Why fixing your sleep will change your life
Natasa Kazmer and Jim Callaghan of Wellnessstory share why getting your eight hours could help you reach your health goals.
Fix your sleep, fix your life. It really is that simple.
You can change your life with this one thing. And, best of all, it’s free.
The access we have to information these days is second-to-none, but with that comes a plethora of opinions on what is best, which approach you should take and why. Ice baths, fasting, HIIT, macros, yoga, mindfulness, greens, holistic approaches, hyperbolic stretching… hands up who else is getting confused about where to start when it comes to improving your health and wellbeing?!
Yes, the options in the list above have been proven to improve your health and wellbeing, if you stick to them consistently. But health experts Natasa Kazmer and Jim Callaghan say there is one thing anyone can do, irrespective of time, money or lifestyle that will dramatically improve every area of your life. Sleep.
The couple have spent the last 30 years combined in high-octane aviation careers, often moving between time zones. After recognising their health was taking a beating, they dedicated their lives to researching and implementing the best techniques to optimise health and wellbeing.
Here, they share their best tips for their number one health optimisation tool, sleep.
#1 First things first, get your head in the game
Having the right mindset is half the battle. If you see sleep as the top priority when it comes to benefitting your health and performance, then it will help you to create a solid foundation to build habits in this area.
#2 Everything else starts with a good night’s sleep
While proper exercise and nutrition will support good sleep, if you’re tired, your motivation to do these things will take a knock. Your hormones will be out of kilter, making you hungry, increasing cravings and derailing any healthy habits.
#3 Get quantity AND quality.
From a health and performance point of view, it’s generally advised for adults to get a minimum of seven and a half to eight hours of sleep. But that’s only one half of the equation. Quality can be a bit trickier.
Spending eight hours in bed doesn’t necessarily equate to great sleep. You need to spend enough time in deep and REM sleep or else you’ll not feel rested. If this trend continues over time, both your health and performance will suffer.
#4 Step into the (natural) light to find your rhythm
The circadian rhythm is our natural sleep/wake cycle based on sunrise and sunset, which still affects the hormones that govern sleep. The problem is that modern life has intervened and has disrupted our ability to follow that natural rhythm.
The best way of resetting your circadian rhythm is to get exposure to morning sunlight and as much natural light as possible throughout the day. Getting a good night’s sleep depends on sending the right signals to our brain, so that our body produces the right hormones at the right times.
#5 Put away your devices
Light from your devices doesn’t count, ok? Blue and white light emitted from modern lighting and electronic devices mimic the light of the rising sun, basically confusing our brains when we’re exposed to them late in the evening. You should avoid exposure to blue and white light (so, turn off those devices) at least an hour before going to bed.
#6 Create a routine (and stick to it)
Our bodies crave consistency when it comes to sleep. Not many people are consistent in their sleep habits these days, primarily because of light pollution and factors such as stress, poor eating and movement habits. But we can re-train ourselves to have a regular, consistent sleep pattern.
Bedtime should be before 11 o’clock, to ensure that we hit the more prolonged, deep sleep cycles that occur before midnight, and then add seven and a half to eight hours to that bedtime. If you have to get up for work before seven in the morning, then you’ll need to push your sleep time back accordingly. Ideally, this sleep time routine should be consistent throughout the week.
#7 Avoid social jetlag
Many people sleep less during the week and then try to ‘make it up’ on the weekend. This phenomenon is known as ‘social jetlag’ and it has been shown to have negative health consequences. However, studies have also shown that the problem is more closely related to reducing the amount of sleep during the week, rather than trying to catch up on the weekend.
You will benefit from better overall sleep once you get into a consistent routine and will also have much higher energy and concentration levels during the day.
#8 Move during the day
Doing moderate to vigorous movement for at least 20 to 30 minutes per day has been shown to promote more deep sleep at night. Exercise can help to manage stress, thus improving sleep quality. However, avoid strenuous exercise within one to two hours of bedtime as your body temperature will be higher (which is not good for sleeping) and the endorphins and cortisol produced from working out can actually keep you awake.
#9 “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper”
There is evidence that this strategy is good for maintaining your ideal body composition, but it’s also sound advice to follow for ensuring a good night’s sleep. If we eat too much or eat too close to bedtime, it can disturb our digestion. Foods such as chocolate or refined carbs can stimulate our bodies, making it difficult to reach the deeper stages of sleep.
Eat your last meal two to three hours before going to sleep. Try to eat a balanced meal with protein, some fat and complex carbs. And to state the obvious, try to avoid alcohol or caffeine close to bedtime.
#10 Put yourself to bed (like a child)
It may sound crazy, but although we have a bedtime routine for children, we often neglect having one for ourselves. Here are some top tips for heading off to the land of nod:
- A warm bath with Epsom salts and a few drops of lavender oil is a great way to relax the body and mind to get ready for sleep.
- Reading a good book usually helps people to relax. A very powerful exercise is to keep a journal by your bed and write what you’re grateful for that’s happened during the day. You can also use it to note what your priorities are for the next day so that you can draw a line under them and get them off your mind while you sleep.
- Eliminate all sources of light from the room. Our eyes are super sensitive to light and even the tiniest bit will interrupt our sleep cycle.
- Temperature is critical for all hibernating animals (yes, us too). We need a cooler environment for good quality sleep. In fact, the optimum temperature for sleep is 15-19 degrees Celsius.
- The simple power of breathing can’t be overstated. Deep breathing signals to our bodies that we are safe and puts us into a parasympathetic mode. We know that stress produces cortisol, which, in turn, disrupts our sleep. Using our breath to get us into the rest-and-digest state will help to lower cortisol levels.
Try these 10 top tips to start optimising your health and you’ll see that fixing your sleep truly is the first step to transforming your wellness and enhancing your performance.
Wellness experts Natasa and Jim now run Wellnessstory, helping others create the ultimate lifestyle for executive health and peak performance. To find out more, visit their website