Sleep has a love hate relationship with many of us. Its benefits cannot be denied: it has been claimed to be linked to weight loss, concentration, mood, attractiveness, long life, memory and overall better health to name a few. But despite knowing some or all of the facts, most people (myself included) find ourselves 'burning the candle at both ends'.
I'm convinced that there must be an alternative to living life permanently tired. So I picked up Paul McKenna's book 'I can make you sleep'. I am currently half way through the book- Paul discusses the science behind sleep and the various mental and physical factors that influence the quality and length of sleep we have. This has an impact on the level of alertness and energy we have each day.
The book comes with a 'sleep hypnosis' CD which I unfortunately have been unable to try as I have no CD player (CD drives are not even built into most new laptops!). What I have been able to try are the steps as outlined by Mr McKenna to guarantee a better nights sleep and ultimately more energy.
1. Get up 30 minutes earlier than usual
2. Only go to bed when you are sleepy
3. Exercise- amongst other benefits this flushes out stress toxins and improves sleep
4. Don't eat later than 3 hours before going to sleep
5. Don't consume caffeine after 2pm - it can take 6-8 hours for the body to remove it from the system
6. Limit alcohol consumption - this temporarily depresses the central nervous system and dehydrates the body, making it more difficult to sleep
Get up 30 minutes earlier than usual
For me this means getting up at 5.30am. The first two days I did this I felt tired and was struggling throughout the day. I needed a coffee in the morning just to kick start my alertness. However I saw the benefit when I noticed it massively kicked back my bedtime. Normally I would not get tired until 11.30pm or even midnight, but now two weeks on I can barely stay awake past 10pm. My body will naturally wake me up no later than 6am with no alarm.
Only go to bed when you are sleepy
As discussed above I will rarely force myself to go to bed before I'm tired. By waking up earlier and doing regular exercise I find I naturally feel sleepy much earlier anyway.
This made a massive difference to me. August was a busy and unpredictable month for me and I slumped a bit, falling out of my usual exercise habit. This must have had a knock on effect on my sleep, but for the past 2 weeks I have made sure to get at least 3 exercise sessions in per week. You'd be surprised at how effective this is combined with a long days work. I would go so far as to say if you take no other steps towards improving your sleep, do this one.
Don't eat later than 3 hours before going to sleep
This is difficult for me especially as I do most of my exercise in the evening. In his book Paul McKenna explains the science behind digestion, and the need to reduce your body's activity in order to prepare for sleep. For me this would mean eating no later than 7 / 7.30 and as I often don't get home from work until after 7, I am still trying to find a way around this.
Don't consume caffeine after 2pm
This is not too difficult for me- I have substituted afternoon coffee / normal tea with caffeine-free herbal tea. My favourites are camomile and apple, raspberry and elderflower and de-caffeinated green tea which also has amazing health benefits.
Limit alcohol consumption
I tend to save my alcohol drinking for one or two days per week. There are often work social events and it can be difficult to resist a glass of wine or two. The key word here is moderation.
So that is what I have learnt half way through the book- I will update the blog once again when I have finished and let you know what else I learned! This post first appeared on www.romygrace.com