Over the years I’ve realised if I want to be energetic, focused and have more patience especially for my children, I have to get a good night’s sleep.
When I get the right amount of good quality sleep it restores me, and puts me in the best possible mindset to have a calm, fulfilling day. It also happens to be the best productivity hack I know!
Its importance is now so recognised that medical experts are referring to sleep, along with good eating habits and exercise, as the third pillar of health.
“Everyone in our country is sleeping an hour and a half less than they did last generation,” says Dr. Russell A. Sanna, the executive director of Harvard Medical School’s division of sleep medicine. “We need to stop thinking of sleep as a commodity and a lifestyle choice, but rather as the third pillar of health together with diet and exercise.”
But a busy family life can of course get in the way of setting ourselves up for the optimum ‘bedtime’. Jam packed days overflow into evenings and by the time we head to bed we can be frazzled and overtired.
The solution is to structure an evening routine, not only for your kids but for yourself as well and give it priority, that way you’ll wind down from the responsibilities of the day, get a much better sleep and be ready for whatever the following day brings.
Here are some of the best tips I’ve learnt on the topic of sleep over the years and now try to apply every night in the hours leading up to bedtime.
Create the perfect ‘wind down’ environment
- Low lighting
I switch off all the lamps in our bedroom apart from one for reading, that way I'm gently winding down. Also harsh bathroom lights are a no-no; either invest in a low watt mirror light or brush teeth and take off make-up earlier in the evening so you can benefit from soothing lights before it’s time for bed.
Lighting lavender candles in the bedroom (blown out before sleep of course) really helps me to unwind. I often light candles while I'm sorting laundry in the evenings. The quiet, calm during this time helps me to wind down while at the same time get something done!
- Uncluttered bedroom
Like the rest of my home I follow Feng Shui principles when it comes to my bedroom. Having a calm uncluttered room is key, and I never store anything under the bed!
Prepare for the following day
When your head has too many tabs open write out any must-do tasks, and check your calendar for the following day. You'll sleep better knowing everything is under control and nothing has slipped through the cracks. Also preparing for the following morning like laying out your clothes can help keep your mind free of any unnecessary thoughts during sleep. I do all of this at least an hour before bed so my mind has time to relax and I'm not thinking about to-do lists right before I go to sleep.
Have a soothing drink
Some people have a bath before bedtime but at the moment I just can’t fit that in, so an easy way for me to relax is to make myself a hot steaming cup of herbal tea - rooibos or camomile work great. And while we’re on the topic of drinks it’s worth mentioning that caffeine and alcohol before bed are as bad as you’ve heard.
Impose a blue light ban
Screens before bed interfere with the quality of our sleep. About an hour before bed I try to turn off all screens and read a book instead.
Have a regular sleep routine
The best sleep tip I've learned is to have a regular sleep routine with no major differences. Going to bed and waking up around the same time everyday and getting a minimum of 8 hours sleep will allow you to function at your optimum. Soon your body will fall into sync with this natural rhythm, and waking up at the same time every morning will be easy.
There are lots of reasons why we don’t get enough sleep, and going to bed too late is definitely one of them. Getting regular, good quality sleep is the holy grail of good health. Don’t become complacent about how much you need. When you get a good night’s sleep you do a great day’s work.
Onwards and upwards.