Growing up I remember the adults around me always mentioning how tired they were. How they could not sleep nor could they remember when last they had a good night’s sleep. I also remember thinking that the “lack of energy and always tired “phenomenon only happened to “old” people.
By the time I was thirty I realised that I was THAT old person. Wishing for a good night’s sleep, and complaining when I did not, often even feeling anxious on a Sunday night, in the hopes for a restful sleep that would energise me enough to carry me through the week.
As a holistic practitioner, when I work with clients I focus on restoring balance to the body, mind, and soul by balancing the pillars of health. Sleep is one of theses pillars, and is just as important as exercise and nutrition, yet is one of the most neglected pillars, resulting in the tiredness and fatigue phenomenon being experienced globally.
“As many as 16 million UK adults* are suffering from sleepless nights as a third (31%) say they have insomnia, initial findings from Aviva’s upcoming Wellbeing Report reveal. Almost half (48%) agree they don’t get the right amount of sleep.”
So how do we make sure to get the right amount of sleep?
There are three things to consider-
1-The Circadian Rhythm, 2- The Sleep Cycle and, 3- The Golden Hour
The Circadian Rhythm-your body clock
The circadian rhythm, which is a 24-hour cycle that regulates all our biological and physiological processes, works in harmony with our sleep pressure.
The circadian rhythm will naturally rise in the early morning, promoting wakefulness and alertness, and will reach a peak in the evening. After a waking period of around 15 hours the pressure to sleep becomes greater and we get tired. It is important to remember this fact especially if you have had a lazy sleep-in morning, then are lying awake in bed before the 15 hours, not understanding why you cannot fall asleep.
Your body clock is influenced by environmental factors such as light/dark and temperature, hence your body clocks can go off track in winter or when the clocks change. This not only disrupts sleeping and eating patterns but also mood and mental alertness.
If you are wanting to improve quality of sleep, it is important that you strengthen your body clock to develop a regular sleep and wake up time. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, even on weekend, regulates and strengthens your body clock and with time you will notice that the quality of your sleep improves. For some waking up early on the weekend is a bit of a hardship, but once you wake up with that “joie de vivre” feeling, you will quite happily make the sacrifice.
The Sleep Cycle
The sleep cycle is comprised of four stages- Non-rapid eye movement sleep (NREM) which is divided into three stages, (NREM1, NREM2 AND NREM3, and Rapid eye movement (REM)
NREM1 and NREM2 are light phases of sleep from which we can be easily roused and together last 30mins. NREM3 becomes deeper, and if woken, we can feel disorientated and groggy. The final stage is the rapid eye movement sleep (REM), the dreaming stage. Each sleep cycle lasts around 90 mins. To feel fully rested and refreshed you must experience all four stages. A full night’s sleep will include five or six cycles, while a disturbed and restless night with fewer. Strengthening your circadian rhythm with the same wake and sleep time will help regulate the sleep cycle ensuring that you regularly go through all four stages of sleep during your sleep cycles.
The Golden Hour
This is the hour before you are scheduled to go to bed. In this hour you practice a series of relaxation habits which are best work for you to ensure you feel relaxed and calm. Some helpful things to consider for you Golden hour are-
- Switching all screens off and no gadgets in the bedroom
- Having a warm candle lit bath or shower
- Making sure your bedroom is softly light with dimmed lights, I find Himalayan salt lamps very effective for this.
- Practicing some gentle stretches
- Practicing meditation, breathing, or relaxation techniques
- Reading- preferably a paper book. If you are using a gadget, please make sure you have your blue light turned on.
- Journaling out thoughts and emotions of the day you are still carrying
- Having a note pad on the bedside and writing out your to-do list for the next day.
- Using aromatherapy oil, pillow sprays or room sprays for sleep, calm and relaxation.
In summing it up, to improve our sleep we need to be consistent with our practice of relaxing the body and mind as well as consistent with our new habit of going to bed and waking at the same time. Here is to a restful restorative night’s sleep and to waking up feeling healthier and happier.