10 Tips for Top Sleep

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Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

First of all, let me say I’m not an expert on sleep, although I’ve read widely about it and written about The Need for Sleep on this site.

Sleep can be elusive at the best of times, but in the midst of the current coronavirus pandemic, it can be even more difficult with so many emotions and thoughts going through our minds.

Here are tips I’ve found helpful and I try to apply them whenever possible. Although I don’t always get it right, especially with three young children.

  1. Stick to a specific sleep schedule, try to settle down and wake up at the same time each day. Remembering that a lie-in at weekends won’t make up for and lack of sleep during the working week, and might well make it harder to get up on Monday morning.
  2. Try to avoid caffeine, alcohol and nicotine too near to bedtime as these can be detrimental to good sleep. The latter two are not a problem for me as I’m teetotal and don’t smoke, but caffeine can be. I don’t usually drink coffee after 12 noon (2.00 pm at the latest) although I still drink tea, and so to reduce my caffeine intake before bed I’ll often drink decaffeinated tea. Another option is herbal tea, which I try to drink at least once a day, usually with a teaspoon of acacia honey to sweeten.
  3. It’s often tempting to eat late into the evening, but this isn’t always a good idea. I’m also at an age when my bladder can wake me up in the night, so I try to balance the need to be hydrated with my overall fluid intake.
  4. Exercise is good, but not too near bedtime. We all know that exercise is beneficial for our overall health and wellbeing, but it’s better done earlier in the day.
  5. Naps are good and can help to make up for lost sleep, but it’s best not to take these after the middle of the afternoon as these can then make it harder to fall asleep at night.
  6. Make sure you unwind before bed if possible, schedule it into your daily routine. Reading or listening to music can be helpful ways to relax.
  7. Avoid screen time before bed and, if possible, keep smartphones and tablets out of the bedroom. You can also use a blue filter to reduce the detrimental effect of screen light while winding down to sleep. Many devices and operating systems now have these built-in, or there are apps you can use.
  8. A hot bath is good for helping you to relax and unwind, but also the lowing of body temperature that occurs after a bath helps you to become sleepy.
  9. Make sure your bedroom is dark and cool, and get rid of anything that might distract you. If it’s not completely dark you could try an eye mask.
  10. This last tip depends on you as an individual and may vary in different circumstances. If you can’t sleep, do you get up or simply lay resting? I usually apply the rule that if not sleeping is making me anxious it’s probably better to get up for a while before returning to bed, otherwise I stay put. But always avoid the temptation to check your smartphone.

Finally, in all of this don’t forget the old adage, that an hour of sleep before midnight is worth two after midnight. Sleep well.

Should have gone to Specsavers!

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Those in the UK will readily appreciate the visual joke, but it clearly doesn’t take much working out. The title for this post is the tag line of adverts for the Specsavers chain of opticians and audiologists (yes, they do hearing tests as well).

It was over 10 years ago that I experienced a posterior vitreous detachment (PVD) in my right eye. This sounds serious, but it’s simply a condition where part of your vitreous gel comes away from the retina at the back of your eye. It can occur as part of the natural ageing process and causes no long term harm, although it’s vital it’s checked out because it can lead to more serious conditions. It was quite dramatic when it happened because I didn’t know what was going on, and it’s often associated with flashes in the peripheral vision, along with floaters and very tiny dots (red blood cells) in your vision. It all cleared up without any problems, although floaters are fact of life as you get older. Fortunately, the brain adapts and they become less obvious.

Just under 2 years ago, the same thing happened in my left eye. I was public speaking at the time, but this time I knew what was happening, so I just carried on. As soon as possible afterwards I attended the eye casualty department of my local hospital, and they confirmed what I thought had happened.

I’ve had some occasional problems with that eye ever since, and so when I booked my routine eye test I jumped at the chance to have an extended test (for £10) that examined the back of my eyes in far more detail. Everything was fine and I could read the line of letters below the one described as 20/20 vision, so I was a happy bunny and celebrated with a cappuccino at Costa Coffee next door!

I have to be vigilant though, the symptoms of PVD are similar to retinal detachment. So please have regular eye tests, as they can show up a whole variety of problems that can be dealt with early. Most importantly, if you suspect anything amiss (especially if something like a dark curtain comes across your vision), seek urgent medical attention immediately.

To look after your eyes on a day-to-day basis; make sure you keep well-hydrated, get plenty of sleep, and avoid stress. All of those things, of course, are good for your general health and wellbeing.

