Many of us regularly work from morning till night, cramming every minute full of activity. Family and work responsibilities, the expectations of friends, the hope of a few seconds dedicated to ourselves for some personal time can mean that every minute of the day is filled with meaningful activity. It's no wonder that we then fall into bed at night, exhausted, mind racing, hoping that we'll have a good night's sleep. Often we're desperate to recharge our batteries for the next full-on, demanding day.
Often though we may be restless, find it difficult to drift off to sleep or awaken during the night, fully alert and unable to go back to sleep after only a few fitful hours. Let's look at how even busy people can negotiate with their lives and find ways to support a deep, refreshingly satisfying night long sleep.
- Learning to prioritize is a useful skill in a busy life. Poor sleep often occurs when we work long hours or have too much going on in our minds. Prioritising can introduce some order and semblance of control, so enabling us to make the best use of our time. Lists can do this, by noting everything that needs to be done and then clarifying the degree of urgency of each item. It can be satisfying to add extra urgent items as they crop up and then cross purposefully through all the completed tasks at the end of each day.
- Recognise your personal warning signs of becoming stressed and over tired. I call them 'amber lights', the time when your mood changes and irritability, reduced sense of humour, poor concentration, feeling unwell and poor sleep start to occur. As you start to recognise these negative changes in your demeanour and note when they occur you can begin to schedule effective ways to intercept and take better care of yourself. At these times it can be helpful to take a break, have time out and reduce the impact of stress and burnout.
- Establish balance in your life. Poor sleep can occur when you are tired mentally but not physically, or vice versa. If you have work that requires significant mental effort, where you perhaps spend a lot of time indoors, try to ensure you have time when you engage in physical activity, perhaps by spending time outdoors in nature. Use free time for gardening, walking along a beach, going for a run in the countryside or playing sport with others if possible. If you have a physically taxing job try to introduce regular mental exertion like reading, puzzles or interesting conversations that require you to think and exercise your mental abilities.
- Commit time to winding down for a couple of hours before bed. Turn off the computer and avoid stressful conversations, horror films or heavy meals late at night. Go for a walk, practice yoga, book some hypnotherapy, have a lovely bath to wash away the days stresses and concerns, use those lovely scented candles you've been saving for a special occasion. All these can help you prepare to sleep well.
- Make your bedroom a haven for sleep, relaxation and personal time. Screen off any work-related area, avoid having your mobile phone or TV too close to the bed. Keep your bedroom free from clutter. Choose lovely, soothing colours, textures and fragrances and ensure it's a pleasant, well-ventilated, relaxing room.
- Your bed is important. It's worth spending money on a comfortable bed, pillows and bedding. You spend a reasonable amount of time in bed so consider the money to be an investment in yourself and your health. Making these decisions can remind you that sleep is important to you.
- Little touches are able to make a difference to your quality of sleep. Add lavender to the final rise cycle of your sheets. Resist the temptation to take food, work, books or your phone to bed. It's not an office or a study! Listen to relaxing music. Allow your mind to calm and become still, ready for sleep. Then you'll find that the overall quality of your sleep and consequently your life should improve.
When you realise that 90% of adults say they don't get enough sleep you can appreciate how important it is to give sleep significant attention and commitment. It's an investment in you, your health and wellbeing.