Thoughts on Golden Slumbers for World Sleep Day
Now here’s the thing — Why are we now so time poor when we have invented so much to save us time?
A modern paradox and one that I will revisit soon. The big question though that I’ve been wrestling with lately and the one I want to look at today is this — ‘Do I need a sleep routine?’
Now that might sound a tad strange coming from someone who is rather more than mid-way through their 6th decade on Planet Earth.
However, although I routinely get between 7 & 8 hours sleep a night, is it good sleep? You know, the right kind, as I don’t always bounce out of bed the next morning feeling fully rested and powered-up ready to go.
I don’t want to start obsessing about whether I’m getting the right kind of sleep, or even enough of the right kind of sleep, but perhaps my power-down routine at night just isn’t hacking it?
Actually, thinking about it, do I really have what might be called a proper power-down routine?
World Sleep Day
Well it was World Sleep day on March 17th and there’s no time like the present to focus the mind, take up arms and and do something about stuff.
I know from my work on Mindfulness that many of us spend on average 9 hours a day on some type of screen — be that a tablet device, lap-top, desk-top, fit-bit, or smart-phone, and that is longer than many of us spend asleep each night.
The law of unintended consequences however means there is actually a very real consequence for this behavior. Our 24/7 lifestyle and access to screens suppress the release of melatonin, the sleep inducing hormone, by messing with our body clock and this also makes us more disposed to going to bed later. In fact the average bedtime in the UK is now around 11.45pm.
A Vicious Circle
Our body clocks evolved at a time when natural light (& the absence of it) was the only way for it to synchronize, and there’s a sweet-spot between 8pm and midnight when the Brain and body are inclined to work together to get the right ratio of deep non-REM sleep to REM (dream) sleep.
But if our circadian rhythm — our 24 hour Master Clock, or SCN — is out of whack and we start going to bed later and later then we could be storing up trouble for ourselves
Night Owls are more likely to eat high-sugar and fatty foods, take less exercise and sleep worse than naturally early risers. Poor sleeping patterns are also associated with type 2 diabetes, as well as with weight gain and obesity from a tendency to snack on higher calorie treats.
So, unless we take proper steps to power-down, give ourselves time to disengage, wind-down and prepare for bed, there is a very real danger that not only will our quality of sleep really suffer, but so will we!
Not least, we can also get stuck in the intermediate level of sleep, where the Brain is consolidating and filing. This means we never reach the deeper and rejuvenating delta level and perhaps explains why so many of us wake up feeling so tired, yet wired.
My Well being
Good sleep is clearly integral to good physical and mental health, as well as playing a key role in weight management.
Getting it right then is important to my overall well being and that’s important to me — But how can I ensure that I get good sleep?
I need a proper sleep routine, but first a few more sleep facts:
- The first third of the night’s sleep is the most important because it contains the highest level of deep slow-wave (rejuvenating) sleep, or SWS — But it’s important to try and get as much as you can before midnight
- As you go through the night deep sleep becomes less important and more flexible, particularly after 5–6 hours
- The body and the Brain start preparing to wake you up about 90 minutes before it actually happens, so it makes sense to have regular bed and wake-up times in order that the opportunity to get in as much good sleep as possible in the time available
- Our bodies crave routine and would rather love to go to bed and get up at the same time every day; &
- If left to our own devices we would tend to naturally wake-up at 7.18am
My 7 Ways to Sleep the Good Sleep
“ We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep”.
Bolstered by William Shakespeare’s words above, &, the fruits of my research, I intend to start today with my 7 Ways to Sleep the Good Sleep:
- Whether it’s 10pm, 10.30pm or an 11pm bedtime, I will start to power-down at least 30 minutes before
- In my power-down zone I will switch off all screens and mobile devices and ban them from my bedroom
- I will also ensure my bedroom is as dark, well ventilated and quiet as possible
- My default night-cap — a wee dram if you’re asking — will be replaced by a hot milky drink (& yes, I admit that’s going to be a tough one)
- I will spend a few minutes updating my gratitude journal with 3 things I’m particularly grateful for from the day I’ve just been privileged to live, and remind myself of things I’ve been grateful for from days past
- I shall spend a few more minutes practicing mindful breathing; &
- I will set my alarm for 7.18am, but bounce out of bed at exactly 7.22am, which according to a recent study by London’s University of Westminster, is the perfect time to wake-up
PS And I’ll keep you posted on how I get on
This piece is dedicated to Jane Scott Mudd
Paul Mudd is the author of ‘Uncovering Mindfulness: In Search Of A Life More Meaningful’ available on Amazon and www.bookboon.com; the ‘Coffee & A Cup of Mindfulness’ and the ‘Mindful Hacks For Mindful Living & Mindful Working’ series. He is also a Contributing Author to The Huffington Post and a Contributing Writer to Thrive Global. Through The Mudd Partnership he works with business leaders, organisations and individuals in support of change, leadership excellence, business growth, organistional and individual wellbeing and well doing, and introducing Mindfulness. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can follow the continuing journey uncovering Mindfulness on Twitter @TheMindfulBook and at @Paul_Mudd