It is World Sleep Day, so we learn from Phil Dobson author of The Brain Book, trainer facilitator, coach and founder of BrainWorkshops his top tips on how to sleep better.
I can’t stress the importance of sleep enough. If you want to perform anywhere near your best, or care even remotely about your long-term mental health, get your seven to nine hours of sleep each night. If you struggle with sleep, there are simple things you can do to help.
Begin by tracking your sleep. Even if you only record your sleep for a week, it will help you understand your own sleep patterns. To do this you can use apps (for example, Sleep Cycle alarm clock), or wearable devices that record your movement over the night and provide you with your ‘hypnogram’ the following day.
To improve your sleep, remember that sleeping isn’t a skill you need to learn, and it’s definitely not the case that the harder you try the easier it gets. Sleeping well is the result of creating the right environmental, physiological, and mental, conditions. This offers three ways to improve your sleep;
Create the right environment
- Increase your exposure to daylight. Go for a walk at lunchtime; this will expose you to the blue light that is necessary for setting a healthy sleep/wake pattern.
- Significantly reduce your exposure to light at night. Sed a message to your brain that it’s time to sleep. If you find it hard to fall asleep, stop using artificially lit screens (especially laptops, tablets and mobile phones) an hour before sleep. Use software (such as F.lux) that removes blue light (th frequency that disrupts your sleep most) from your computer monitor as it gets dark.
- Set your room temperature to around 18 degrees C.
Create the right physiological state
- Lower your cortisol levels by relaxing your body. if you wake in the middle of the night, try practising meditation or mindfulness, or progressive relaxation before you go to bed.
- Lower your core temperature. Try a cool bath or shower before bed. A hot bath two hours before bed can also work, as it can cause a subsequent downward spike in your temperature.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol if you can’t sleep, and avoid large meals late at night. Alcohol may help you fall asleep but disrupts the quality of your sleep.
Create the right mental conditions
- Empty your mind regularly. It’s not an overactive mind that keeps you up, it’s just one that needs managing. Do regular brain dumps – a simple exercise that helps you to empty all the unattended clutter and miscellaneous ‘to-do’s that are in your head.
- Stop working at least two hours before bed. Don’t check your emails or other news feeds before bed. let your brain wind down.
- Practice meditation or mindfulness to quieten your mind after work.
Apply the 90-minute rule
To wake up feeling as alert as possible, try to wake up at the end of a 90-minute sleep cycle. If you need to wake up at 7 am, you would want to fall asleep at either 11.30pm (five cycles) or 10 pm (six cycles). Sleep Cycle alarm clock and similar apps can help with this.
Kicks start your alertness in the morning with:
- Water: Drink half a litre of water to hydrate your brain
- Movement: do a short burst of exercise to oxygenate your bain
- Light: get outside for a proper dose of blue light to illuminate your brain
The Effects of Naps
Your brain likes naps. The trick is to keep it short and at the right time of day. Aim to have a nap that lasts between 20-30 minutes and no longer. If you go too far into a sleep cycle you’ll wake to feel sluggish and disorientated. The best time of day for naps is between 2 and 4 pm, when you have a natural slump in energy,. Done properly, maps can imporve your subeseuqnet attention and thinking speeds by more than 20%.
A practical application to improve, enhance and boost your brain performance
- Learn how to invest in your brain
- The Brian Book will guide you through brain fitness, brain functioning and brain programming
- Benefit from immediately applicable exercises and techniques
- Discover how to: Boost your performance, Enhance your memory, Improve your focus, Unleash your creativity
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