I don't need an expert to tell me how important sleep is, or just how drastically it can effect our physical, emotional and mental wellbeing. In fact, neither do you. You don’t even need me to tell you that sleep is important. We all know it is. And, we all know we’re neglecting it; ignorant to the fact that it can really lower our quality of life, our performance and our potential for achieving what we want - it just kills our overall vibe, disrupts our rhythms and destroys our chances of happiness.
This post isn’t full of tips on how to get more sleep. That would be more or less pointless really as you could write it yourself. Simply go to bed earlier. It’s also not full of tips about why you aren’t getting enough sleep, because, I don’t really know you, and even if I knew a few things about you, there would be many missing pieces of information I didn't know that could also be contributing to your struggle with getting enough sleep. It's not about diagnosing a problem, it's about helping you to focus on your own circumstances and your own problems - if you have any - and making you aware of how several simple changes can improve your entire existence. It's about getting to know your sleeping habits and why they are how they are, and then assessing your life as a whole before figuring out how to successfully and sustainably achieve optimal sleep for your personal needs. We are, after all, designed to instinctively know how much sleep we need, it's just a matter of allowing it to ourselves.
"Why do so many of us fail to make use of such a simple way to improve our lives?"
In Arrianna Huffington's book ‘A Sleep Revolution’ (which, by the way, you should read immediately) she shines light on the fact (because no one else will) that we are in the midst of a sleep deprivation crisis. We all know sleep is important - it’s a natural occurrence without which no one could survive - but very few people appreciate its true power, and the vital role that it plays in both our waking and sleeping moments. Not to mention the affect it has on just about every aspect of our health (weight management, disease, mental illness, to name a few).
We all need different levels of sleep, and determining exactly how much is not as simple as just observing things like weight, height, level of activity or length of working hours - for example. It depends on so much more, from your current emotional state, your finances, your plans for the future, your dreams, your worries and concerns, your health, your genetic history, your living and sleeping arrangements, your diet - it goes on. As I have transitioned through different stages of my life, I’ve come to understand just how sleep can both help our bodies do good things, and prevent them from doing good things. As a model, I became aware of the importance of sleep and the effects of good and bad quality rest. If I slept well, I performed better on set, was more patient with people, was less affected by insignificant annoyances, felt better and more confident about myself, and felt fresher, brighter and more energetic and fun for those working with me. And if I slept badly, or not enough, my body made gave it away, through greyer, drier skin, enhanced shadows and tenderness under my eyes, puffiness, skin imbalances, a short fuse and premature fatigue. As a business owner, I have become aware of the seriousness of sleep in other ways. If I sleep well, I feel energised, more able to concentrate, more driven and motivated, more creative, more positive and clearer when I wake up, feeling free of any baggage or troubles I experienced the day before. If I don’t sleep enough, I notice I get more easily stressed, experience morning anxiety, feel helpless or unproductive, have less energy, worse concentration and am more irritable. The amount of sleep you need really depends on every aspect of your life at this very moment. Use your intuition to understand how much rest you need and why, and then make concious choices to make it happen.
"A problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it" - John Steinbeck"
For a while now, I’ve been aware of how society is becoming more and more busy, and how we are becoming more and more proud about it. As a consequence, sleep has taken a back seat. It’s almost as if you are clearly not striving enough or achieving enough if you are sleeping enough. Arrianna Huffington refers to this as a ‘cultural dismissal of sleep as time wasted’. She points out that 'sleep deprivation as essential to achievement and success' has become the cultural norm. In a society constantly over-working, we complain about lack of time to complete our daily duties, and, in looking for something to cut, sleep is the easiest target. People feel sleep is a sacrifice of valuable time, but in fact when we sleep, we are far from doing nothing. The mind and body are busy whilst we sleep, both physically and mentally. On top of allowing our eyes, internal systems, muscles and joints resting, our neurological activity is also renewed and cleansed in ways you can’t even imagine. Many studies have shown that people are more alert and productive after a short nap or after adeduate sleep, compared to those who push through their fatigue and don't get enough sleep.
Sleep is a chance for our physical beings to rest, reset and restore. It's a chance for our inner beings to calm down, regulate, gain clarity and be peaceful, and for our cells to replenish, revitalise and reenergise after daily activity. In the modern world, many of us disregard sleep as a vital part of our wellbeing, seeing it as valuable time being wasted. However, we're just as busy when we're sleeping as we are when we're awake. And sleep is often just what we need to cure a bad day or realign negative thoughts. When we sleep, and when we dream, being out of conciousness we enter a world free from judgement, doubt and fear. We let go of the constraints and prejudices of the physical world. We connect to deeper dimensions which sometimes hold information of our inner life and our emotional and mental states, revealing a lot more about our lives, our thoughts, our desires, our worries and our circumstances, as well as coincidences and our connection with our pasts and our futures than we'll ever let our concious mind reach.
There are many factors that can contribute to disruption of sleep patterns, including loss and grief, worry, stress, nerves, fear, sadness, low confidence, feeling worthless, hopeless and depression can all affect how we sleep. On a more physical level, digestive issues, injury, pain, muscle damage, general discomfort, unsuitable or disruptive lighting, noise, smells etc, unsuitable or uncomfortable sleeping conditions (such as bed, fabrics, the freshness of the air), stimulative screens (such as using phones, laptops and watching TV right before you sleep can also make it harder for you to sleep properly. The light from computer screens, for example, has been correlated with the obstruction of the body’s production of melatonin - the sleep hormone that helps govern our internal body clock and regulates our sleep cycle.
For me, I try to enforce consistent Wind Down Well rituals, to help me transition out of the day and into a deep sleep. I can't possibly know exactly what you need or what you have access to, but in sharing my rituals, I hope to inspire you to adopt your own, or re-evaluate your current ones. Rituals and routine - things you do consistently - are key to adopting healthy wellbeing habits fluently and effortlessly.
I use aromatherapy and light management to create a suitable space for my body and mind to calm down in. Things like candles (try the new range of candles now available as part of our Qnola offering), incense, low lighting and dimmed computor and phone screens if I can't get away from them completely, to prevent over-stimulating my mind. I also create a suitable space for sleep, which seems obvious, but is something I could have been doing a lot better for a long time. It doesn't stop at just a bed. A variety of textures and the colours of your bedding can also affect how you sleep, as well as the clothes you wear and the other things you see in the room. Muted colours, soft and smooth textures and temperature management to suit your personal needs can all improve the quality of your sleep. I also eat for good sleep. I don't eat big meals too close to bedtime, and I enjoy cleansing, liquid concoctions that are easy on the digestion, containing adaptogenic superfood powders such as chaga, he shou wu, mucuna puriens and herbs like rosemary and chamomile, which have relaxing and balancing properties. From time to time, I journal, writing or just thinking about positive aspects from the day and things I am grateful for, finding these things even in the worst kind of days. This helps to shut down my mind and encourages a more positive mood, avoiding focussing on negative things I will inevitably try to solve as my mind goes in circles. If I'm physically exhausted or still energetic, I stretch or practice restorative or yin yoga - even for just a few minutes - to release tension, ease pain, slow my breathing and vibrations and subsequently calm my mind, taking my focus onto my body and its movements and away from anything that's troubling me.
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