10 Steps to get more sleep

I’ve had some really great feedback on my 10 Steps blogs, I have so far covered, why you need a coach, how to improve what you eat and how to overcome stress and overwhelm.

If you have been reading these blogs and looking out for each tip on Social Media, thank you.

I hope they have given you some inspiration.

I don’t think that the tips are necessarily ground breaking, in truth you probably know them all already.

The point is that we all get so tied up in our day to day lives that sometimes our health and fitness takes less priority. I don’t know about you but during these times I need to be reminded to go back to basics.

If you have previously downloaded my Wheel of Health you will know that I tend to measure health success in several areas, Energy Levels, Sleep, Stress, Exercise, Nutrition, Fluid intake, Rest and Mental State or how positive we are generally feeling about life.

If you break each of these areas down and score how well you are performing you can see which area needs the most attention.

Which one needs your attention the most?

If it’s getting enough sleep then today’s blog is for you.

A couple of years ago I read a book called Miracle Morning, its great and all about how much more you can get done if you get up early and follow certain steps every day.

It worked really well for me and for a while I felt on top of the world and super productive.

After a while though I did miss sleep and I am a big believer in listening to your body, mine was telling me to sleep more.

So lately I have tried a different approach and I have been making sure I get my eight hours in a night, I still follow some of the Miracle Morning principles, just later in the day.

Sometimes I hit my target regularly and I have noticed a big difference in my ability to cope with stress, what I eat, how much energy I have to train etc.

Obviously sometimes I miss the mark and its these days I notice I feel a bit meh! When I let it go for a week or so, staying up later than necessary, getting up early for whatever reason I know its time to get a good few nights in.

So here are my top tips to getting enough sleep and waking refreshed. Not ground breaking, some are obvious and all are super simple.

Just a gentle reminder of how to get back on track if this is the area you need to focus on.

1. Yes you really do need 7 – 8 Hours

The average adult needs around seven to eight hours each night to be healthy.

Researchers in the United Kingdom and Italy analysed data from 16 separate studies conducted over 25 years, covering more than 1.3 million people and more than 100,000 deaths. They published their findings in the journal Sleep.

The study found that those who slept for less than six hours a night we significantly more likely to experience a premature death and a higher risk is associated with those who sleep for more than eight to nine hours a night.

Poor sleep habits can increase the body’s energy needs. At night, movement and need for calories is reduced. But when you are sleep-deprived, your brain will release chemicals to signal hunger. This can lead to eating more, exercising less, and gaining weight.

Sleeping regularly for seven to eight hours also increases your body’s ability to fight infection and disease so it’s a win win all round.

2. Set regular sleep patterns Make an effort to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day of the week, including weekends. Doing this establishes a regular sleep-wake cycle.

This will help to ensure that you regularly get that eight hours in and it will help to regulate your body’s clock and may help you to fall asleep more easily and stay asleep.

3. Avoid stimulants

Caffeine, chocolate, sugar and nicotine can keep you awake past your bedtime. Alcohol may make you feel sleepy initially, but will disrupt your rest later in the night.

Stay away from these at least four hours before sleep for as many nights of the week as you can.

Eating big or spicy meals can cause discomfort from indigestion that can make it hard to sleep. If you can, avoid eating large meals for two to three hours before bedtime.

All these things will help you get to sleep and stay asleep it is also good for your body to have a rest from food for a long period overnight so it can concentrate on final digestion of food eaten that day using the nutrients and repairing the body.

4. Relax before bed with a good routine

Your body needs time to shift into sleep mode, so spend the last hour before bed doing a calming activity such as reading.

For some people, using an electronic device such as a laptop can make it hard to fall asleep, because the particular type of light emanating from the screens of these devices is activating to the brain. If you have trouble sleeping, avoid electronics before bed or in the middle of the night.

Personally a few rounds of Candy Crush sends me off pretty easily and I can be asleep without hesitation. You will know I am sure if this is a problem for you and so the no electronics rule could well be the answer.

