For many years, a good night’s sleep was out of my grasp. Throughout my teens and early twenties, I struggled with falling asleep. Then, I signed up for meditation training and during a long workshop session, suddenly, I had my lightbulb moment. The skills I was learning, such as breathwork and learning to let go are precisely what we must do to fall asleep, it wasn’t something I had been taught before.
Now, I study sleep and what I find so exciting is that it’s a relatively new field. Some of our major discoveries have only happened in the last 60 or so years. We are uncovering new and exciting things each day about the relationship between sleep and waking success. One of the most exciting areas of research is cognitive health, it explores how important sleep is for brain function today, tomorrow, and maybe well into the future.
Making time for exercise, managing stress during the day, keeping a consistent bedtime schedule, and practising a relaxing ritual close to bedtime are also all crucial parts of quality sleep.
Lots of people know they should try to get between 7-9 hours of sleep a night. But what they don’t always realise, is that they should focus on the quality of sleep too. Believe it or not, strategies to help improve our quality of sleep start as soon as we wake up. Eating a balanced diet with most of our calories consumed in the first half of the day, then slowly tapering down so that we eat a smaller meal for dinner is absolutely critical. Making time for exercise, managing stress during the day, keeping a consistent bedtime schedule, and practising a relaxing ritual close to bedtime are also all crucial parts of quality sleep.
Two things I am very diligent about are keeping my bedtime consistent, and adding time to relax and unwind. In the 30 minutes before bed, I turn off my computer and switch my phone to aeroplane mode. I then take off my makeup and start to consciously slow my breath down. I apply night creams, and then take a warm bath to relax and unwind. I keep the lights low, light a candle, and then get into bed. I read a few pages of a book before I turn off the lights and slip off to sleep, which takes about 15 minutes.
Of course, there are still nights when I struggle to fall asleep or wake up. The quality of sleep is an artefact of our day. So, if my day is stressful, it is likely to impact my sleep. When I struggle to fall asleep or get back to sleep, I try to remember to leave the bed and return when I am tired.
Fortunately, my husband does not snore, so we sleep together with the baby sound asleep in the next room and our dog at the foot of our bed. I have the best sleep when all my loved ones are under the same roof.
Dr Rebecca Robbins
Dr Rebecca Robbins is a Sleep Expert to Savoir, Instructor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Associate Scientist in the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Brigham & Women’s Hospital as well as co-author of Sleep for Success. For more information about sleep visit House of Savoir, where we meet industry experts that help us discover the recipe for a good night’s rest.