5 TOP TIPS FOR SLEEP HEALTH
For years my sleep health has been pretty awful, and has impacted my energy at work. As someone who runs their own business, whilst trying to also juggle several other jobs and the demands of a young family it’s important that my energy levels remain positive. If you are a business leader or owner, understanding the link between your (and your employees) levels of energy, productivity and sleep health is vital.
Even as far back as childhood, my parents told me I would sleepwalk/talk. In adult life, this has reappeared in times of heightened stress and anxiety (the Covid-19 pandemic has also been a contributing factor to my deteriorating levels of good sleep). However, sleepwalking (for me at least) has not been me wondrously roaming about the house at 2:00AM. Instead, it is me sitting up or on the bed half asleep, half awake (unsure at times!), moving a few objects about in the room, nothing dramatic to be too concerned about. But the one thing it has done is impact the overall quality of my sleep, which in turn has affected how productive and motivated I have felt at work
Instead of just putting up with it and just waiting for my stress and anxiety levels to naturally drop, I chose to research how to improve my sleep health. This has included listening to podcasts, reading articles/journals, watching TED Talks and even seeking professional CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) to help reduce my levels of anxiety. As a result of this, I have made some changes to my daily routines, with varying degrees of success. The result - my energy levels have increased, my focus at work has improved and my general happiness has taken a turn for the better.
I coach leaders and business owners and some of the most common problems that they bring to their coaching sessions are stress and anxiety, lack of self-awareness, having no time to reflect, wanting to avoid burnout and lack of motivation. Becoming aware of their sleep health has really resonated and those that have addressed problem-sleep and made changes to it have reaped the rewards.
Therefore, I felt that if it can work for me and others, maybe this could work for you and your employees too. So, here are my 5 Top Tips for improving sleep health.
- Reduce Caffeine
- Did you know that if you have a cup of coffee at let's say 2:00PM in the afternoon, a quarter of that caffeine can still be circulating in your brain at midnight?
- My solution: I don’t have any caffeine after 11:00AM. But because I love the taste and smell of coffee and know the anti-oxidants are good for me, I opt for decaffeinated coffee post 11:00AM.
- Reduce Alcohol
- Ever said to someone or heard someone say “a night cap helps me sleep better”? Well yes it does…to a point, because alcohol is a sedative, which helps you get to sleep quicker. However, it is also a stimulant, which once the sedative effect wears off, can rob you of your vital REM sleep and leave you in light sleep…. contributing to your low energy the next day.
- My solution: I switched to drinking low alcohol beer (Brew Dog’s Nanny State…after much tasting “research”). Whenever I feel like a beer, I opt for this 9 times out of 10. Stocking fewer bottles of wine in the house does have the desired impact too. In terms of timings - I tend to have them several hours before bed. This does not rule out the occasional one too many sherbets from time to time – one has to enjoy themselves still!
- Limit Evening Phone Use and Increase Reading Time
- I would be the first to admit (my wife would back me up on this) that I am addicted to my phone and also uncomfortable with the fact it has such an influence on me. I (as many people do) sleep with my phone on the side table next to me at night and I really didn’t like the fact that my phone would be the first and last thing I would look at each night. It also goes without saying that too much screen time is not great for you (especially in the world of remote working currently)
- My solution: The phone lives downstairs in the living room at night. My alarm clock is now a digital clock with a very annoying beeping sound and when I remember, I would put my phone in another room when I really don’t need it. My replacement for the phone at bedtime is a book, which I read for 5-10mins just to get my brain in a calmer mode.
- Add Meditation to your daily routine
- I have dabbled with meditation over the years to help me with stress and anxiety. Tried in person courses, adult colouring-in books and apps such as Headspace and Calm. There have been times I have been religious about doing it and times where I have just done none at all. It can be hard to get back into a habit and this is something I am happy to accept will have its peaks and troughs (hopefully more peaks!)
- My solution: I now dedicate just 10 minutes of my day (typically first thing I do in the morning as part of my Miracle Morning SAVERS routine) to using the Calm App. Occasionally if I have had a terrible day, I will use a longer meditation in the evening to really wind down, switch off and remove myself from my racing thoughts.
- Avoid eating heavy meals too late
- The number of times we have had our evening meals late due to putting our little one down for bed and then trying to work out what we are even going to eat are numerous. This has meant we would often eat around 8:30pm or later and as a consequence of having a proper meal, our sleep quality has been impacted. Also, the post dinner chocolate (super hard to resist if its in the house!) surely adds to a sugar spike in my sleep.
- My (our) solution: Meals to be done before 8:00PM (with one of us opting out of child bedtime routine if needs be to prep). Also having less chocolate in the house…not sure how long this will last!
Something that struck me whilst researching all the ideas to help my sleep health was the notion of “creating a path of least resistance”. Think of this, if you want to go out early in the morning for a run, it is far easier if you get all your running gear ready by the side of the bed the night before. For sleep, I have found many of the sleep strategies I use lean into the idea of creating an environment that makes doing these easy and not a chore. Give it a go and I would love to hear how you and others you know get on, even if it was using just one of these strategies.
If you want to read, hear, listen more about sleep health, click on the various links I have put below.
And if you want to hear more about how I can support you through executive coaching, do get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
Feel Better Live More. How To Improve Your Sleep and Why You Should with Professor Matthew Walker by Dr. Rangan Chatterjee- https://drchatterjee.com/how-to-improve-your-sleep-and-why-you-should-with-professor-matthew-walker/
Psychology Today. Memorize While You Sleep - https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/memory-medic/202101/memorize-while-you-sleep
Sky News. Napping in the afternoon could keep you mentally agile - https://news.sky.com/story/napping-in-the-afternoon-could-keep-you-mentally-agile-study-12198977
Business Insider. “Why napping can be dangerous” with Matthew Walker - https://www.businessinsider.com/sleep-expert-naps-dangerous-health-science-matthew-walker-science-2017-12?r=US&IR=T?utm_source=copy-link&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=topbar
The Guardian. “Sleeping on the Job” https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2020/dec/06/sleeping-on-the-job-how-a-quick-nap-makes-us-more-efficient
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