Welcome to ‘The Art of Movement’ - my weekly newsletter!
This newsletter is not just an opportunity for me to touch base with my dear patrons and show my gratitude for your monthly support, but also to offer you a 5 minute, easily-digestible read around the world of health, fitness and exercise. Here I will troubleshoot many common difficulties my clients experience, offer practical, actionable solutions for you to put to work in your life immediately, and of course provide my weekly motivation in the form of a favourite quote, and a takeaway lesson from it.
Week 13 - 10 Tips For Better Sleep
Hello everyone - Happy Friday! It’s time again for your weekly dosage of health and fitness related ramblings from yours truly, and today’s subject is one which affects us all in one way or another no matter who we are:
I’m pretty sure everyone knows how much sleep they should be getting. Everybody knows an ‘early night’ is a good idea before an important event the following day.
However, not many people are aware of some of the basics that are absolutely crucial towards getting regular high quality sleep. So here are some of my top tips, and a little bit of the science behind them!
1. Get your 7-9 hours
Too little sleep over several nights leaves you tired, unable to concentrate, depressed, anxious and, eventually, if it continues, at an increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.
Too much sleep is associated with much the same problems.
Children aged six to nine need 9-11 hours a night, but may get by on 7 to 8.
Teenagers need 8-10 hours. 7 hours may be OK for some, but sleeping more than 11 hours a day may be detrimental to their health, although some may need that much during puberty.
Adults aged 18 to 64 need to sleep for 7-9 hours a night, but some cope on 6 hrs.
65 years + = 7- 8 hours, although some survive on five hours sleep (often waking up earlier and napping during the day).
Sleep trial at Hampton School used a school day of 1pm – 7pm for sixth formers, to help improve their energy, mood and alertness for exams.
2. Charge your phone overnight in another room
Sleeping with your phone next to your bed (or reachable/in the same room) is very common. Most people charge their phone next to their bed and use that as a reason to keep it next to them at night. Many people will even claim that despite this, the phone being there doesn’t interfere with their sleep in any way. The fact is however, this is not the case.
It causes us unlimited distractions, not only while we are still conscious (blue light emittance tricking our brain into thinking it is still daytime and disrupts our circadian rhythms), but also while we sleep. The thoughts, planning, worries and communication we have at our fingertips when our phone is nearby, remain in our subconscious while we sleep - we mull things over in our minds, toying with the idea of waking up to deal with something on our phone - whether that be setting a reminder, making a note of a genius idea we’ve just had in our sleep, or sending a message to somebody to ‘get it off your mind’ so you can actually sleep.
When we confine our phone to another room for the night, this eliminates these micro-thoughts because in our minds, we have eliminated the idea that we could reach for our phone at any given moment in our sleep. This has been proven in many studies:
3. No laptops or TV
See above. These are distractions guaranteed to interfere with your sleep! Cally and I have a television in our bedroom, and earlier in our relationship, we used to watch TV most nights. A terrible idea! But we really enjoy watching shows in bed. So we came up with a rule of no TV on nights where we have work the next day - which basically means we allow the TV on in the bedroom on Friday and Saturday nights (when we can sleep in the next day).
It is a compromise, and it means we are still interfering with our sleep on the weekends, but we usually do other stuff like consume alcohol and go to bed later at the weekends also, so for now we are rolling all the bad stuff into one!
4. Maximum darkness
Your sleep environment should be as dark as possible. Invest in all the blinds and curtains you need to ensure that when all the lights go out, the room is pitch black!
5. Shower before bed
A 10 minute shower before bed in the evening has been shown to have a positive effect on sleep by imitating the drop in body temperature we seek when we go to sleep.
6. Finish eating well before bed time
Eating late has been shown to increase digestive activity in the body when it should be resting, which can create difficulty getting to sleep. Avoiding late eating can also assist us in other areas regarding metabolism, as we are creating consistent, predictable patterns our body can become familiar with (both in sleep and in nutrition).
7. Liquid Discipline - Water, Caffeine & Alcohol
Caffeine and alcohol can significantly affect your REM sleep - learning, memory and mood. Caffeine does have training performance effects, but has a half life of 6 hours, which means half of it is still in your system 6 hours later! So think carefully about the amount of consumption, and the time of day when you consume your last caffeine - I personally have a ‘2 and 2’ rule - a cut-off point of around 2pm and trying to limit myself to 2 coffees maximum per day.
Alcohol is the false friend of sleep - some people believe drinking helps them fall asleep quicker, but essentially it is just temporarily knocking you out and isn’t helping you sleep. It significantly reduces the quality of REM sleep, can cause sleep apnoea, snoring and increase bathroom visits. It is likely more often than not that waking up the morning after consuming alcohol, you will not feel fresh, or energised, and will probably still feel tired.
If you are particularly keen for a good night's sleep, don’t consume any caffeine or alcohol, ensure you drink plenty of water throughout the day (not too much before bed if you want to avoid toilet visits), and then start your morning the next day by consuming a big glass of water as early as possible.
8. Natural light exposure as early as possible
Getting your face in natural daylight is a great way to improve sleep - when we first expose ourselves to light in the mornings, it ‘sets off’ our body clock, which begins ticking away and chemically marks this moment as the start of our day. Being able to do this at a similar time every day helps our body to identify its rhythm and build its processes around that rhythm.
9. Daylight replicating lamp/alarm clock
One great investment Cally recently made for us was in a S.A.D lamp - designed to combat ‘Seasonal Affective Disorder’, where people can basically feel very down in the winter due to lack of sunlight exposure and serotonin. This alarm clock in our bedroom emits light at varying intensities, from a very soft low red (sunset/rise), to a bright intense white (broad daylight), and the purpose of the clock is for it to take you slowly from dark to light (in the mornings) and light to dark (at night) to help your brain understand it is going to sleep or waking up, and take itself gently from one state to the other without shocking the body.
I’ve personally really enjoyed it so far, and feel it has definitely helped my sleep quality!
‘The data-driven exposure pattern of “slowly increasing” light exposure was associated with fewer overall sleep problems’
‘Exposure to a stable and regular daily light–dark cycle reinforce good alignment of circadian rhythms’
Exercise and sleep go hand in hand. Work, then rest. It makes sense to our body when we have exerted ourselves, to then recover from that exertion so we can go again. So a simple way to sleep better at night is just to ensure you have exercised that day! It doesn’t mean you need to run yourself into the ground every day to get a good night’s sleep - exercise should in fact be mostly gentle (but regular, and interspersed with some of the hard stuff a few times a week).
Making exercise a priority in your life, will in turn reward you with better sleep. So not only do you get fitter, you also sleep better?! Endless wins.
Movement of the Week: SLEEP IMPROVEMENT PRACTICE
1. Download F.lux onto your devices to reduce blue light emittance -
2. Watch this advice from the legend Kobe Bryant (RIP) on sleep and meditation -
3. Watch this Ted Talk from Matt Walker on the importance of sleep
‘Sleep is not an optional lifestyle luxury... It is a non-negotiable biological necessity!’ - Matt Walker
That’s all for this week! Please spread the word about my Patreon channel so more people can enjoy the videos and newsletters!