If you have trouble staying asleep relaxation techniques like deep breathing and meditation can help you in the middle of the night when all you want to do is get back to sleep.

It only has to happen a few times before waking in the night can send you on a spiral of panic that getting to sleep again just won’t happen.

Try to relax as much as possible and go to your preferred relaxation technique to send you back off as quickly as you can.

If you really can’t get back to sleep leave the room and do something relaxing to help your mind still, returning to bed when you feel sleepy again.

5. Get comfy

How old is your mattress? Do you often suffer with back pain but you are not sure why?

Make sure your mattress is not more than eight years old if it is you may need to consider a new one.

A new mattress may not be necessary but sleeping in a place you find comfortable with cool clean cotton sheets will doubtless aid your sleep

The more you want to be in that bed the easier it is to sleep there.

Design your sleep environment to establish the conditions you need for sleep.

Your bedroom should be cool – around 19 degrees.

Your bedroom should also be free from any noise that can disturb your sleep.

Your bedroom should be free from any light.

Check your room for noises or other distractions. This includes a bed partner's sleep disruptions such as snoring. Consider using blackout curtains, eye shades, ear plugs, "white noise" machines, humidifiers, fans and other devices.

6. Get some exercise

Being physically active during the day can help you fall asleep faster at night.

Exercise also promotes deeper, more restful sleep.

Exercising too close to bedtime, for some people can leave you too energised to sleep

but do what works for you.

Get out there and exercise in the fresh air too if you can, there is nothing better than good dose of fresh air every day to promote sleep so if you find yourself sitting indoors for most of the day build this into your routine to help you sleep better.

7. Eat clean

We know that sleep affects our food choices, if we haven’t had enough sleep we reach for coffee, sugar and basically research has backed up what we know which is we eat more if we are tired. If avoiding stimulants helps us to sleep better it will come as no surprise to learn that the cleaner your diet i.e. the more natural food you eat the better quality your sleep will be too.

If you are struggling with tiredness, lethargy or just not sleeping as well as you would like, try an experiment for a week, no sugar or caffeine and plenty of good whole foods.

Avoid all processed foods (anything made in a factory) and increase your water intake.

I guarantee you will feel better within a few days (even if you have to go through few days of caffeine withdrawal) and your sleep will improve.

If you can do this for a week and you see some significant changes, just imagine how good you will feel longer term.

8. Relax during the day

Rest, relaxation, putting your feet up, chilling. Can you remember when you last did that? When we are busy rushing about looking after everyone, putting your feet up can feel a little bit naughty can’t it? You feel guilty for taking time off and so it gets pushed to the back of the agenda.

Then you find the first time you actually stop each day is when you get into bed at night.

Crickey no wonder you can’t drop off!

Take time in the day to relax, its OK to take 20 minutes for a soak in the bath or to take your book out into the sun and just stop.

It will help your body remember how to relax and it will get better at it when you do it every day. Then who knows, when your head hits the pillow your body may just be relaxed enough to know what to do next.

9. Make a note of what needs to be done the next day

If your brain is often fizzing when you get into bed make sure you are not trying to remember everything you need to do the next day.

Instead write it down well before bed time, end the day parking what can’t be done today and prepare to start tomorrow knowing exactly where your focus should be.

If all else fails, pop a notebook by the bed for those moments when you need to write down that thing you remember in the middle of the night.

10. Get technical

I am a big fan of my Fitbit for many reasons and I have to admit that it’s the first thing I check every morning to see how much and how well I have slept.

It has really helped me to not only log and make sure I get enough (I’m a sucker for that little star when I meet my eight hour target!) but also to log how deeply I sleep.

Monitoring this has helped me to recognise when I have not slept so well and link this to the day I had far too much coffee or chocolate.

I can also tell when I am stressed because my sleep is more disturbed.

These little cues help me get back on track and know when I need more TLC than usual.

If you don't have a Fitbit there are loads of apps on offer for you phone most of them are free.

Which tip do you think will help you the most? Start with small changes and look forward to getting regular lovely settled amazing sleep very soon.

Sleep tight.

Kirsty xx

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