The longer I am in this hunt for sustainable health, the more I am becoming confident that there is no perfect way. Each of us is so different, and everyone has to deal with a variety of life interactions. All the recommendations you find online must be approached with a degree of curiosity and put into the right context, including mine today. Be vigilante, find a person or a group of people you trust and stay away from one way orientated approach. Human body is rarely about black or white.
One more thing, keep it simple - what if the easiest choice would be the healthiest one?
Like the nervous system is the heart of our movement, there are two health pillars probably more impactful than exercise and healthy eating. The first one is happiness, and the second is sleep. Let's talk about the latter.
Now, I 100% agree with you that they are all interconnected. If you exercise regularly, you will most likely be happier, and if you eat healthy food, you will probably sleep better.
But let's be honest, how many of the friends you know master all pillars at once? And if they do, how many of them can keep it for a lifetime? Therefore managing sleep is non-negotiable. Sleep is a necessity you can not afford to lose. And if you do, you are playing with the fire, on so many different levels.
I WANT TO SHARE WITH YOU TWO THINGS
The video below (click on the photo)
My approach to sleep management
In life, certain situations require us to accept more and expect less. Having a newborn is one of them. I appreciate this parenting challenge, so here; I am not speaking directly to you.
I know hundreds of people without the kids, including a lot of my friends, who are struggling with sleep and I know how much this fact influence their life and health. If this is you, it's time to make sleep your best friend.
MAKE IT STICK
Many chronic diseases can be prevented, improved or even completely reversed by making positive lifestyle changes. The problem is that we often trying to change many things at once or rely on willpower. Both ways are overwhelming and hardly sustainable. Solution? Work on your HABITS. But on that little bit later.
HOW I APPROACH SLEEP
It's relatively simple (well, at least for me) and here is my first big advice. The simpler it is, the higher is the chance of making the habit permanent. I sleep somewhere between 7 - 9 hours every day. It doesn't matter how busy I am. Sleep is non-negotiable for me. I rather lose a job than long-term sleep.
Less than seven hours isn't good for me; more than nine makes me feel tired and slow. You will have to find your dosage, but I am guessing you will be similar.
Here is a list of routines I commit to make my sleep quality consistent.
1. REGULARITY - Whether it's weekend, I'm on holiday or after a big presenting day, I wake up and going to bed at a consistent time. No differences, regularity is where I strongly agree with the video above.
2. MELATONIN - When the daylight changes to a dark, I turn off all the lights and burn the candles to allow my body to make melatonin, responsible for the sleep-wake cycle. I don't wear blue light blocking glasses. They are annoying me.
3. TEMPERATURE - I sleep in a colder room with minimal clothes on, even in the winter. I rather feel cold than hot.
4. NOTIFICATIONS OFF - I do not check emails, messages or calls after 7 pm. My phone is on silent, incoming content blocked and computer is shut. A few times, I accidentally read an email or a message before bed - an unwanted disruptor.
5. EVERYTHING OFF - No wifi or TV in the room. Phone in the flight mode, bluetooth off. I believe these things influence sleep and our health in the long run. Your bedroom is for sleep and sex.
6. MOVEMENT - I exercise regularly, but mainly, I am physically active throughout the day. Once you engage in regular movement throughout the day you will experience the effect on sleep.
8. RELAX - I almost daily watch a favourite TV show before sleep. It helps me to completely switch off from the world of work. Mostly only one movie or two episodes (dose-response). Right now we are on HOMELAND. Incredible.
9. No heavy topics discussion allowed in our house 2 hours before bedtime. There is always another day.
10. I use doTERRA essential oils such as Levander, Levander Peace or Magnolia on my temples. I am naming the company as I believe in the quality of the product.
I mentioned the word "Habit". Habit consists of three steps that are collectively called a Habit Loop. I won't go to any detail here, but please know that every routine mentioned above was build one by one so be patient. It has some trigger or a cue, and I am continually coming up with new routines (actions).
An example can be the first point above. I use iPhone's in-build application called CLOCK. Within this app, I use Bedtime, which reminds me 45 minutes before going to sleep that it is time to power down. Simple right?!
WHERE TO START
The initial step is to identify the habit(s) you want to work on related (in our case) to sleep. This is the step when you should work with your Health Coach. These people are trained and educated to guide you through the lifestyle changes. Great coach is walking the talk and have empathy to walk in your shoes - find them. I guess you would not build the house without consulting it with the builder.
EXAMPLE OF IDENTIFYING THE HABIT:
I will switch to candlelights as soon as it gets dark outside
I will breathe 2 minutes every time I am alone
I will make all my work phone calls on the walk
I will do one movement exercise every hour
I will place my phone screen down when I eat
I will take my lunch into the local park
I will stand up as soon as my computer screen gets dark
Before you start working on the habits you just wrote down with your coach, create an environment that will support your habit (s). See some below.
Find the app you want to use for sleep (white noise perhaps)
Download your favourite TV show
Purchase sleep promoting light bulbs and install in my bedroom or rooms I frequent often
Purchase sleep aids such as an eye mask, ear plugs etc.
Remove all electrical disruptors from the bedroom
Set up the “Do not disturb” on your phone
Open your essential oils account
Talk to your partner and set the boundaries about topics
Plan your training program ahead
Purchase a small fan to keep the room cool
This process can take you an hour, a day or a week. Environment dictates behaviour and it’s more powerful than strong will, DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP.
EXAMPLE OF THE ENVIRONMENT PREP: Purchase enough candlelights to be able to switch the lights off every time. Have them ready, visible and in the right places. Matches has to be there too.
When the environment is ready, it’s time to approach your first routine (a habit). Stick with one major or two simple. Repeat it, day after day for at least three weeks. If it works, you are most likely ready to move to another habit. If not, don’t beat up yourself and replace the habit.
EXAMPLE OF THE HABIT: Turn off the lights and replace for candles when gets dark.
4. REWARD YOURSELF
We are so driven by being better every day that we forget about the joy. We push ourselves to achieve whatever we aim for that we forget to live and have fun. CELEBRATE! Reward yourself for what you achieved.
If you use essential oils for sleep, buy yourself a new fancy diffuser
If you wake up consistently at 6.30 am, sleep in on Sunday morning
If you are going to bed every night at 9 pm, have a romantic night our until late.
Remember, sustainability is vital to achieve health excellence and resiliency. One habit at a time and it must be YOUR habit not anybody’s else. You got this.