I have always been an advocate for great sleep.
In my spare time, or when commuting I like to self-study by listening to podcasts or reading about successful people (who one day I hope to join). I often come across a common theme amongst entrepreneurs; they like to wake up between 4-5am and spend this time working before others arise.
I’ve read quotes such as “money doesn’t sleep” or “early to bed, early to rise, makes you healthy and wise”. I would disagree and say that it makes you lethargic, poor at retaining information and concentrating and gives you the potential to have a higher body fat than those who rest well.
People refer to their ‘body clock’ as the pattern of when they are best at operating or functioning and when they like to sleep. This is called your Circadian Rhythm. In simple terms it’s the 24-hour cyclical process of your body, the way the world spins, plants grow and animals function.
It is possible to adjust your patterns of sleep, however, it’s not recommended to have inconsistent patterns as this can cause long term disrupted sleep and a slower metabolic rate. This often ends up being the case when the average person awakes at the same time from Monday to Friday but then has a longer sleep at the weekend.
For business people, it’s flying into different time zones and for shift workers its the changing routine each week or month. Firefighters, midwives, taxi drivers, hospital staff and air cabin crew are just a few examples of people that will struggle with regulating their metabolic rate and stress levels. The ones that know this are usually good at other factors which they can control. for example, I know lots of firefighters that are super fit. They can’t change their jobs but they focus on training and nutrition harder than most.
Why is sleep important?
If you try and fight or avoid sleep, you will fall asleep anyway. So it must be important. Also, if you don’t sleep you start losing basic functions such as attention, awareness and alertness. Sleeping allows your body to recover and repair, which is the most important process in any training or body shape changing programme. A lack of sleep simply isn’t productive in sport, exercise or life. It’s when the change happens!
For an office worker, it allows their brain and mind to rest, for an athlete, it recharges their body. Simple! Sleep is the state in which our bodies can recover from and process 3 types of stress:
- Physical; from exercise and daily tasks
- Emotional; from using the brain and fundamental skills
- Environmental; from toxins and light
The benefits of good sleep
- Lowers the stress hormone Cortisol, which if elevated contributes to stomach fat
- Increases Ghrelin, which is the hormone responsible for sugar cravings
- Our bodies naturally detoxify, reset and prepare for the next day
- A well-rested mind and body is more productive, alert and in control of food choices and workload
If you can’t manage to send emails and focus during normal operational hours then your problem isn’t productivity, it’s likely stress!
Tips to help you get a better night’s sleep
Here are some common mistakes and steps that you can take to improve/increase your sleep efficiency:
- Try not using your phone or watch TV before bed (around 1-hour before) as this will stimulate and arouse your brain. Reading a book would be a better option
- Make your room as dark as possible. Studies have shown that even the red standby light on a TV can affect sleep depth. Light under the door, curtain or from a radio alarm clock will all have to go
- Move anything electrical away from your body. Sleeping with your phone next to your head is not good. Your phone is constantly sending and receiving data. There is electrical energy that it gives off. You will have to rethink your alarm clock and wearing a sleep monitor watch is also a bad idea
- Avoid caffeine after mid-afternoon. Your circadian rhythm is slowing down and does not need disruption at this time of day
- Eat carbohydrates after your workout and in moderation the rest of the day. Carbohydrates are good for replenishing your glycogen stores but too many can make you feel tired and leave you craving more sugar
- Don’t exercise if you are tired or hungry. A workout needs to be well fuelled for your body to burn body fat. If you are tired and hungry you will not be able to work as hard, focus and your body will burn muscle as a fuel instead of fat
- Sleep in a cooler room at first. If the room temperature is too hot you will be restless. Your body will naturally increase its core temperature at night, so starting a little cooler will allow it to naturally rise and feel cosy and comforting
- Aim to get 7-9 hours of sleep per night
- If you awaken during the night, avoid looking at the time. Your brain will start to calculate how long is left in bed and start the processes of waking up
- Make sure that you are well hydrated and eat enough during the day. Hydrating late at night will mean trips to the toilet. Your body will still be searching for nutrients if you haven’t eaten enough
As you can see, getting good sleep is something you can and need to work on. It’s important to put in the effort and time to ensure you get good sleep as it will affect all areas of your life. In summary:
- Get sleep
- Eat and drink food
- Try to be consistent with sleeping and lifestyle
- Reduce stress and stressful situations
- Don’t think you will be rich just because you get up early
We wish you all a long and deep night’s sleep. What are your sleep hacks? What do you always do to ensure you get the best night’s sleep? We’d love to hear your comments!