Quality of sleep is fundamental to living as a human being, but for many sleep is compromised such as having difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep, or waking feeling exhausted. Without quality of sleep, a whole host of physical and psychological issues can arise, hence the importance of consciously ensuring we are supporting ourselves in this way.
Studies have shown that lack of quality sleep can contribute towards, depression, anxiety, stress and pain issues amongst many other related conditions. Or even simply feeling ‘flat’ can be attributed to poor sleep.
What determines quality of sleep? Is it just the number of hours slept, such as needing 8 hours sleep, or is it more than this?
There are certain functional aspects of sleep that do need to be adhered to for a deep quality of sleep, such as going to bed at a time that is supportive for your body. However whilst these functional aspects are vital, we also ought to value the actual quality we do all these functional aspects in, and this comes from choosing to move in a way that supports your personal connection and relationship with your body.
Every body is unique and hence it is vital we develop a personal relationship with our bodies so that we can make choices that are supportive and not just from a ‘one size fits all approach’.
For example, if you read that ‘8 hours is the recommended number of hours to sleep’, and then apply this as a rule, are you really supporting yourself? There is a lot of individual variance and whilst general guidelines are great at giving a ball-park figure, we ought to take these guides with a grain of salt. For if you routinely follow 8 hours a night sleep you may still wake feeling exhausted and wonder why. Sleep is an activity and we need to approach it as such. It uses energy. If you have ever hit the snooze button for an extra hour only to wake up feeling more exhausted than when you initially woke up you will have experienced feeling drained from having too much sleep. And then some nights perhaps your body actually will require 9 hours? Perhaps at certain times of the month your body requires more or less sleep? Understanding these finer details makes all the difference.
Is it possible that our quality of sleep is determined by the quality of our day, as in the choices we make for ourselves whilst we are awake?
General tips to support you to have quality of sleep:
Go to bed around 9pm, as this has benefits for the body both physiologically and psychologically.
Avoid overeating at dinner time.
Wind down 2-3 hours before you go to bed. This means going into ‘resting mode’ during this time which may include reducing or avoiding activities such as talking about intense emotional issues, watching suspense or violent programs on TV, or performing vigorous exercise. It is also best to not have caffeine at this time.
Be consciously present with yourself and avoid going into auto-pilot.
Choose to move your body gently or lovingly during this time, such as when you are preparing yourself for bed without rushing in any way.
Please note the above tips are tailored for adults and will be different for children, for example, depending on their age they may need to go to bed around 7pm rather than 9pm.
Quality sleep provides us with a strong foundation to handle our day, and hence it is worth putting in the consistent effort to make it happen.
5 signs you are lacking quality of sleep:
You are falling asleep at your desk … frequently.
Driving makes you feel drowsy.
You make ‘mountains out of mole hills’, in other words you react to things that wouldn’t normally bother you.
You crave sugary foods or caffeine to get you through the day.
You wake feeling heavy and find it hard to get out of bed.
While these might be obvious how many of us actually consistently commit to making the choices required to help us to have great quality sleep? There are different reasons why each of us will sabotage a good night’s sleep, but some of the reasons can include:
Feeling unfulfilled from the day, so trying to make up for a lack of quality time. This can be caused by holding back in the way you naturally express yourself during the day, a lack of appreciation for yourself and others or going into auto pilot and ‘doing mode’ in disconnection from your body and your quality of movement.
Avoiding intimacy with a partner, which reflects an overall lack of connection to the relationship throughout the day.
Avoiding time to be with yourself and reflect on your day– if you still feel ‘wired’ from a hectic day it might seem difficult to stop the momentum and start to wind down.
For parents: Having a concept that late nights are ‘Our time’. There is of course nothing wrong with having time after the kids go to bed to connect with a partner but if the kids are regularly put to bed late this can throw out the whole families rhythm and begin a hard to break cycle of late nights for everyone. Understanding how to support your kids to ‘wind down’, and the role and effect of sugar in their diet, are some of the keys to breaking this cycle.
Of course knowing ‘what to do’ and actually doing it are two entirely different things, and this is where we need to consider our sense of self-worth and ask ourselves the question: “why am I not making the choices needed to give myself the gift of a nurturing quality sleep?”
More will be written in an upcoming series of articles on this topic. If you would like to read more be sure to subscribe to receive email updates.
BIOGRAPHY Psychologist Brendan Mooney works with adults, adolescents and children. With a genuine interest in people's well-being, Brendan brings a warmth, practicality and an equality that supports clients to truly address underlying issues and blockages that are preventing them from moving forward.