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09 Dec, 2019

The Art of Sleeping with Rob Hobson

Do the phrases “I hardly slept last night”, “I was awake all night’’ and “I only got a few hours’ sleep” sound familiar? In the short term a lack of sleep can affect concentration, creativity, mood and memory. Long term a chronic lack of sleep can have more serious consequences on your health. Rob Hobson outlines his top 10 tips for better sleep.

Health

If you’re a non-sleeper then you will relate to the commonly used phrases that quickly become part of your daily narrative such as, “I hardly slept last night” or “I was awake all night’’ or “I only got a few hours’ sleep”.

In the short term a lack of sleep can affect concentration, creativity, mood and memory. Long term a chronic lack of sleep can have more serious consequences on your health, potentially increasing the risk of conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and stroke, and even influencing body weight.

Every non-sleeper also has their own modus operandi, which may involve difficulty in getting to sleep or waking up shortly afterwards. In both cases, the fact that you’re awake and unable to get back to sleep can trigger anxiety which contributes to sleep deprivation.

Chronic non-sleepers wake up with that fuzzy, slightly ‘hungover’ feeling that they learn to shake off by developing coping mechanisms but more often than not many choose these strategies over actually tackling the issue head on.

I don’t have a good track record with sleep which is hugely frustrating given I’m so dedicated to being healthy in every other aspect of my life. I can push myself to work out even if I don’t really want to and I can actively choose to eat a quinoa salad over a burger. Sleep however is something a little trickier to gain control over.

Given my own personal experience with sleep and my interest in the topic I decided to write a book. After reviewing the research, speaking to experts and other non-sleepers I was enlightened as to the true impact that sleep deprivation can have on our health and the reasoning some people do to justify their lack of sleep.

While writing this book the one thing that became quickly apparent is that many non-sleepers spend more time dwelling on the issue rather than doing anything about it.

I spoke with many non-sleepers when writing the book and many of those shun the basic principles of sleep hygiene saying they have tried everything or tell you that they need little more than 4 or 5 hours sleep a night, but I beg to differ.

How many of you put up with an uncomfortable mattress? If your other half keeps you awake at night snoring, how many of you invest in ear plugs? How many of you spend the moments before bed scrolling through your Instagram feed or working on your laptop? All these things can contribute to sleep deprivation but many of us opt to hijack the possibility of getting a good night’s sleep by doing nothing about it.

I’m not a sleep expert in terms of someone who researches the topic, but I am someone who understands what sleep deprivation feels like. I’m also a highly trained health professional who understands how to interpret scientific research. It’s this combination of insight and qualification that helped me to write the Art of Sleeping.

The crux of this book is about establishing a sleep ritual which is personal to you. As with everything health related, one size does not fit all as we all lead very different lives. Whilst similarities do exist, we all have our own way of dealing with things.

The acronym is BED, which stands for Behaviour, Environment and Diet. Much of this is common sense but if it was that easy, we would all be sleeping well, right!

In simple terms I hope to help readers to understand the basic concepts of sleep and then complete their own sleep diary to offer insight into their own sleep landscape. From here it’s about taking what is pertinent to you whether that means decluttering your bedroom, investing in new bedding, taking a bath before bedtime or investing in a dietary supplement to help you to sleep better.

I can’t guarantee sleep as disrupted sleep can come in waves. What I can assure you of is that by discovering the key factors that prevent you from sleeping well while reverting and sticking to your established sleep ritual you will have a much better chance of tackling the issue head on rather than putting up with it and looking for short-term coping mechanisms.

Top tips to help with sleep

Most of these tips may seem obvious but reading through them, how many do you actually do? Here are just a few that can help you to sleep well.

Organise your storage space

Mess equals stress so start by organising your wardrobe to help quieten the effect of ‘visual noise’. Don’t leave clothes lying around your room or spilling out of laundry baskets as this creates as sense of disorganisation which can contribute to anxiety. Free space in your wardrobes by removing and storing clothes seasonally such as winter coats in the spring. Don’t use the space under your bed as a dumping ground. Invest in proper boxes that can be used as storage under the bed but can also be accessed easily if needed.

