…by getting more sleep.
After a bad night of not enough sleep, we often feel distracted and unable to concentrate. Recent studies have even suggested that to the brain sleep deprivation is “like drinking too much”.
Research at UCLA has found that sleep deprivation interferes with brain function at a cellular level, reducing the function and ability of cells to communicate with one another, with the result that compromises our mental performance. Normal everyday tasks are impacted, such as:
- reading, (and retaining that information) – how many times do you read and then have to reread stuff when you’re tired?
- slowed reaction times – taking in visual information and translating that visual data into conscious thought (critical when driving for instance)
- being able to recall information you need, such as one of the many passwords you have to keep track of!
These are just a few examples of simple, everyday things, that become more difficult when we’re tired.
However, we seem to be surrounded by people and a culture which is urging us to get less sleep! Numerous articles have been written about the benefits of getting up an hour earlier, taking the time to exercise, plan your day, focus on your goals etc. And this is great as long as you remember that you need to go to bed earlier too, if you’re not going to end up sleep-deprived.
So here are 5 quick tips to help you identify some things that may be impacting your sleep, and how to create a better sleep pattern, so that you can wake up ready to start the day rather than hitting the snooze button (again)
- Light mornings. Light is a signal to your body’s internal clock that it’s time to wake up. This is easier in the summer than in the winter, but you can help this along on dark mornings by turning on a bright light. Light tells your body it’s time to get going.
- Dark nights. Just the opposite from the light ‘wake up’ call, darkness tells us it’s time to sleep. So, at least an hour before bedtime, dim the lights to signal to your body that it’s time for sleep. Switch off those screens, mobiles, and any other device giving off blue light which makes your brain too alert for sleep. (Put your phone in the bedside drawer at night and turn the alarm clock away from you). And remember to also turn off the “noise” of the day, try taking a relaxing bath, and if you’ve still got a lot on your mind, jot it down and let go for the night.
- Eat smart. What, and when, we eat also impacts our sleep quality. Heavy foods and big meals tend to overload the digestive system, so eating these late at night will affect how well you sleep. However, going to bed hungry can cause a drop in blood sugar, which can worsen insomnia or cause restlessness. So be smart, whenever possible leave a gap of at 2 – 3 hours between your evening meal and going to bed or if that’s not possible have something which is lighter and easier to digest.
- Drink smart. In humans, the half-life for caffeine is anywhere from 4 to 6 hours on average. So that means that the effect of an average energy drink or coffee will last between 4 to 6 hours. So reducing your caffeine intake and replacing those later cups with water, milk or a herbal drink to reduce the caffeine in your system.
- Chill. Gentle mind-body exercises, like yoga or tai chi, are great to do just before you hit the sack.
Finally, if your sleeplessness has been going on for a while it might be time to consult your doctor so he or she can check to see if a health condition (such as acid reflux, arthritis, asthma, depression, or a medicine you take) is part of the problem.
If you’re interested in maintaining optimal health and a sense of well-being, then making sleep your priority is a must. But if making lots of changes seems daunting, break it down into manageable steps. Start by doing just one of the suggestions for a week, then add in another the following week, and then another until you create a sleep routine that’s just right for you.
“Training your brain to work for you”