If you know me, you'll know that I am obsessed with sleep.
I have struggled for most of my life with it, not getting enough, not enough quality sometimes, shit-scared of it.
When I search for it, it evades me. When I fall into it, it hurts me. If I come across it, it doesn't last long.
But the past year or so I've found my groove, all my testing and tweaking of my sleep situation has begun to pay off. It ain't always easy, but it's possible to get better at it, and yes, it pays to get better at sleeping.
For some people sleep is easy, they can nod off wherever they like and enjoy deep, long rests (a.k.a bastards). I am very jealous of those people. But If you're like me (a stress addict), and you struggle to find the sleep you need, then there are a heap of things that can be done to get the rest you gotta get.
Running on empty is just the worst, I think we can all agree. The body doesn't function properly, the mind falls to bits, closing the eyes feels like wet sandpaper.
Sleep is an essential function. Like eating, drinking, breathing, you don't last long without it (longest recorded time without sleep is 264 hours, after 3 days you start hallucinating, and not in a fun way). So essential, it'll kill you if you don't do it right, the University of Warwick did a study and they found that "getting less than 6 hours of sleep on a continuous basis makes you 48% more likely to die of heart disease and 15% more likely in developing a stroke"
If you get less than the recommended 7-9 it'll literally shorten your lifespan. You'll gain weight, perform poorly both physically and mentally, your organs cark it and your memory tanks.
Just type in Why you need sleep and the evidence is there.
Yet, In Australia "2 out of 5 Aussies struggle with sleep on regular basis. That’s 10.3 million or 40% Australians not napping for the recommended 7 to 9 hours." https://whatasleep.com.au/blog/sleep-statistics-australia/.
This blows my lid! We are a sleep-deprived nation.
And yet, the expectation feels (to me) that to be successful you've got to push through your days, your nights. Sleep is for the lazy and the failures. I'm pretty new to tech, but hearing about Silicon Valley and the Video Game industry "Crunches" horrifies me.
So what set me out on my journey to get better sleep?
Well, like many good things, it was born from necessity.
I was suffering a major depressive episode at Uni, years ago (I'd struggled with depression from a young age, and never knew what to do or how to seek help), my nerves shot, moving through classes like a ghost, breaking into tears in quiet places. I finally plucked up the courage (with the help from my partner) to see someone for help. Therapy can be hard, but it's also incredibly useful and promotes growth. By speaking with my therapist I learned that my sleep health was terrible, something had to give. You can only have so many consecutive nights of sleep paralysis (a condition that I still experience during times of stress, luckily only once a month as it is truly terrifying stuff.) before you give in.
I had to make a change.
These are the things I have learned and can pass to you on how to get a better nights sleep, thus becoming a better person. And it ain't hard, really, it's easy to stuff.
You need Regular sleeping patterns
Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep. This is a big one, you need to put the time in to get the results. I clock out at around 9 pm each night, and I'm normally up around 6:00. This gives me time to settle in, switch off and prep my mind for rest (I prefer closer to 9 hours and function better at that amount). I love just turning everything off at 9 and getting stuck into some pre-sleep reading.
You need to prep your space for sleep
You want your space to be dark, quiet and cool. I totally get that sometimes this is more difficult, but blackout blinds and an electric fan can do wonders to keep your space prepped.
Not only that, but invest in a decent mattress, seriously, the amount of time that you spend on one is not worth the amount of pain you go through if it's no good. I use a Koala mattress, foam mattresses are cheap and, I dunno, I reckon it's great for the price. Get some decent pillows too, they don't need to be top of the line. Just don't skimp on bedding.
You need to prep yourself for sleep.
It's true, you'll be amazed at how much better your sleep is when you prep properly.
No screens for the 90mins before sleep.
Yep, you heard me, get off the laptop, get off the television, get off the phone. How important is it to watch just one more episode? Are you watching anything good or is it just time-wasting trash? How important is it to continue scrolling through Instagram at 10 pm? Be honest with yourself!
Television programs and video games are mental stimulants, which in turn stimulate the body. None of these things is helping you get a decent night rest. Not to mention the blue light that is emitted through your screens, your eyes interpret this light the same way that it interprets sunlight, your brain thinks it is still "awake" time. You gotta switch it off, put your phone in another room until the morning. Pick up a book, a pencil, a puzzle something to just quieten down the noise a bit. Personally, I leave the gadgets alone as I use them all day, and when I read something nice and easy (usually fiction) before bed and that tends to unwind my mind.
No technology in the bed.
This is a huge one for me. Don't put your phone anywhere near your bed. Don't watch Netflix on your laptop in bed. Take the television out of your room. This is a super easy one to fix. Enjoy your screen time while you do it, there's nothing wrong with watching some television, but keep the bed out of it. Do you need to check Facebook while horizontal?
The toughest spot is for people who are in sharehouses, whose room is sometimes their workspace. That's tough. But the least you can do is turn your computer off at bedtime and charge your phone on a desk or shelf that isn't near you, and keep it on silent, even better, aeroplane mode.
Now a big one I hear from people is "I use it for my alarm". Well, have I got an amazing product for you!
Buy an alarm clock. They're cheap, efficient and they last forever. Plus if you tune into a local station you might get woken up by something much better than your phone alarm.
Let's talk about caffeine
Coffee, I love it. I love the smell, the taste, the high. But you know what I love more? Not drinking 5 cups to get me through the day because I'm exhausted.
I drink one cup of coffee when I wake in the morning, and that's it. If I'm quite tired a green tea will do. I have a strict, no caffeine after midday rule.
Caffeine has a half-life of 6 hours. This means it takes 6 hours for the body to excrete HALF of the caffeine from the time of consumption. So after that 6 hours, there is still half of the caffeine to pass through your body. So let's say you have your coffee at 8, half of the caffeine will be out by 2 pm, with half still to go. Now let's say you have a second coffee at 12, which means that it'll be 6 pm before HALF the amount of caffeine leaves your system. That means while you are trying to rest that your body is still wired from caffeine. What happens? You can't sleep, you watch tv, you have a late-night, you get up, exhausted from not having enough sleep and then boom, it's coffee time again! The cycle continues.
Do yourself a solid and back off the caffeine.
Let's talk about Alcohol
Yeah, it's really bad for sleep. But this is one I struggle with, I love having a glass of red at the end of the day. I'm drinking one as I write this article. But seriously, just limit yourself. I have the one, maybe two glasses and I spread them out over a couple of hours. Not enough to affect my rest. I just know if I binge drink, it's a hot sleepless night with a chance of grog horrors the night after...
Look, I'm not your parents, I'm not telling you what to do, but some of these things are really easy to do. Just trial not taking your phone to bed for a week, or not watching Netflix on your laptop. It'll do wonders for your mental and phyiscal health
I had lots of fun looking at sleepy animals