Sleep, optimise your most valuable hours.

Your brain is the most active during sleep. This is the time at which the brain is able to focus on it’s primary functions. Instead of having to receive and send signals to the body at the same time. With the body at rest, the brain is able to consolidate and process everything that you have taken in during the day. For this reason it is able to run at 3 times the normal speed than when you are awake. So it would seem silly to disrupt or disturb this vital period.

However, it seems that in the modern day and age, our sleep has taken a back seat in the order of importance. You now have many external factors that are getting in the way of the brain following through with one of it’s most important times. Today we take a look at the most common problems to why the majority of people struggle to get the most out of the rest time. We then also venture down the avenue of solution. Giving you practical ways to dominate your sleep.

Mind Racer

Feeling anxious about both the past and the present. Thinking up scenarios in your head of how things may have played out. Churning over events during the day that are beyond your control. Constantly replaying them in your head and falling victim to the chatter of the mind.

Whether or not your worries are legitimate or justified, your body is staying in response mode for far too long. It needs to come out of fight or flight mode as soon as possible.

How to overcome this type of sleep issue;

  • Meditation/Yoga – Activate your parasympathetic nervous system (the state of ‘rest and digest’) in the moment, while training yourself to quiet the sympathetic nervous system (the state of ‘fight or flight’) when you need to.
  • Gratitude – A simple gratitude practise literally rewires your brain to look for positive thoughts.
  • Offload the Brain – Journaling at the end of each day can be a great way to release the mind chatter. Just the act of getting it out onto paper will release the stress.
  • Diet/Lifestyle – Taking in the foods that your body reacts poorly too will cause it to release stress hormones into the body. Thinking it is being attacked it will try to keep you awake.
  • Weighted Blankets – Reports from people who suffer with anxiety have reported significant improvements when using weighted blankets.
  • Exercise – Physical training has been proved as one of the best stress reliefs. It also promotes the production of many feel good hormones.

Desk Sitter

You go to ‘bed’ at a reasonable time, but you lay there awake and don’t actually go to sleep until much later. Also known as ‘ceiling watching’.

Most commonly found in people who have desk jobs. The lack of activity during the day will mean that your body still has more than enough energy to keep it awake.

How to overcome this type of sleep issue;

All you have to do is make sure you move throughout the day. This does not have to be a full blown workout. Simply going outside for a walk on your lunch or taking your phone calls as you walk around the office, should be enough to make a difference.

Evening Energizer

It takes you awhile to fall asleep. Then when you do, you wake up several times or you become very restless during the night.

Late intake of coffee can be one of the largest causes. It takes a long while for your body to metabolise caffeine, especially from coffee. Causing the effects to linger long into the night. Exercise too can also be a cause. Where you release hormones that energise you, you are signalling your body that you may need to stay awake for more hours than in reality.

How to overcome this type of sleep issue;

  • No caffeine after 2pm (the earlier the better)
  • Try to change your workouts to earlier during the day. If this is not possible, stick to less strenuous activity – like walks or relaxing forms of exercise (yoga/pilates).
  • Reserve at least 2 of your last hours to winding down. This can be done in many forms, whether with a hot bath, relaxing practises or simply reading a book. Try to match the natural lighting, by dimming the lights in your bedroom.

Too Plugged In

Is this you?

  • Taking a long time for you to fall asleep.
  • Thinking you slept well but you still wake up exhausted.
  • You fizzle out early in the afternoon.
  • You find yourself nodding off during the day.

Your brain does not think that it is the right time to sleep. In a world where cities never sleep. With bright lights, clocks, screens and time dependent obligations. The brain is constantly bombarded with signals to say it may still be daylight.

How to overcome this type of sleep issue;

  • Sleep in a pitch black room, send a firm signal to your brain that it is night and for it to prepare your body for sleep.
  • When you sleep, your brain is most active. It can focus all its efforts on processing. A factor that optimises this is keeping the brain cool. Hold of on the heating and use light bedding.
  • Use weighted blankets if you do not like light bedding, they won’t trap excessive heat.

Device Devotee

You are still feeling tired after a supposedly full nights sleep. Especially after nights spent at a computer or watching the latest series right before you go to bed.

Blue light waves confuse your brain’s’ sleep-wake clock and tells it that it is time to wake up. They also block the production of the hormone that makes you fall asleep. The largest amount of this type of light is found in – computer screens, phones, tablets and tv screens. Amounts that our bodies are unable to handle.

How to overcome this type of sleep issue;

  • As best you can – turn off all electronic devices at least 2 hours before going to sleep.
  • Invest in a pair of blue-blocking glasses, especially if you are exposed to this type of light at work.
  • Phones are now becoming more sleep-friendly. Switch your device to blue-blocking filter or download an app that will do it for you.
  • Consider drug-free support supplements or therapy.

Second Wind Catcher

At first, you feel tired, but then you want to catch up on the latest series or just browse through social media. You feel energised to do this but then feel tired once again. Although, you still wake up feeling exhausted and ready to sleep again.

What’s happening is not an urge to binge watch. In actuality you are getting a shot of cortisol from the body. This allows the brain to function whilst you are asleep. But where you stayed awake, your body uses it for the wrong reasons. Disrupting the cortisol cycle will cause you to feel tired when you wake up.

How to overcome this type of sleep issue;

  • Cortisol will usually strike around 11pm (depending on when you woke). So try to be in bed and on your way to sleep before this time.
  • Listen to your body – If you feel tired around the late evening, go to bed.

Broken Sleeper

You wake up in the very early hours of the morning (2-5am) in a state of panic or confusion.

Your brain is extremely active at this time, which is why it seems as though you are running at a million miles an hour when you wake up. To do this it needs glucose.

How to overcome this type of sleep issue;

  • Try taking a spoonful of honey before you go to bed in order to keep your glucose levels topped up.
  • Cut out alcohol. Alcohol will cause your blood sugars to spike, which will manifest as sporadic night wakings.

Put yourself to rest.

Now you have the ability to hack your sleep, meaning your periods of wakefulness are fully optimised. Gone are the days of your tiredness taking over your day and not allowing to live up to your full potential. Put your sleep first, and the rest of life’s aspects will benefit greatly.