Sleep and our sleeping related habits are once again being subjected to great scrutiny in the media, with many statistics being presented highlighting how important quality sleep is, and how few of us seem to be getting it. We've been told that 90% adults say they don't get enough sleep, 25% struggle with Sunday night insomnia and that sleep-related issues cost UK businesses £40 billion pounds each year, the equivalent of 200,000 lost work days, due to absenteeism, accidents and poor performance.
With this in mind we need to focus on ensuring that we support our own great bedtime routine. Here are some tips;
- Consistency is often an important contributor to a good sleep routine, where you have a designated time to switch off from work, eat healthily and aim to go to bed and get up at the same time. Training your mind and body as when to wind down is the key to supporting an effective sleep pattern.
- Be proactive in dealing with each day's stresses. Ask yourself if you've done all you reasonably can to address a particular area of concern, then aim to let it go until further input from you is required. Being disciplined is important in order to calm your 'fight or flight' approach to stress. Commit to good daytime habits and take regular breaks throughout the day, stopping for lunch and aiming to get some fresh air and exercise; all ways to support a positive approach to work/life balance and good sleep.
- Spend quality time with family and friends as well as scheduling some 'me time' for the things that are important to you. This may require you becoming more assertive and saying 'no' to some of the demands made upon you, but taking good care of yourself means being clear about how much of your time you're prepared to compromise.
- Many people need to maximise their use of space, especially when they work from home. If you've set up an office in your bedroom be sure to screen it off at the end of each working day. Ensure that your bedroom is a calm haven, the place where you close the door at bedtime and relax. Try to keep it free from clutter and an excess of technology, as its presence can be a distraction.
- Be firm about technology. Aim to turn off your phone and gadgets two hours before you go to bed, so avoiding the temptation to check in 'just one more time'. Have set times for checking emails and social media so that you become more focused and time efficient. Then allow yourself time before bed to calm and still your mind. Keep your phone away from the bed as its blue light has been found to affect sleep quality.
- Also, if you work from home or spend a lot of your time there have a cut off time when you turn everything off and introduce a routine that signifies the end of the busy part of your day. Turn your phone to answerphone, close your office door, go for a walk and change out of your daytime clothes - all ways to draw a line under your working day.
- Save any meaningful/important/stressful conversations for a more appropriate time. Last thing at night or when one person is busy, distracted or over-tired will serve neither of you well and can play on your mind when you should be preparing to sleep. Both agree when to have the discussion and ensure that it then happens. That way you can confidently 'park up' your issues, safe in the knowledge that you won't forget to raise the matter at a better time.
- Do you come home after work feeling mentally tired and jaded but physically under-exerted? Many people have work that requires either mental or physical effort, so that they end up tired in one area but not the other. Try to find some balance by exercising mentally, with quizzes and crosswords, or by walking, swimming and physical activity, so that you're better able to fall asleep. Otherwise you may be restless and unable to relax.
- Prepare for the day ahead so that there's no need to clutter your mind with concerns or worries about the coming day. Put your clothes out the night before or adopt a uniform outfit or colour. Use lists to avoid the stress or fear of forgetting something. Being organised can help you feel more in control and better able to sleep.
- A relaxing bath or shower pre-bed is a good way to symbolically wash away the days stresses and strains and prepare for bed. Some people like to read, enjoy a hot, milky drink, meditate, listen to relaxing music or practice some yoga.
Being committed to a positive bedtime routine can be a great investment and an important way to support a good night's sleep.