Keep'er Fit

Gary Wallace

Don’t put your sleep on hold


This is an area that I talk a lot about to clients and friends but sometimes neglect it myself. I previously wrote about my morning routine and how I like to get up early and attack the day. But I found that although I was getting up early I definitely wasn’t in the mood to attack the day.

I was getting into bad habits at night like snacking, getting stuck on social media and not dropping anything that could wait until the morning. This meant I was going to bed later than planned but still getting up at 4.45am.

The first thing I noticed was my mood. We all have triggers that set off our mood, and for me it’s sleep. Not enough sleep and I feel that I am battling more than just my heavy eyes. I feel down, less productive and lack the motivation to get up and go at it.

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On the other hand, my most productive days start with a good night’s sleep or a five-hour cycle from the last day, I will talk more about this later. I’m trying really hard to get on top of my sleep by looking at it a little bit differently. Here are a few things I’ve tried to ensure I get enough sleep.

Don’t feel guilty

I thought that lying-in, napping and resting during the day was for lazy people and teenagers. You hear about the likes of Dwayne Johnston aka The Rock getting up early and smashing a workout or how other successful people don’t sleep very long – but that’s not for everyone and it may not be the best way.

Make sure you get your sleep and don’t say I’m too busy. After a good night’s sleep or nap you will be a lot more productive and all those busy things will become less and less.

Sleep in cycles

It’s hard to get the perfect seven-eight hours uninterrupted sleep each night. Some nights you just can’t get turned over, and then there are other things from noises, running to the toilet, or your better half deciding to snore that will keep you awake. Instead look at sleep in 90 minutes cycles.

The reason we look at 90 minutes cycles is that we have four phases of sleep- awake and resting; light sleep; deep sleep; and REM sleep. Each one is helpful, but the two most important are deep sleep and REM. In deep sleep you release all the hormones to repair and builds rebuild your body. In REM sleep, you are basically rebooting the mental hard drive. Guess how long on average it takes to go through this cycle – 90 minutes. So rather than counting hours aim for four or five cycles per day.

Napping

Winston Churchill famously said ‘Never stand up when you can sit down and never sit down when you can lie down’. Why do we always have to be on our feet or worse again sitting down. If you can, plan on having a nap during the day, after lunch is probably the best time.

For those who can’t manage this, try and grab 20 minutes straight after work. I understand this can be tough with the lives that we live but it’s all about prioritising. The good thing is that a 20-30 minute nap counts as one of your cycles, better still if you can get the fully 90 minutes in go for it.

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If, like me, you struggle to nap then go onto YouTube, type in binaural sleep music, plug in the ear phones and off you nod. This stimulates the relaxing brain waves that help us sleep.

Setting yourself up for a good night’s sleep is another way to ensure you reach your quality cycles.

Here are a few tips to help you nod off:

Wind down before bed – This means no TVs, laptops, phones or screens that omit blue light which stimulates the brain. Aim for 90 minutes and as I’ve found, charging your phone outside the bedroom really makes a world of difference, because even if you wake up in the middle of the night the temptation to check Facebook isn’t there.

Sleep in a Bat Cave – Turn your room into complete darkness. No light from clocks, phones, TVs, in fact don’t have a TV in your room at all. Make sure you have a good pair of curtains to block street lights and they are brilliant for blocking sunlight for your day time nap. Finally keep your room cool. For most of our evolution we weren’t used to central heating and electric blankets, so this is why we sleep best when it is a bit cooler.

Read – Since I charge my phone outside the room I unwind by reading every night, something I thought I would never do. I love reading at night and as soon as I put the book down it’s lights out, all out!

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