When I first moved to Leeds in 2003 my lifestyle was VERY different. My days started around 11am and routinely ended around 3 or 4 in the morning (I was into music, which meant either nights out or late nights playing around in the studio). As you can imagine I felt tired pretty much all the time.
When I got into fitness I ditched the late nights and got to bed earlier. But I still found it hard to get going in the mornings. And my energy levels tended to drop through the day.
What’s more, I found the energy dips had me reaching for sugary, high energy food. Not good when you’ve got certain health and fitness goals!
In 2006 I read How to Eat, Move and be Healthy by Paul Chek. One of the sections covered sleep, and its importance to our overall health. Having never really considered sleep as being important I decided to experiment with some of Chek’s suggestions.
To this day I still practice much of what I learned in Chek’s book. And below I’d like to share a few of the things I’ve personally found helpful in getting a good nights sleep.
This meant switching off the TV/PC. Initially it felt a bit weird sitting without the background noise. Until I discovered I love to read and I love meaningful conversation. Neither of these work so well with an episode of Eastenders playing out in the background 🙂
As part of winding down I try to get at least 30 minutes reading in before bed. And as far as reading goes I’d class my Kindle as THE best gadget I’ve ever had. I went for the Kindle paperwhite and highly recommend!!
Writing in my journal provides a great outlet/stress relief at the end of a busy day. I use it to record things that happened, lessons learned, ideas I’ve had, and even wise words that someone has shared. Emptying my mind before bed allows me to go sleep with a clean slate rather than with a head full of junk.
I use a Moleskine pocket ruled notebook. And it’s always interesting to go back and review how things have changed (or stayed the same) over time.
My understanding is that while getting 7-8 hours per night sleep is important, the more hours we get before midnight the more restorative the sleep.
Chek explained about circadian rhythms, and how after sunset our body is hard wired to be going through restorative processes – which only occur when we’re asleep during certain night time hours (10pm ish to 6am ish). In short, the more hours when we miss leading up to midnight, the more regenerative time we miss out on.
So, I aim to start winding down around 9:30 and usually get to bed around 10:30. Anything later and I know I’m going to be hating on the alarm in the morning.
According to the research, when our body senses light – even a tiny dot of light on our skin – it suppress the production of hormones (such as melatonin) that aid restorative sleep. That light doesn’t necessarily stop us falling asleep, but does have an effect on the quality of sleep.
So we’ve gone for dark curtains, darkish walls, and switch off all electrical appliances that have a little standby light (tv, alarm clock, extension leads etc).
This is the most recent addition to the line up in my ‘good sleep’ protocol. And I’ve found it far more comfortable than using a stack of deflated pillows (which never seem to stay where I put them!).
I went for a serene memory foam pillow, which I got from Bensons for Beds – about £40 (well, £80 after getting one for Lyz too!). But you can get a decent Memory foam pillow on Amazon for around £25.
So there’s my 5 things I do at night time to make sure I wake up feeling refreshed:
1. Take a 1 hour wind down before bed (with no TV or PC)
2. Record thoughts and ideas in a journal
3. Get to bed by 10:30
4. Make the bedroom pitch black
5. Invest in a memory foam pillow