I’ve had a love-hate relationship with sleep for most of my life. As a kid I hated being awake when everyone else in the house was asleep. I had this fear of being the only one awake forever, and my parents and brother never waking up. I can only imagine how it drove my parents crazy, and of course, once I had this fear, my brain simply would not shut down and I’d be awake for hours on end.
As I got older, sleep became less important, I wasn’t scared of being the only one awake anymore, but I did sleep very little in high school and at university. Of course I was very busy during these periods as well and a lack of sleep is associated with being a student, but I believed that if I could get away with as little sleep as possible, I would be able to get more done and achieve more, both socially and academically. I’ll be honest I had slight FOMO (ok really bad FOMO) as a teenager and student (thank goodness I’ve outgrown that) but at the same time, I wanted to excel academically. The only solution was to cut out sleep.
During my time studying in Oxford, my hate relationship with sleep became even worse. I was alone in a strange country working very hard on my Masters and sleep was the last thing I wanted to do. I would either have dreams of home or nightmares of never reaching home. I would be up studying or researching until 1 at night and be up by 6 to go for a jog.
Somewhere over the last 2 years, my relationship with sleep has changed drastically. Since returning to South Africa sleep has become a comfort for me and slowly I have learnt to love sleeping and the effect it has on my body.
There is this stigma that the less you sleep the smarter you are. We live in a society where we always need to be plugged in, always available, always ready, and sleep doesn’t fit into that picture.
Suzy Reading has a whole chapter on sleep and relaxation in her new book The Self-Care Revolution coming out in December. Reading explains that sleep is a basic human need and that sleep is even more needed during and after times of extreme stress. When we don’t sleep Reading says our bodies simulate the sensation of being drunk and after a being awake for little more than 17 hours our cognitive impairment is at the same level as having a blood alcohol level of 1.0%!
So I’ve had a bit of a thought, inspired by Suzy Reading’s book (which I’m definitely going to use in a few more posts), and here are 4 ways to get a better night’s sleep, seeing as it is so important for all our wellbeing.
1. Don’t use you Computer in Bed
I am so guilty of this one! I love working on my laptop in bed, it’s the comfiest place in the house. My excuse used to be, but I sit at a desk all day, I don’t want to sit at a desk when blogging or doing freelance work as well. Unfortunately, the stimulus created by the laptop in your sleep space is very bad for you and can make it difficult to shut off, even after your computer is. I’ve been very conscious of keeping my work and sleep spaces separate and I think it’s helped me relax completely when I finally get in bed. Worth a try.
2. Use a Pillow Spray
I’m not sure of the science behind this but I’ve been using a pillow spray every few nights and it has definitely been helping me to feel more relaxed. Make sure the spray is a smell you enjoy (don’t get lavender if lavender gives you hayfever) and make sure not to spray too much either, the smell can be overwhelming. When you’re on this, also remember to wash your pillow case often, even once a week. A fresh place to lay down your head can mean the difference between a good and a bad night’s sleep.
3. Read something Before Bed
This is one I will always promote and I mentioned it in my post on Selfcare (read here) as well. Reading before bed can stimulate your mind, but unlike electronic devices, it does not over-stimulate. I’ve found even reading just a few pages before bed has helped me to relax and even dream happier, more creative dreams.
4. Prepare your Sleep Space
You need to prepare your room for sleep. Suzy Reading agrees that your bedroom should be a haven, a place to escape the days rush, where you can simply relax. Try make the room as dark as possible, let in fresh air by opening windows in the summer, and make sure you are not too hot or too cold as temprature changes throughout the night. I’ve also started turning my phone around in it’s docing station so I cannot see any lights if messages come through during the night. This has helped me to not check the time as easily every time I wake up during the night (I’m a very light sleeper) and stopped my brain from waking up.
Sleep is so important for all of us. I hope that everyone will be able to realise the wonderful properties of sleep and remember that if you are tired, sleep. What doesn’t get done today can wait until tomorrow, the world is not going to end in the few hours of sleep.