Top tips for a sweet night’s sleep

I don’t mean to be a drama queen but I feel like I’ve been sleep deprived for years. My youngest child is a bit of night owl. Except for last night, when he slept through the WHOLE NIGHT.

So why do I feel so unbelievably eye-poppingly, body-achingly tired today? More tired than the mornings when I’ve had barely a few hours of sleep?

Temperamental toddler or not, most of you will have experienced waking up from a ‘good’ night’s sleep still exhausted. And what about the nights when you go to bed absolutely exhausted only to find yourself still tossing and turning hours later, unable to find your off switch?

Being sleep deprived has simply become part of life. A massive 96% of us report regularly feeling tired upon waking and almost 30% of us have taken a sickie due to lack of sleep. We’ve become experts at ignoring our body’s signals and pushing through our sleep-deprived state. We’ve got too much to do and sleep is the first thing that takes a hit.

Add to that our digitalised lives, which keep us ‘switched on’ all the time. How many of you sleep with your phone by your bed? What’s the last thing you do before you turn in for the night? Check your email? Twitter? Facebook?

Now, in addition to sleep deprivation’s negative impact on cognitive function, productivity and lifespan, a new study has revealed that lack of sleep causes irreparable damage to our brains

It’s time to take action.

Six solutions to sleep deprivation

1. Pre-sleep meditation
OK, so this is still using your phone just before bed. But using free meditation and mindfulness apps like Omvana and Headspace (my current favourite) to take ten minutes to relax each night will help you drift off to sleep more easily.

2. Get some exercise (in the day)
I know, I know. It’s that last thing you want to do. But in 2013, The Huffington Post reported on the National Sleep Foundation’s poll, which found that people who exercise regularly experience better quality and more consistent sleep than those who don’t. Try some yoga or Pilates, or even better, some outdoor or ‘green exercise‘, which delivers a host of other health benefits including improved mood and self-esteem, and lower blood pressure.

3. Go to bed and get up earlier
According to the chi cycle, your body functions better when you wake up between 5 and 7am and go to bed between 9 and 11pm. Your body will be more in tune with the earth’s circadian rhythms, which offers more restorative sleep. An early wake up also gives you that precious time to exercise before the rest of the house gets up.

4. Avoid caffeine and alcohol
Your choice of beverage is crucial to good sleep habits. Avoid both alcohol and caffeine 4 hours before you turn in. Caffeine is a stimulant – it makes it harder to go to sleep, makes you sleep more lightly and makes you get up to go to the loo more often. Booze may help you fall asleep initially, but it causes more frequent night wakings, nightmares and headaches.

5. Keep your room for sleeping (and maybe one other thing)
Your room is sacred – only use it for sleeping and sex. Don’t eat or watch TV or have a lively debate. And make sure it’s dark – don’t give your body any excuse to stay awake.

6. Take a nap
Cats and Spaniards are on to something. Having a siesta isn’t lazy – our bodies are hardwired to nap, so there’s no need to feel guilty. No good at napping? Neither was I until I had my babies. Napping is a skill. Learn it.

Start today. Go take a nap and get an early night tonight. Give the coffee and wine a miss and have a cup of chamomile and a quick meditate instead. Let someone else get up for the kids. Your sleep affects every aspect of your waking life – it’s time to take it seriously.

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