The Secrets To A Good Nights Sleep
Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister for most of the Second World War, used to have a nap for around an hour every afternoon. He scheduled cabinet meetings around those sleeps and they were as much a part of him as his famous cigar. Can you imagine? As the bombs were dropping around him, there he was having his afternoon nap. Quite laughable really. Or is it? Winston was no fool. He knew that the body needs sleep. He also knew the value of a daytime nap as a chance to recharge the batteries.
It’s quite natural really and we have all seen images of lions asleep under the tree during the day. Yet, in our busy lives we have forgotten the art of the nap. Even worse, when our lives become time pressured, sleep is one of those things that we sometimes try and do without (I’ll work late and catch up on my sleep at the weekend). It’s a false economy. We need our sleep. Teenagers need a LOT. How much you need will depend on your age and a couple of other factors (generally speaking, the older you get, the less sleep you will need). Considered wisdom reckons the average adult needs between 7 and 9 hours per night. Anything below 6 hours a night is considered a risk, especially to those of a working age.
The other thing that we do is bugger up our sleeping patterns. We drink too much coffee or alcohol, we watch too much TV too late, mess around on the Internet too late, we don’t exercise, we eat too much sugar, worry too much, have too much stress and by the way, we probably don’t make love often enough. In fact, when you look at the ever increasing pace of life, it’s a wonder that we ever get a good night’s sleep. Let alone one of Winston’s afternoon naps. It’s a real problem. Many studies have proven that we NEED sleep. It’s a chance for the body to repair and recharge. Without enough sleep we can get into all sorts of trouble.
Take this extract from the Washington Post:
“A large, new study, for example, provides the latest in a flurry of evidence suggesting that the nation’s obesity epidemic is being driven, at least in part, by a corresponding decrease in the average number of hours that Americans are sleeping, possibly by disrupting hormones that regulate appetite. The analysis of a nationally representative sample of nearly 10,000 adults found that those between the ages of 32 and 49 who sleep less than seven hours a night are significantly more likely to be obese. The study follows a series of others that have found similar associations with other illnesses, including several reports from the Harvard-run Nurses’ Health Study that has linked insufficient or irregular sleep to increased risk for colon cancer, breast cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Other research groups scattered around the country have subsequently found clues that might explain the associations, indications that sleep disruption affects crucial hormones and proteins that play roles in these diseases. “There has been an avalanche of studies in this area. It’s moving very rapidly,” said Emmanuel Mignot of Stanford University, who wrote an editorial accompanying the new obesity study in the October issue of the journal Sleep. “People are starting to believe that there is an important relationship between short sleep and all sorts of health problems.”
If you’re still not convinced, here’s a couple of chilling facts for you:
- Long-term sleep deprivation causes death in lab animals
- Complete absence of sleep over long periods is impossible for humans to achieve (unless they suffer from fatal familial insomnia); brief microsleeps cannot be avoided.
- Generally, lack of sleep may result in aching muscles, dizziness and nausea, dry mouth, hallucinations, hand tremors, headaches, increased blood pressure, increased risk of diabetes, increased risk of fibromyalgia, irritability, memory lapses or loss, nystagmus (rapid involuntary rhythmic eye movement), obesity, slowed word recall, temper tantrums in children, yawning and symptoms similar to Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and Psychosis.
Ok, enough now. I think I’ve made my point. You need your sleep. If you’re not getting enough, here are my top 20 tips (or secrets) for you to get more:
- Take that afternoon nap. Even 5 minutes with your eyes closed, at your desk (or on the loo) will make a difference. But a lie down, or 20 or so minutes if you can, will work wonders.
- If you commute, sleep on the train (if you can do so safely).
- Turn off the TV, Compute and or Internet at least 90 minutes before your desired ‘fall asleep’ time.
- Don’t drink coffee after midday. Don’t drink too much alcohol if it buggers up your sleep pattern.
- If you cannot sleep for worrying about something. Get up, write the worry down on a pad. Go back to bed and then stop worrying about the worry. You know it’s on the pad and you can tackle it the morning. There’s nothing you can do about it before then.
- Think about your garden.
- Create a story in your head, drift off with it.
- Listen to a bedtime story.
- Make love (to yourself if need be)
- If you genuinely cannot sleep then get up. Go and do or read something. Eat something. Drink something (not coffee or alcohol). Only go back to bed when you feel genuinely tired.
- Have a hot milk drink before bedtime (yes, Horlicks really does work)
- Never take an argument with your partner to bed. Resolve it before bedtime.
- Exercise in the day.
- Improve your diet.
- Sleep at the right temperature for you (don’t be too hot or too cold)
- Make sure that your pillow and bedding is comfortable.
- Wash your bedding regularly. Change it altogether every 6 months or so.
- Use the Vitali-Chi Balance meditation circuit. Not only will it help you meditate it will also help you to get a good nights sleep.
There you go. I hope they help. Sleep tight. Sweet dreams. You need them.