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6 Simple Steps To Sound Sleep

Written by: Mark Newey, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

Let's face it, modern life is not conducive to sleep: we're all too busy and too stimulated! But if you look back to cave times, or even 50 years ago, there's a clear route to having a refreshing night's sleep.

Happy woman in blue pajamas lying in bed in the morning and listening to relaxing music.

If you think about it, the electric light bulb was one of the worst things invented...at least for sleep! Before electricity, our sense of daytime and night time was very simple: we went to bed when it got dark (e.g., 8 pm) and got up when it got light (e.g., 6 am). That's how humans would have behaved for millions of years. The problem is that evolution takes a long time.


So, with that in mind, there are behaviours and habits we need to develop that will mimic this as close as possible and prepare us for bed. It's no good packing up the laptop, going upstairs, cleaning our teeth and getting into bed expecting to go straight to sleep. The body (and the mind) are not ready yet. The process of going to bed, i.e., including the relaxing and winding down period, which I will guide you through, should take an hour. And, our behaviour throughout the day matters too!!


It's simpler than it sounds...read on!


Step 1: In the Morning


Get up at the same time of day, regardless of when you went to bed, and that includes the weekend. The body works best with routine and nowhere is this more important than with sleep. Yes, this is a difficult one, but if you're struggling to sleep it is important. You may have to "power through" the tiredness and lack of sleep to start with, but this WILL change the quality of your sleeping habits.

And it's scientifically proven!

  • Don't snooze the alarm: get out of bed. I know it's difficult, but your system needs the discipline.

  • Get some daylight and Vitamin D in the morning: go for a 20-minute walk or if it's warm, have breakfast outside. Again, for the sleep/wake cycle, this is important. Think cave man!

  • Take a Vitamin D supplement.

  • Exercise is best undertaken in the morning: I know that's difficult for the modern workday.

Step 2: During the Afternoon and Evening

  • No coffee or caffeinated drinks after about 4 pm: coffee has a long afterlife and needs to be out of your system before you go to bed.

  • Avoid more than 20-minute naps during the day, especially in the evening.

  • Finish eating by 8 pm: your body needs 3 hours to complete digestion before you go to bed in order for you to be able to relax deeply.

  • It's so important to get more natural daylight (preferably in the fresh air) in the afternoon. Again, think cave man and evolution. This is really important for sleep: don't fudge it!

  • Stop drinking liquids an hour or so before bed...for obvious reasons... although middle age does seem to require a night time visit to the loo regardless!

Golden Rule


No exercise AFTER 7 pm. It takes the body 3 hours to come down after exercise. It's no good going to bed with your heart racing!


Step 3: Diet

  • Avoid all caffeine in the late afternoon.

  • Avoid protein 3 hours before bedtime.

  • Increase high GI carbohydrate intake 3 hours before bedtime.

  • If you regularly wake up at 2 am with mild indigestion (this is the time your liver is working hard to cleanse itself), an oatcake as you go to bed, can be helpful.

  • Avoid alcohol as a sleep aid; it doesn't work. It's a stimulant. Even though it may seem to knock you out, the stimulant kicks in after a few hours and destroys your sleep.

Step 4: Create a Bedtime ritual


Go to bed at the same time EVERY night: Set a reminder if you need one. Your body needs routine, particularly because of the electric light bulb! Getting ready for bed should take an hour (no kidding!). Create a ritual that you do every night.

  • Make a list of all of the things that are worrying you and the things you need to do the next day and put the list aside before you go upstairs.

  • Turn off screens an hour before heading up the stairs.

Note: Warm camomile tea is really relaxing an hour or so before bed.

  • Seriously consider a hot bath or shower; funnily enough it's the cooling down of your body that makes you sleepy, not the heat of the bath or shower.

  • There is evidence that melatonin and/or valerian supplements help with sleep, taken as you go to bed.

  • Wait until you are genuinely fatigued before going to bed.

  • Turn the alarm clock away from you; guess what you tend to look at... and keep looking at, when you wake up in the middle of the night? Knowing that you've been awake for an hour makes the mind chatter worse!

Step 5: Bedroom Hygiene

  • Block out ALL lights from your room (Sleep Mask if necessary).

  • Reduce noise distraction (wear earplugs if necessary).

  • Maintain a comfortable room temperature: A lower temperature than you might think, is better. Sweltering, even in winter, is not good! 15-20 degrees C (60-70 degrees F) is good.

  • Make sure your bedroom is for sleep only (well one other thing, if you share it!!). Absolutely no screens at all: the blue light from mobiles, iPads and laptops plays havoc with our brainwaves right when we're trying to rest. Seriously! No screens. If you use your mobile as an alarm clock: get an alarm clock!

  • It sounds obvious, but make sure your bed's comfortable: not too soft and not too hard!

  • Make sure the sheets are clean: yes, it makes a difference!

  • It's best when your room is tidy and dust-free: again, these small changes make a BIG difference.

Step 6: During the Night


Make relaxation your goal, rather than sleep itself. If your mind is busy when you get into bed, use the following incredibly relaxing breathing technique; when you slow your breathing right down, you automatically slow down your heart rate and your brainwave activity too:


The ABC's Of Breathing Technique


A. Breathe into the count of 4

B. Hold your breath to the count of 4

C. And breathe out to the count of 8


(The duration time of a count between doesn't matter. It doesn't have to be exactly 4 seconds, 4 seconds and 8 seconds: it's the ratio that matters. You'll find that in as little as over two minutes, the gaps between the numbers automatically become longer as your breathing slows down. To start with, you may be squeezing the air out at the end of the exhale, but it'll balance very quickly and your body will find its most comfortable rate.)


If during the night:

  • You are not asleep within 20-30 minutes, go downstairs and read a book: tire those eyes out!

  • Keep the lights low though.

  • You wake up before it's time to get up, and repeat The ABC's Of Breathing Technique. If not asleep again in 20-30 minutes, go downstairs and read a book.

If you would like a no-obligation virtual 30-minute coffee break chat to explore further how Radical Self-Discovery can genuinely transform your life and your business, please don’t hesitate to contact me from my website. You can also follow me on LinkedIn.


 

Mark Newey, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine Mark Newey is a Protagonist and Disruptor, empowering small business owners to totally transform their company's biggest asset: themselves. Running a business is stressful, especially in today's environment: if we are stressed, our cognitive capacity drops by 40%, which means we are operating at 60% efficiency. Mark has distilled 22 years of experience from his own breakdown and working with 3000 clients (of whom 1200 were small business owners) into a foolproof system: The 7 Steps to Radical Self-Discovery. Only 10% of companies thrive and grow coming out of a crisis. The difference between the 10% and the 90%? The mindset of the entrepreneur.


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