How do people go to sleep? I’m afraid I’ve lost the knack. I might try busting myself smartly over the temple with the night-light. I might repeat to myself, slowly and soothingly, a list of quotations beautiful from minds profound; if I can remember any of the damn things.
~ Dorothy Parker
God bless Dorothy, blindingly witty even through her insomnia, although of course sleeplessness isn’t very funny when it’s you.
Remember that macho culture around sleep from not so long ago? ‘Sleep is for wimps… I’ll sleep when I’m dead… sleep is a luxury…’ I’ve heard all of these and more from the candle at both ends-burning brigade, who might have even dabbled in that fad for trying to get by on as little as possible because more is more and all-nighters are all part of the fun, aren’t they?
All yet – and that’s a very big YET – there’s a huge amount of evidence to argue that the top performers do not burn on through the night, they do not throw off the call or Morpheus in pursuit of more, because they know what they end up delivering is a less-than-genius less.
In his book, The 10,000-Hour Rule, Malcolm Gladwell drew attention to an experiment which looked at the performance of violinists. What separated the good from the exceptional was not just their natural gift or the hours they put into playing, it was the quality of their practise; because the exceptional slept more. The best not only slept almost nine hours a night, but they also had hefty afternoon naps, allowing them to recuperate so they could nurture their talent with greater focus.
Sleep is not for wimps. It’s for masters.
There are plenty of studies to show our thinking is less than at its best when we’re sleep deprived. Bill Clinton has said the worst mistakes he ever made were caused by sleep deprivation and Google even goes to the lengths of providing sleep pods for its employees, so they can catch a power nap when they need one.
So how do we get a great night’s sleep, or at least get better sleep than we do now?
Of course if insomnia is a major issue for you, you could see a Rapid Transformational Therapy (RTT) practitioner to help you root out where your poor sleep habits come from and learn how to embed new, deep-rest thought processes and techniques that will lull you into healing sleep.
But here are a few suggestions which might, alone, make all the difference…
5 Fast Fixes for a Good Night’s Sleep
- Screens off! Step away from your laptop/smart phone/TV at 9pm or at least an hour before you go to bed. Read books. Prepare a nutritious lunch for the next day. Play cards or knit or just fold laundry if you like, but step away from screens. I foolishly recorded a short video one evening last week on my smartphone but because I wasn’t at my best it took until 10pm. I was still bushbaby-eyed awake at 2am.
- Stop drinking caffeine after lunch. You’ll be amazed at the difference. No waking up for midnight trips to the loo. Or certainly less.Try a gentle herbal tea formulated to aid sleep before bed.
- Don’t eat a heavy dinner. Or a late dinner. Once upon a time you may well have scoffed a curry at midnight and then slept like a baby. I even keep my proteins light in the evening to avoid any rumbling of indigestion.
- Bed time yoga. There are gentle movements and stretches which prepare the body for bed, bringing energy down and calming the mind ready for rest. And they won’t take more than 20 minutes.
- Don’t have a hot bath. Relaxing though they may be, hot baths are also stimulating and if you’re anything like me it will take you ages to regulate your body temperature if you slip into bed after a bath. A hot bath in the morning makes much more sense.
What to do when all else fails
Yoga Nidra – it’s the kind of power nap that reaches the parts other power naps fail to reach.
Working to relax you mentally, emotionally and physically, one hour of yoga nidra is said to be the equivalent of four hours’ sleep. It’s a bit like listening to a guided relaxation, but it works on deep, deep levels to restore rested balance. Although usually practiced lying down, yoga nidra can work in a sitting position, so you could yoga nidra on the train or on a flight.
Today has been propelled by yoga nidra, thanks to a rotten night’s sleep brought about by my partner working in London for a few days. I rarely settle into easy sleep the first night he’s away, so 45 minutes on my mat this morning listening to a yoga nidra has been a huge investment in being able to function in a calm, relaxed way. I may not feel 100% but I’ll be fine until 8pm this evening.
Next week I’m off for a spa day to check out a sleep-themed series of treatments. I’ll be quizzing the therapists on what they do and why (if I don’t fall asleep immediately) and I’ll report back on what I learn.