Five hours, ten hours or somewhere in between - all of us have different relationships to sleep, both when it comes to how much we need it or how highly we prioritise it.
However, one thing is for certain - it is more important than most of us may acknowledge. We recently read Matthew Walker's book Why We Sleep and it appears as if Western society is massively underestimating the importance of our ZZZ!To get started, here are some signs that you are not getting enough sleep:
- Could you go back to sleep at 10/11am?
- Do you need caffeine before noon to function optimally?
- If you didn't set an alarm, would you oversleep?
- Do you find yourself re-reading sentences?
- Do you sometimes forget what color the last few traffic lights were while driving?
How many of these questions did you answer yes to?
One of the most striking facts that Walker presents is the myth that sleep quality is more important than sleep quantity. According to the book, the amount of time you sleep actually matters more than we may initially have thought. How much sleep debt have you acquired? Even though it may be painful to admit, we realized that we definitely owe ourselves some more rest. It is time to for all of us to improve your sleep habits, you can thank us later!
Although, we highly recommend reading the book - for those of you who are busy with other stuff - we summarised some key tips that we thought were helpful and encourage you to try and apply them into your life to improve the quality and quantity of your sleep.
Here we go:
Set an alarm for bedtime instead of wake up
Obviously you cannot snooze your way to a 9 am meeting. But for those days when you do not have an early call, try not setting an alarm clock and listen to when your body wants to get up. This is not an excuse for being lazy, but rather than setting an alarm clock in the morning, set a clock at night to encourage you to get in bed earlier so that you can naturally wake up early and seize the next day! Since mornings are lighter in summertime, it's a great time to get up early - the sun is on your side.
Beware of jet lag and disruptions to your natural sleep rhythm
Jet lag is detrimental to your sleep schedule. If you are changing time zones, read up on the best way to keep a somewhat normal rhythm. The research Walkers presents encourages you to stick to strict sleeping habits (even on weekends!) and to be very cautious when travelling. As you'll probably be travelling less than usual in these times, all the more reasons to try and stick to a sleep schedule.
On your Iphone, there is a function called bedtime that can be set to remind you before your chosen bedtime each night. Why not give it a try?
Get outside and soak up some sunlight during the day
Some natural daylight does wonders for your meridian sleep cycle. This time of year there are no excuses - get your body out in the sun and soak up some vitamin D and find yourself feeling naturally tired in the evenings. In fact, the more time you spend outdoors, the better. There are plenty of outdoor activities to engage in during summertime - hiking, swimming, boating, tanning - the list goes on!
Sorry, but we really can't find any valid excuses not to get your a** out. As the saying goes "there is no bad weather, only bad clothes".
Relax and unwind before bed
What brings you to rest? Perhaps it is journaling, reading or a hot bath? Walkers highly recommends to devote some time and practice to calm down before you lie down in bed.
We swear by a few drops of CBD oil to balance ourselves and signal to the body that it is that time of day again. You may want to try and incorporate a calming meditation practice too?
If you can’t sleep after 20 minutes, get up and do something before you try again!
Lying in bed for hours feeling stressed about not drifting off to sleep? In the book, Walker advocates that you should give yourself 20 minutes and if you still can’t sleep, get up and engage in some relaxing activity until you feel sleepy again. Maybe put on your favourite TV-series, make a cup of tea, light a candle? A great advice is to put on the Sir David Attenborough-narrated documentary series Our Planet on Netflix. The footage of breathtaking nature and impressive animals is sure to be soothing for both mind and soul!
We hope you feel inspired to try some of the above out! Essentially, the best thing you can do is to listen compassionately to your body’s internal clock. Your body is so intelligent that it will guide you towards what it needs in this moment.