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Our lives are full of derailleurs. One in three of us suffers from poor quality sleep with stress, technology and work being some of the culprits.

In my role as an executive coach, I work with many people that are challenged in achieving a ‘normal’ sleep pattern. It has been reported that some can survive on as little as 4 hours sleep but the majority of scientific evidence points to most of us needing a good quality 8 hours. Getting enough sleep is important, as it helps our bodies to recover, it helps our brains make sense of what has happened in the day and helps us to deal with difficult situations better. It helps us fight off illness, and can help in keeping a healthy heart and mind.

It seems strange then that we condition ourselves not to sleep when this is actually what our bodies need to recover. Once in a pattern of insomnia, we find it difficult to break, but breaking it we must do.

This short piece suggests some things that we can do to encourage our bodies to take that initiative of countering insomnia.

Four rules to abide by when you want better sleep

  1. No screens within an hour of trying to get to sleep. Screens such as phones, tablets and TVs give out blue light and this prevents the production of melanin – a hormone that helps us to sleep.
  2. Avoid any drinks that contain caffeine (tea, coffee, chocolate, energy drinks, etc) within 4 hours of bedtime. Caffeine is a stimulant and can keep you awake. Similarly, avoid nicotine within an hour of trying to get to sleep.
  3. Ensure that your bedroom is comfortable – the bed is comfy, the temperature is not too hot or too cold (ideal temperature is between 18 and 24C), the environment is safe and generally not used for anything else like tv or eating.
  4. Remember to take in regular exercise – but again think about when you do this. Avoid doing exercise within 2 hours of trying to get to sleep.

Some advisories to help in getting better sleep

  • Although a traditional time to drink alcohol is in the evening, be aware that this can disrupt some of the later sleep cycles. You may find it easier to get to sleep at first but this latter disruption to our sleep cycles usually means that we do not wake up refreshed.
  • A regular routine can help. The body is a system – it likes cycles so going to sleep at a similar time, and getting up at the same time each day can really help in establishing a routine.
  • Building in some relaxation prior to sleep can help. Fire up your music streaming service and listen to something that relaxes you or think about one of the many relaxation CDs that are available online.
  • Beware that although having a bath can be relaxing, having too hot a bath will keep you awake.

Thinking about not being able to drop off is really not very useful. If you are lying in bed thinking about something and watching the clock cursing that you are not sleeping -get up and do something. I would suggest that you don’t put up shelves or start digging over the garden as this may get some unwelcome interest though.

Some self serve mindfulness techniques can help. Check out Brain.fm or Headspace for some starting suggestions.

Above all, if lack of sleep is really getting you down – it is time to get an appointment to see your doctor and get some professional help.

Happy dreams….

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