Today’s society has created this ‘need’ to be “busy” and cram 100 things into each and every day. When doing this, we spend less time focusing on our wellness, and in particular our sleep. Many of us don’t actually understand how vital it is to achieve good quality sleep.

Are you guilty of watching ‘just one more’ episode of your favorite Netflix series, reading a few more chapters of your book, scrolling for ‘a little longer’ on Instagram, or staying up later chatting on the phone or snacking away? I’m sure most of us are, at some stage!

Delaying sleep can have adverse effects on our wellbeing and so it is key that we start (or continue) prioritizing our sleep.

Sleep occurs when your body and brain drop into an unconscious, restorative state.

When sleeping, some of our bodily functions are suspended while other specialized functions happen. Sleep is remarkable and does such wonderous things for our health and wellbeing. It can assist the body to fight infection, allows your heart to rest, can improve brain function (i.e. memory, concentration, learning), restore energy, repair injuries, aid growth, improve psychological wellbeing and mood and can even help in lowering blood pressure. (Centre for Clinical Interventions, Government of Western Australia

Evidence shows us there are two stages of sleep.

The first stage is NREM (Non-Rapid Eye Movement) and can be broken down into 3 phases:

Phase 1) Sleepy state, the sleeper is somewhat alert, can be woken easily and typically lasts less than 7 minutes. The sleeper’s heart rate and breathing slows and muscles begin to relax.

Phase 2) Onset of sleep, a lighter phase of sleep, the sleeper is less likely to be awakened in this phase, as heart rate and breathing slows down further. This phase usually lasts around 25 minutes.

Phase 3) Represents the body falling into a deep sleep. The sleeper enters an important restorative sleep stage from which it is difficult to be awakened. It is in this phase of sleep where our body repairs muscle and tissue, improves immune function and encourages growth and development.

The second stage of sleep is known as REM (Rapid Eye Movement).

Typically the sleeper enters this stage of sleep 90 minutes after falling asleep. This is the stage of sleep associated with deep sleep and dreaming. The sleeper’s brain remains active, breathing increases as does heart rate, however the bodies arms and legs become temporarily paralysed, as a way to prevent you from acting out your dreams! This stage of sleep is vital for mood, new learning, memory and alertness/daytime concentration.

(National Sleep Foundation

Tracking your sleep can help you to understand your sleep, in addition to helping you become more aware of those things impacting your ability to achieve sufficient rest, should you be struggling to reach the recommended 7-9 hours (for an Adult). Strategies you can use include various Sleep Apps or a sleep journal.

Are you reaching the recommended sleep quota?

Read below to learn some effective sleep habits to achieve better sleep:

1. Avoid napping in the day

2. Reduce your caffeine intake

3. Attempt to stick to a regular sleep/wake cycle (going to bed at the same time each night, waking at a similar time each morning)

4. Avoid physical exercise 2-3 hours before bed

5. Take a hot bath or shower before bed

6. Avoid large meals before bed, or foods that can aggravate your digestion (i.e. chilli), in addition to alcohol

7. Create an environment of ‘calm’ in your bedroom (avoid using your bedroom as a place of work, ensure your room is of comfortable temperature and dark)

8. Reduce the time you spend on devices before bed (i.e phone, laptop)

9. Practise mindfulness, try a body scan or a breathing exercise

10. Use a thoughts diary or journal as a way to ‘offload’ any of the days worries or burdens

11. Develop some relaxing night rituals to practise before bed (light stretching, herbal tea, meditation, burning a candle)

Here is some inspiration to help you to set up a new self-care night routine to aid better sleep:

We spend on average 1/3 of our life asleep! That’s right… ONE THIRD!

Even more reason to prioritize our sleep to ensure that we are resting and sleeping well.

I’m sharing some of the TOP APPS I’ve come across to help: *track your sleep, *improve your sleep, *analyse your sleep quality and *foster calmness and relaxation before bed:

1. SleepScore

2. Sleep Cycle

3. Sleep++

4. Pillow Automatic Sleep Tracker

5. Sleepzy – Sleep Cycle Tracker

6. Headspace

7. Calm

8. Noisli

9. Slumber

Get lost in your dreams!

Yours in wellness,

Libby McLean

EAP Specialist, Coach and Trainer

Positive MIND Consulting