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Sleep, for some of us it’s as simple as turning off the light, for others it’s a marathon of tossing, turning, talking, walking, getting too hot, too cold and counting sheep. Sleep is something that until recently I presumed I was doing ok with but to be honest I just wasn’t aware that I had any other options, that was until This Works introduced me to Nick Littlehales, a world leading elite athlete sleep coach.
As a child I was a big sleep-walker, my mum would actively have to wait at the bottom of our spiral staircase and turn me around several times a night, nowadays the walking has calmed down but the talking is still an issue, much to the amusement of my partner who thoroughly enjoys recalling my baffling sentences the following morning. Like most of us, I have always been scheduled by the notion that I need to get at least 8 hours a night, that I’m grumpy if I nap and that if there’s an option for a lay-in I’m always going to take it!
When I quit my full time job to be a personal trainer my sleep broke up with me, it was like a light I couldn’t switch, I would go to bed tired and lay in bed wide awake. Instead of fixing the issue I treated it as a phase and worked through it. Fast forward 8 months and I was getting just two to three hours of sleep a night, unable to focus, grouchy, bad skin, my diet and exercise suffering, not to mention the development of a little muffin top around my middle.
There is no magic pill for sleep, there is however a different way to approach it. This Works is the leading beauty brand in the sleep category and I’m so proud to say that they found me a couple of years ago and blew my sleeping mind, their Award Winning Sleep Plus Pillow Spray has been a third wheel in our bedroom for quite sometime and yes, it helps me sleep but it wasn’t until I was introduced to Nick that I found out why.
Nick is beyond epic, his book called ‘Sleep, The Myth of 8 Hours, the Power of Naps and the New Plan to Recharge the Body and Mind’ is well worth the read, plus it’s short, so there really aren’t any excuses. Over the course of reading the book and our two telephone consultations I started to look at the way I structured my day, pre and post sleep very differently and together we created challenges that turned into habits which have now resulted in my new found healthy outlook on sleep.
- Know your Chronotype, are you an AMer, PMer or Inbetweener? This simply means when you do have your most energy? If you’re unsure take this Chronotype Questionnaire.
- Pick your constant wake time, what time of day could you wake up everyday, including weekends and be on time for work, meetings or your children? This will become an anchor that will help you to naturally wake up feeling your best.
- Forget 8 hours, think of sleep in ninety-minute cycles and aim to get 35 cycles in a week. The amount you sleep can be much more flexible and is determined by counting back in ninety-minute slots from your wake time, meaning you can work around those post work drinks and first date phone calls.
- Pre and post sleep routines have the ability to directly affect your quality of sleep. Pre sleep for me is all about shutting down, dulling down the lights, lighting candles, soft music, changing into something comfortable, opening the windows in the bedroom so that it’s not too hot and putting some of my This Works Sleep Spray on my pillow. Post sleep is all about setting up the day ahead, the first 90 minutes are my most important so I schedule all of my social media posts the evening before so that they can go up without me having to be online, this way I reduce the amount of online information I receive and can go about my day without having my mood effected. I listen to music as I get ready, eat my breakfast without rushing and give myself enough time to commute to work without getting frustrated or stressed. Of course there are days when this is not as easy but this is what I am continually working towards.
- Controlled recovery periods or naps: I’m not a napper but don’t panic, this doesn’t mean you have to go to bed, unless you want to. One of the biggest things I learnt from Nick was just how much my dog is my recovery period. Walking my dog gives me a 60 minute window where I switch off and disconnect from the world, my own little mediation. Ideally the best windows for this recovery periods are between 1 – 3pm and 5 – 7pm, if you don’t have a dog no worries, simply sitting in a coffee shop watching the world go by, using a mediation app or sitting in your garden will have the same effect.
- As Nick says, size matters! Buy as big as you can, you need your space. If you want to get the best from your sleeping position learn to sleep in the foetal position on your non-dominant side (which is the opposite side to the hand you write with).
Now I don’t want to give away all of his tips, these are just some of the key points to name a few, my biggest tip for you to take away is to remove the stress and anxiety about getting enough sleep every night. I used to rush home as quickly as I could from events, panicking that I was only going to get 3 to 4 hours sleep and then find myself jumping into bed as quickly as I could only to lie there awake for hours. My approach towards sleep has changed, I try to aim for 35 cycles per week, I wake up every day at 7am and have until 12am each night to get myself ready and into bed. If I’m at an event I don’t panic like before, I leave when I want to and get home when I can, no matter what the time is I follow my pre sleep routine, turning off the lights, cooling down the temperature of the room and use my spray, then I fall asleep.
I’m so proud to share this post with you and really encourage you to leave me any questions you might have below, don’t let sleep become another thing you have to stress about, let’s work on it together.