We have all heard the saying, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead”, but the fact of the matter is you might actually die before your used by date simply because you are not spending enough time sleeping.
For years I have been guilty about being to one-dimensional, focusing a lot of my energy on physical wellness. Nevertheless, over time, like a good bottle of red I have changed my philosophy and approach and now firmly believe in the importance of addressing and establishing a balance across all dimensions of wellness. Although I am not alone, as statistics show that most of the population don’t get enough sleep for one, but more importantly don’t respect the “value” of good quality REM sleep.
Having recently spent some time in Queensland working at a coal terminal where employees are faced with numerous external demands, not to mention their rotating roster (shift work), I now firmly believe sleep is the number one ingredient we should all prioritise. You don’t even need to look at science or any research papers to tell you how important sleep is. We all know that if we have had a poor nights sleep, our mood is affected, our output is affected and our cognitive behaviour is affected. Therefore, it is no surprise that sleep deprivation is a form of torture treatment and for many of us; the consistent lack of sleep is having a direct impact on our overall well-being, both physically and mentally.
The statistics show that only 6% of Australian’s believe they get enough sleep to feel their best. So if we want to look better, feel better and perform better it is time to start prioritising our sleep first and foremost, then address our nutritional habits, our exercise habits, our social habits etc.
Sleep isn’t a commodity; you can’t disrespect it, build credits with it or catch up on it.
The simple rules of sleep are:
- The average person needs 7 hours per night,
- Older adults need 6 hours per night, &
- Children need at least 9 hours per night
NB – napping can be beneficial (no longer than 25 minutes)
In the corporate sector I often talk to groups about ‘Personal Health Accountability’, believing we can always improve on certain parts of our lives, both personally and professionally. Many people do this by engaging in personal development workshops, go to seminars, read books, listen to podcasts, engage in webinars and / or attend events, but how many people actually invest time on trying to improve their sleeping patterns (natural vs. medical)?
Recently I was working with Greg Dean, an Organisational Psychologist, with a corporate client and the theme was ‘Sleep Awareness’ and he mentioned a number of alarming facts. One, which was particularly alarming, was that if we average 8 hours of sleep per night for 75 years, then we are actually asleep for 25 years of our life.
So my question to you is, ‘Why aren’t we valuing our sleep as if it is the most important ingredient to our wellness platform’? Personally, like many things we struggle with, I think it has a lot to do with our mindset and our habits. Many of us may think we are bad sleepers, so we remain bad sleepers. We don’t try to understand ways we can change our mindset or our habits because we get conditioned to think a certain way. Change, like any other behaviour is all about ‘habit formation’, consistency, forming rituals, changing stimulus (food, exercise, medication) and re-conditioning our thoughts.
So, if you would like to improve the way you look, feel or function or if you would like to live longer than the average Australian, then let’s address our sleeping habits first and foremost.
TIPS for better bedroom behaviour
- Prior to bed don’t have any caffeine, sugar, alcohol, cigarettes or do any excessive exercise,
- Design a ‘relaxation ritual’ prior to bed (read, listen to music, meditate),
- Get up at the same time every day regardless of hat day of the week it is or how long you have slept,
- Be careful about napping (keep them brief if at all, 10-20minutes),
- No TV’s, Phones, iPads, &
- Don’t fight the ‘sleepy wave’, go to bed when the wave of tiredness builds to the peak
Remember, our bed is for two things and two things only, sex and sleep, preferably in that order.