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How are you sleeping?

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How are you sleeping?

Sleep Hygiene


It's 10:30 pm, you've just finished the latest Netflix episode, and another is starting in 4 seconds, you quickly do the maths, and it means you'll get into bed at 11:15 pm; it's begun, and it's good, never mind I'll be fine. 


I remember reading an article in a business journal a few years back revealing some of Netflix's inner sanctum secrets. The biggest competitor they see is (insert drum roll here, please) YOUR SLEEP! 

When was the last time you asked someone how they were going, and they didn't reply "tired" or "busy"? Our precious attention is wrestled from us, and whether it's an escape from the intensity of what's in front of us or a genuine switch-off, here is a quick way to wrestle at least some back.



When we sleep, we go through many phases of sleep. A lot smarter people than me have figured out patterns of brain activity and woven this knowledge into what is known as sleep architecture. While it's cool science and worth exploring here if you'd like to know more, I prefer focusing on what we can control. Often the quality of our sleep can be linked to sleep hygiene, another fancy term relating to 'how we get to sleep'. The environment we sleep in. The temperature, what we're doing before we sleep, light exposure, what we consume, what we think about and where we can focus our attention. Let's explore this further. 


What can we control: 


What we're doing - this we have control of. We've all heard the blue light rants from neuroscientists over the years, so I'll spare you the TV and laptop lectures. What I would suggest that's helped anecdotally and evidence-based is journalling; reflecting is a natural unwinding and learning process we have done from as soon as we could write. Far greater minds than mine have suggestions on what to reflect on, from gratitude to key learnings from the day to stoic philosophy how-to's. I've just seen the impact writing down your thoughts and reading them back has. 



One of the other things that have worked well for those in the studio is a 10-minute stretch. Holding stretches and breathing into the stretch use the body to wind down and help with your flexibility. This is a lot more helpful than resistance training or high-intensity intervals, as they stimulate the mind rather than assist in the winding down. So for those in the studio, we've recorded personalised stretches in session and then air-dropped them directly to your phones. If this is something you'd be interested in, please let us know. If not, here is a stretch session from the virtual studio you're welcome to start with. 


Temperature - we have limited control over this, but interestingly, the cooler, the better our quality of sleep - research suggests 17-19 degrees is optimal. One way to assist with this might be a cooler shower closer to bedtime, fans, and lighter blankets. Pretty hard to control when it's humid and hot, and you're probably sweating when you get out of that shower anyway. Any attempt to cool down prior to bed, though, is worth the effort. 


Alarm times

Research says to keep it consistent at the same time every day (regardless of the weekend). Heading to bed at the same time and waking at the same time provides a rhythm the body understands. Keeping this as consistent as possible is well supported by research for higher-quality sleep. Personally, I've found some earplugs and a watch-based alarm that have helped a lot. Not waking to noise but the vibration on my wrist has been a pleasant shift, as has the consistency of the same bedtime and alarm time each day.  


Finally, what we consume - well, there is everything from melatonin tablets to warm milk to casein custard and cottage cheese as suggestions. It's so individualised that it would be irresponsible of me to make generalisations here; the only thing I would say is clear is that caffeine and alcohol both impact your sleep architecture. Consuming these guys for some people might be a routine, or there may be a thought that they don't impact at all. All that fancy research says you may get the same length of sleep or potentially longer; however, you won't get the same quality. The real depth and refreshing parts of our sleep we simply don't get when we have alcohol or caffeine too close to bedtime. 


On a personal note, guys, I've struggled with sleep, from early starts and late finishes as we built the business to a 24/7 on-call role in my early 20s to raising young kids. One of the things I've found to be helpful aside from all of the above is to let go of the expectation of 8 hours a night and roll with it. It's a little like our overall health, the quality of our sleep; I can do everything right, try all the expert's tips, but there are no guarantees. Letting go of this frustration has helped me a lot in this area. Breath counting up to and down from 10 is a good exercise in those early morning hours to assist in getting back to sleep or at least assist with some awoken rest. If you're really in a tough spot, this tremendous free course for insomnia helped me when things were pretty tough as my little one started to sleep through, and I couldn't shake the waking behaviour. 


Sweet dreams


Sean Cornish

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