To Do List For Any Year

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I had a burst of creative energy before settling down last night, so I scribbled all my thoughts in a notebook and added to them (or amended them) several times before finally getting off to sleep. They were inspired by a number of negative things I had read or seen during the day. These are all things we can all do at any time to make the world a better place, read them below in a more coherent and better-organised list (along with some later additions).

Build bridges, not walls.

Seek to understand others.

Talk to someone of faith, another faith, or no faith.

Visit a mosque, synagogue, or another place of worship.

Talk to someone of a different political persuasion.

Listen to children.

Don’t define others by their race, colour, gender, sexuality, disability, physical/mental health condition, faith/no faith, or politics.

Visit a food bank or refugee charity.

Value everyone.

Celebrate and embrace difference.

Value cooperation.

Question everything.

Challenge fake news.

Value integrity.

Oppose all injustice, stand up for truth.

Be less judgemental.

Encourage others.

Understand mental health better.

Forgive willingly.

Say sorry easily and quickly.

Love unconditionally.

Be generous in spirit.

Smile more and talk to strangers.

Make a difference where you are.

Hold on to hope.

Be positive.

Please feel free to add suggestions to my list.

Resolutions anyone?

New Year's Resolutions

It’s said that New Year resolutions are a to-do list for the first week of January; we might smile, but many a true word is spoken in jest.

I asked some friends on Facebook for their thoughts on New Year resolutions, and I received some interesting responses:

I don’t bother making them.

I made one many years ago, it was never to make any more. I’ve stuck to it.

I make the same one every year and break it at that exact moment. I resolve to not make any New Year Resolutions.

Are they not just a bit of a joke? I’ve never taken them seriously. I find making small goals throughout the year is a lot easier.

I see them as a declaration of good intent, sometimes purposeful but often lacking in any real commitment.

If you want to achieve something, and you are serious about it, simply set the goal whether it is New Year or not.

One of my friends followed up their initial comment with these helpful words:
I do see January as a time to start afresh and perhaps pick up things that have been dropped throughout the year. So, for example, I’m planning on starting running again having let it slip through autumn and winter. But I don’t like the pressure of New Year resolutions and the feeling of failure for having set unrealistic goals because of the apparent expectation of society to do so.

If we are going to make resolutions, we need to be realistic and set achievable goals, describing them in specific terms. Maybe large goals are best split into smaller ones, with a planned starting date and time period. It might be helpful just to focus on one or two things, rather than a whole list. Ultimately it’s about aiming for things that are important to you, not what you think you ought to do or what others expect of you. See also here.

As for my resolutions, get back into the habit of running and aim for better sleep.

Thank you Hannah, Tris, Leanne, Mark, Paul, Stephen and Emlyn for your thoughts.

Remember New Year Resolutions?

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Do you remember your New Year Resolutions? Yes, I know they soon get forgotten, but the start of September is a good time to review them (or any month actually).

For me, family life is very precious, as I’ve written about here. My New Year resolutions for 2018 reflected this, and I’ve tried to do justice to them: Look after myself better and sleep well (so I can be there my family and work smarter). Spend quality time with family every day. Live in the moment and worry less. Effective planning and organising in my personal and work life. Run twice a week.

I’ve not totally succeeded, but I remind myself that every day is an opportunity for a fresh start – not just at the start of the year.

The Need for Sleep

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Sleeping is the best thing we can do to improve our overall health; it’s so simple that it’s often forgotten or ignored. I’m currently reading an excellent book about why we sleep, and I’ve been surprised at the very negative effects lack of sleep can have on our mental and physical health, especially if we are building up a sleep deficit over a long period of time.

We all need both quantity and quality of sleep to function normally in our everyday lives. Unfortunately, there are those who boast about how little sleep they need, and there’s also an implied societal view that sleep is somehow lazy and unproductive; these can be easily demonstrated to be false and unhelpful.

Prolonged lack of sleep weakens your immune system, doubles your risk of cancer, and increases the your chances of suffering heart disease and stroke, for example. It also adversely affects your mental health, contributing to anxiety, depression and suicide. Worryingly, many road traffic accidents are caused by lack of concentration, drowsiness and microsleeps.

Although I’ve been aware of the effects of being sleep deprived for a while, I’m now more determined to do something about it – even if having three young children doesn’t make it easy, but as an older father I owe it to them to be healthy.

See also: 10 Tips for Top Sleep