Monday, March 21, 2016

Sleep Your Way to Success

An overlooked but important component of our productivity and success is the quality and quantity of our sleep.  Sleep is an important time for our brains and bodies.  It is during our sleep that our brains work to clear our bodies of toxic waste chemicals, heals and repairs body tissues, consolidates memories, enhances our learning, processes emotional events...and on and on.  Our brains and bodies need this time.

Numerous studies have shown the debilitating impact of sleep deprivation upon our thought processes, productivity and capability.  However, most recent studies are also showing that we are not, as a rule, achieving the restful and rejuvenating sleep that we require to sustain our daily activities.

In order to achieve success and maintain a high level of performance, the quantity and quality of our sleep is a critical component to consider.  If you are not waking up refreshed, focused and ready to tackle anything the day may throw at you, it may be time to review some of your sleeping routines. Consider whether there are any potential changes you need to make to yours, giving your brain and body the time they need to prepare you for the day ahead.

Timing.  We know that our children respond best to a regular bed time, but our bodies and minds do too.  It is far easier to fall asleep when we get into a regular routine and habit.  Try to stick to a consistent sleep and wake up pattern, which will serve to signal the brain when it is to shift into shut down mode.  Certainly we will have exceptions to this routine, but make them the exception, not the rule, if you want to fall asleep faster and easier.

Upgrade your Bed.  You can't expect to have a restful night's sleep if you are sleeping on an old, lumpy, ratty mattress.  Ensure that you have a mattress that will support you the way you prefer to sleep, and a pillow that will do the same.  Oh, and don't forget to change those sheets regularly too. Feeling comfortable in your bed helps to signal the 'relax' function in your brain.

Fresh Air.  I know that there are some people that don't like to have a window open when they sleep, but fresh air and a cooler room are more conducive to a deeper more restful sleep.

No Food or Drink.  Avoid eating any heavy food or drinking alcohol with a couple of hours of bedtime.  Both require too much energy from the body for it to be able to unwind enough to relax for sleep.  Additionally, drinking too much before bed will require you to get up during the night to go to the washroom, which is also disruptive.

Limit Caffeine.  If sleep is regularly alluding you it may be time to review how much caffeine you are taking in throughout the day, particularly in the evening, and determine whether it may be a contributing factor.  Try cutting back on your caffeine intake, at least in the later afternoon and evening to determine if that was the culprit.

No Electronics.  Make sure that any of your laptops, phones or tablet are not in your bedroom or have all of their sound shut down.  Listening to pings and bells signalling the receipt of new messages does nothing to help you unwind and drift off to sleep.  Either keep 'em where you can't hear 'em or shut 'em down!

Avoid those Screens.  Apart from the noises your devices may make that interfere with your sleep, research shows that the blue light emitted by your electronics is disruptive to your body's natural rhythms.  Try avoiding all device screens for 1-2 hours prior to bed time to reduce its impact.  If you must use your devices prior to bed, try turning the brightness of the screen down, or use a light altering software to do it for you.

Relaxing Rituals. Creating bedtime rituals can be an extremely effective way of programming the brain to recognise when we are ready to begin shutting down.  Taking a hot bath, meditating or any other quiet activity can serve as your wind-down signal.  The more consistently it is used the more effective it will be in helping train your brain and body to know that you are preparing for sleep.

Exercise.  We know that there are numerous benefits of exercise, but studies show that those who exercise regularly sleep better at night and feel less sleepy during the day.  It also helps to increase the amount of time you spend in the deeper more restorative stages of sleep.  Exercising in the morning or during the day is great but, because exercise speeds up the metabolism, avoid exercising too close to bed time.  Ensure that you finish at least 3 hours before you go to bed to allow your metabolism to have slowed down.

Sleep is a critical part of our Success formula.  The better the quality of our sleep, the more focused and productive we can be.  However, the more we compromise the nature and quality of our sleep, the less prepared our minds and bodies will be to face the tasks we ask of them.  Creating the bedtime rituals and habits that serve your body and brain are all part of a success strategy that will help you get to the next level.

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