Sleep is a part of daily life that is non-negotiable - if we do not get adequate sleep we fail to function at our optimal levels in many areas of our life. Just what is adequate sleep? Well this will vary from person to person, but generally speaking it is from six to eight hours per sleep period. For most of us, our sleep period is nocturnal, however there are many shift workers whose sleep period is diurnal, or during the day.
This is a particular challenge, since our circadian rhythms are often driven by external cues such as daylight. If we get less that the minimum sleep required on a regular basis, our focus, health and ultimately our results will suffer. Other factors will also impinge on our ability to get a good night's sleep, such as stress, stimulants such as caffeine and alcohol, as well as unfinished business or future concerns.
It is in our best interests to maximize our ability to sleep if we want to maximize our quality of life. If you have come to accept a lack of sleep, tiredness, low energy and dark circles around your eyes as the norm, check out my tips below.
- Don't drink coffee after midday. If you must drink coffee after this time, try decaffienated coffee or tea.
- Limit your intake of alcohol -- if you need a glass of wine to wind down every day, this may be a sign that you have areas of your life where you are not feeling in control and have created a habit to make yourself feel better, however this is not sustainable. At some point your sleep and your health will suffer.
- Keep a notepad by the side of your bed, and if you wake up in the middle of the night with lists of things to do, or concerns, or even a bad dream, write it all down and look at it in the morning. Once you get these things out of your head and on to paper, your subconscious is free to let your attention go.
- If you are on medication(s), make sure you check with your doctor regularly that the combination of prescriptions, over the counter medications, vitamins and other substances in combination are not playing havoc with your body.
- Now this idea (which has its origins in paradoxical interventions) is somewhat radical but it does work! It involves making yourself accountable. Whenever you find yourself lying awake at night, give yourself a task to do so that at least some good comes out of your wakefulness. If you find yourself unable to get back to sleep for more than fifteen minutes, get yourself up and perform a task that needs doing. It might be writing a chapter of a book that you are working on, preparing your taxes, or scrubbing the kitchen floor. Go back to bed and if you are still awake after fifteen minutes, get up and do it again. If you are consistent with this approach, you will notice great results. Once your mind understands that you mean business, it will let you get back to sleep.