tell you to go to bed with the sun (particularly hard in winter when the sun goes to bed so early!). Instead, try and dim lighting in your house, or keep it to a minimum for 30 minutes before bed. Use low lighting lamps, candles, lights that aren’t so aggressive and prone to destroying that much needed melatonin release!

4.     Set your bedtime meeting. My clients who have the best nights sleep treat their bedtime like an important meeting. Some of them even have an alarm when it’s time to go to bed! Getting into a routine of a set bed time that’s at a reasonable hour not only helps keep that circadian rhythm happy but also makes waking up on the other end much easier!

5.     Target is 7-9. That’s hours of sleep. It’s sometimes easier to work backwards, figuring out what time you need to get up with what time you need to go to bed. Research shows that it’s the hours BEFORE midnight that are the best quality, so try and make at least two of those hours before midnight.

Sleeping has such a huge impact on how we feel; our energy levels, food cravings, our ability to exercise and move. It is one of the biggest problems that clients come to me with, and one of the best solutions to so many other (seemingly unrelated) problems! Start working on your sleep routine today and see how it transforms your life.

 

How many of you hit the ‘snooze’ button this morning?  “Just one more time” you tell yourself.  These photos that I see of people’s alarm clocks – while hilarious – are also the BEST way to feel WORSE waking up.  That little bit of extra sleep that you think you need is so fragmented and of poor quality that it makes you feel much worse than what you would’ve waking up on your first alarm.  Daylight savings recently hit Sydney, and it took my body a few days to adjust!

bad-at-mornings

We all know that we need to get a decent nights sleep in order to have a productive and engaged day.  But what if you’re doing everything that the ‘change makers’ are in my Sleeping Your Way to the Top blog and still not feeling energised in the morning?  Below are the top six tips for helping kickstart your morning routine.

#1 Breathe

Even for those not experiencing sleep apnea at night, we often can have uneven breathing cycles through the night, which can decrease the amount of oxygen to the brain.  Ever find yourself yawning incessantly when you wake up?  Yawning is one of the body’s mechanisms to try and get more oxygen.  So while you’re still lying in bed, try the 4-7-8 breathing technique to get the oxygen pumping around your body and wake every part of you up!

#2 Seek Out Natural Light

At night, we want to make the room as dark as possible because light destroys the melatonin (our sleep hormone) that helps us to go off to sleep.  So clearly one of the best ways to wake up is to seek out natural light.  Even five minutes standing in the sunshine, or if you’re lucky enough to have light streaming onto your bed, can do wonders for helping the body to realise its time to wake up!  This is one of the best techniques for the transition in daylight savings, as the light is a natural indicator to the body that it’s time to get going.

#3 Drink a Glass of Warm Lemon Water

While you’re standing out in the sunshine, make a glass of warm lemon water for yourself.  Not only will the lemon start the detoxification from all the built up toxins in your body from the night before, but even mild dehydration can make you feel tired and lethargic.  Starting the day with a full glass of water kickstarts the movement of fluids and toxins through the body, and helps you to feel more energised.

#4 Have a Cold Shower 

This is often reserved for the die hards with ice baths or morning ocean swims but it doesn’t have to be.  Start with a warm shower and build your way up to turning the hot water off (completely if you can!).  The shock of the cold water for the body is like a strong hit of caffeine.  If you think this is too much, just start with splashing cold water on your face.  When you start to see the benefits of that, it might convince you to pop into the shower!

#5 Experiment With Your Hours

Ever find that you feel much more awake around 30 minutes before your alarm went off than after it?  While there are standards for the amount of sleep that we need and the quality hours (10pm-2am) there isn’t much more that needs to be adhered to.  If you find that sleeping later and waking up later works well for you – stick to that.  If you are an early to bed, early to rise, then you are supposedly much more wise.  But experiment.  I used to sleep from 11pm-7am.  And waking up was a really big struggle.  After a weekend away of waking up at 5am, I decided to play around with my sleep hours.  Now, I’m in bed by 10pm and up at 5.30am feeling refreshed and energised!  It all depends on your body so play with it.

#6 The Alarm

How much do you dread the alarm in the morning?  Have you tried different ring tones or different songs, but still whenever it goes off you just want to hurl it across the room?  I discovered a new app called Sleep Cycle, which is an alarm that wakes you up in the right stage of your sleep cycle (hence the name!).  There are five stages of sleep that we go through, and being woken up or disrupted in the middle of the REM stage will have you feeling like you’ve been hit by a bus!  The app gives you a 30 minute window (this is optimal) to wake you up as it recognises when you’re naturally starting to wake.  Playing with this will also help you to experiment with your hours.

So what makes a ‘successful’ wakeup and morning?  Having a ritual.  Tie all of the above recommendations together and you have the beginning of a customisable blueprint for your own morning ritual.  The most successful people in the world are borderline OCD about their morning rituals – nothing can mess with them.  If you want to start the day right – create a ritual.

What does your morning ritual include?

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