How can I improve My sleep?

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Do you still believe that a good nights sleep is for the weaker souls and and that burning the proverbial candle at both ends is your flavour of fun? I was burning my candle at both ends and my flame was nearly extinguished. Sleep was a key part to my recovery and it is something I work on with my all my clients. If you are avoiding good sleep then it is time to wake up …

Sleep is simply one of the most important things that we can do in order to sustain a healthy mind and body. Sleep deprivation is a form of torture used in war zones and something that human rights organisations have continually condemned. The latest science has also highlighted that the immune system works at its optimum level when we sleep, so without enough regular sleep, your body is unable to effectively fight disease. In 2016 , the American Physiological Society (APS) discovered new insights into sleep’s importance to overall health (link to the study). In addition, highly respected medical websites such as the Mayo Clinic speak directly to the topic in the context of your immune system requiring enough sleep in order to keep you safe and healthy.

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If you are not sleeping properly, there are likely to be underlying issues impacting your daily life. Your lack of sleep can often be the body trying to send distress signals. Stress can play a big part in the inhibition of your sleep and it also feeds a restless mind, keeping you awake at night. Tackling these underlying issues that are causing you stress or anxiety are key long term solutions. You should seek help from a professional, as coming to terms with these states and finding ways to shift your mind into a more positive mindset will go a long way to improving your sleep. As an Elite Mindset and Psychotherapy Coach, I work with a lot of executives and pro-athletes who struggle with stress and anxiety. I show them how to build simple, but highly effective techniques to step past stress and significantly increase performance and happiness.

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However, you can also take some simple steps yourself to improve your own sleep. If you are going to bed and struggling to fall asleep, you need to take a look at your environment and your routine. These are two key factors to a successful sleep regime. You also need to look at the length of time you are giving yourself to sleep. If I really want to get 8 hours of sleep, but I go to bed at 11pm and my alarm goes off at 6am, then the math is stacked against me. I also have to accept that it will take some time to get my body to relax in order for it to drift into sleep. So I need to plan my bedtimes based on my start time the following morning. This might seem obvious, but often we neglect this. Consistent neglect of the required sleep can lead to a big decline in performance, with cognitive functions diminishing and your immune system becoming compromised. Without sufficient sleep, we can get angry quicker, have less patience and even become a danger to society as we drive to and from work.

So monitoring your sleep is as important as monitoring your diet. We understand that it is not sensible (not macho) to live on pizza and beer. However, we still see it as a badge of honour needing less sleep than others and believe it to be a sign of a hard worker or a determined mindset. At times you may need to do an ‘all nighter’ but if this starts to feature regularly throughout the year, you will pay the price with your health.

By creating a series of bedtime habits, you can start to prepare your mind and body for sleep, thus improving the likely success rates of you banking those precious hours.

  1. ROUTINE. If you want to start getting to sleep earlier (say 10pm) then start by heading to bed at 10.30 for a week. Then aim to have your lights out by 11pm. The following week bring all these forward by 15 minutes, so you are heading to bed at 10.15 and lights out by 10.45. The following week head to bed by 10pm and lights out by 10.30. Set a reminder on your phone so that you are prompted to stop what you are doing and start your bedtime routine. (iPhones have an app for this)

  2. TECHNOLOGY. Leave your mobile phone outside your bedroom. Invest in an alarm clock and set yourself a target of one hour before your bedtime at which time you will turn off your phone. Keep this hour as a defined goal, no matter where your bedtime shifts to. So your mind is off social media and disconnected from email etc. Over time this will also start to prep the mind for sleep. Your mind will simply start to know that when social media and phones shut off, we are preparing for sleep.

  3. READING. If reading before sleep is helpful, place a your book on your pillow when you make your bed in the morning. That way, when you get into bed you can pick up your book and focus on some pleasant downtime that also trains the mind to prepare for sleep.

  4. TIDY ROOM. Decluttering your bedroom is key to a successful sleep, as is making your bed in the morning. Arriving into a messy bedroom and an unmade bed will distract the mind and send it off in all kinds of directions. The more clean and clear your sleeping space is, the less distraction your mind will have when preparing to sleep.

  5. A BEDROOM IS FOR SLEEPING. If you have deployed all these techniques but you still struggle to fall asleep when you get into bed, then consider starting your routine in another room or on a chair in the bedroom. In essence you prepare yourself for sleep as above, but only when you truly feel tired should you fall into bed. Again, you are training the mind to recognise the bed as a place to sleep and not a place to be busy or distracted. (IMPORTANT: if you have a TV in your bedroom, it is time to move it out).

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I am at my most effective in the morning. So I have adapted my routine to bedtime between 9.15 - 9.30 in the evening. I wake at 5am (without an alarm) as I have conditioned my body to understand how much sleep it needs and to simply wake once that has been achieved. This is built around the principals of the Circadian Rhythm, this is an entire blog post topic on it’s own and I will address that in future posts. For now, if you would like to understand the Circadian Rhythm, you can follow this link to the Sleep Foundation.

If you would like to book a session with me to discuss improving your mind, body and sleep patterns, simply click the link below. Our first hour is completely free and you will learn how my strategies, which have helped so many other people, can help you too. I only charge based on results.

Justin Caffrey

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