Sunday, 9 September 2018

Rest easy...some sleep tips for you to try.

Last week I wrote about sleeping and how important quality sleep was in reaching your health and fitness goals.  So this week I thought I would write a follow up blog post, giving out some quick tips that may help you improve your sleep.  There are a few things to try and cut out of your routine, and a few things that you could look to add in to your routine.  As with most things health and fitness related, it can take some trial and error to find out what works for you.  SO feel free to try some of the things below and let me know how you get on.

Let's start with the seemingly obvious first.  Caffeine before bed is not the best idea for dropping off to sleep quickly.  So some things to avoid in the hours after 5pm (depending on when you go to sleep) are coffee, energy drinks, teas with high caffeine content, really anything that has a decent hit of caffeine in it.  

Some teas do not contain caffeine, and a number even claim to aid in sleep quality, this is one of those things that has to suit you.  It could be worth trying some of these teas if you are struggling with sleep, but again, it needs to work for you and not everything will.  The easiest thing to do is to try them out and see how you go.

Activities that stimulate our brains and our eyes may also cause problems in falling asleep quickly.  Things such as watching TV right before going to bed or playing on an XBox or Playstation may not be the best ideas.  Also using your mobile phone too much before going to sleep isn't the best idea as the back-light can cause us to wake up or stay awake after use.  So try and reduce these things in the hour or so before your head hits the pillow.

Another problem I had when I was a bit younger (and my knees functioned a little better) was indoor sport.  Often my games were scheduled as late as 9:30pm, which by the time you finish your game and get home can mean not getting to bed until 11pm.  Even then once I was in bed, my mind and heart were still often racing from the exertion and experience.  Often you have no control over when your games are scheduled, but if you can talk to the manager and ask them to be scheduled early if possible it may help with your sleep patterns.

Now that we've covered some of the potential issues with getting to sleep quickly and having a high quality of sleep, lets look at some possible ways to improve your sleep.

To combat the impacts of screen time before bed and fill the time which you have decided to turn the screens off, try including some reading time before you go to sleep.  It doesn't have to be in bed, but reading can help calm the mind and unwind from the stresses of the day.  Also, if you are stressed about things, it can help take your mind of them too.

Another thing that can help you get ready for a good night's sleep is a warm bath or shower.  Like some teas, some bath salts claim to assist in sleep also, but again it is a very personal thing - if it works for you great, if not, then maybe try something else.  

One last thing you can also try is some simple breathing exercises.  These can work in a couple of different ways.  Firstly, the body is very interlinked.  If you have ever been anxious about anything you may have noticed your breathing and heart rate become rapid.  This is your body getting ready for fight or flight.  Well this reaction can work in the opposite direction too.  If you use breathing exercises to control your rate of breathing, you can let the body remind itself that everything is fine, and that it can relax.

A simple technique that I have used in the past is called square breathing.  It is very easy to do - lying on your back in a relaxed position, simply breathe in for 4 seconds (or a 4 count), hold that breath for 4 seconds, breathe out for 4 seconds, keep your lungs empty for 4 seconds, and repeat.

It can be as short as a couple of minutes to start, but I have found that this has helped me in the past.  Having to focus on breathing and counting can also take your mind off anything that is making your mind race as well, so it can be doubly beneficial

So if you are having trouble with your sleep, give some of these simple tips a try.  And don't forget to let me know how you got on if you do try them.  Get in touch with me here to tell me about what worked and what didn't work for you.

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