Invest in a good mattress

This is a huge outlay but the surface you sleep on is incredibly important for promoting a good night’s rest, so it pays to invest. Many people attribute back and neck pain, stiffness and other aches as a reason for not sleeping well and these can all be linked to your mattress. An old mattress may also cause a runny nose, sneezing or coughing from a build of allergens and dust. You should try and replace your mattress every 7-10 years.

Invest in good bedding

Choose breathable cotton bedding to help maintain a steady body temperature which contributes to sleep quality. Always choose hypoallergenic bedding as this can help ward of allergies which can disrupt sleep and encourage snoring. You don’t need a cupboard full of bedding so spend as much as you can afford on just a few sets. Hitting the sales is the best way to buy good quality bedding at an affordable price.

Scent your room

Certain smells can have a relaxing effect on the body and add to the calming feel of your bedroom. Calming scents such as lavender, bergamot, ylang ylang, clary sage and vetivert are available as candles, oils, diffusers or bed sprays. These scents stimulate the olfactory nerve which sends signals to parts of the brain in charge of emotions and mood. One of my favourites is This Works Deep Sleep pillow spray.

Wash your bedding regularly

Absolutely nothing is more inviting than a freshly laundered bed with plumped up pillows and duvet. Just the thought of it makes you want to jump right in and go to sleep. I personally wash my bedding twice a week as I know on the days my bed is freshly made, I will get the best night’s sleep. This is a strategy used by professional sports people, some of whom are given fresh sheets every night.

Enforce a digital detox

Electrical equipment can deter sleep in many ways. Blue light emitted from tv’s, laptops and phones can inhibit the production of the sleep hormone melatonin. Keeping your bedroom free of clutter helps to create a more tranquil sleep environment. Stand by lights on this equipment can also become a focus of attention if you struggle to sleep. Avoid all electrical equipment at least an hour before hitting the hay.

Block out the light

Firstly, try to block out all light by using curtains or black out blinds, which also help to block out street noise. Light not only affects your ability to sleep by way of melatonin production but is also really distracting if you’re up and struggling to sleep at night. Stick to bedside lamps fitted with dimmer switches and incandescent bulbs to minimise your exposure to bright light.

Avoid caffeine

Caffeine can remain in the body for 3-5- hours but in some people the effects can be seen for up to twelve hours. Not everyone is affected by caffeine in the same way but as a rule of thumb you should try and avoid it within 6-8 hours of bedtime.

Ditch the booze

Whilst a little alcohol may help you to relax, even in small amounts it can fragment your sleep by causing both dehydration and the need to visit the bathroom. Alcohol can also aggravate indigestion and contribute to heartburn. Your sleep architecture is also affected as alcohol can reduce the amount of time you spend in the restorative period of sleep known as REM.

Fuel up on the right foods

When considered in tandem with good sleep hygiene and relaxation techniques, choosing what and when to eat will form a key part of your sleep ritual. Certain food and drinks have been shown to help induce sleep by way of their nutrient content. When planning what to eat, a combination of tryptophan-rich foods (such as seeds, nuts, oily fish & poultry) teamed with carbohydrates (rice, potato) may be the perfect option for an evening meal. Be sure to also include plenty of foods rich in vitamin B6 and magnesium in your diet, such as pulses, lentils & oily fish.

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There are many things to consider if you have difficulty nodding off which include sleep hygiene practices (bedroom environment) and mental health (stress, anxiety and depression). Working out your own personal sleep ritual is a really useful way to tackle these issues to help you get the sleep of your dreams.

Rob Hobson's The Art of Sleeping is available on Amazon now. You can also head over to Rob's website to find out more.

If you'd like us to take care of step 10, then why not book one of our meal plans direct to your door (or bed, no judgment here!). Browse our Meal Plan options now.

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