Three Pointers to healthy sleep

Welcome to our guest mini blog with experts from the world of health and wellness…

This week to mark World Sleep Day (13 March) we’re delighted to welcome Dr Kat to share her “3 Pointers”… small, easy to adopt steps we can all make to help us feel better day-to-day, leading to a healthier, happier and more thriving life.

Dr Kat is a sleep scientist and chronobiologist. She is also trained in Mindfulness and Acceptance Commitment Therapy. Dr Kat founded Somnia, a sleep consultancy offering sleep and circadian education for professionals. She is author of Sleep Sense, a practical guide to healthy sleep.

Sleep for mental as well as overall health and wellbeing

Sleep is the foundation for our mental and physical health and wellbeing. It’s what helps us be the best we can be. But it’s equally important to maintain good circadian health.

What we do during the day and when not only affects how well we sleep at night; it also impacts upon our body’s timing system.

Here are three easy steps to maintain a healthy sleep and circadian body clock.

1. Help your body clock stay in sync

We all have a tiny little area in our brain that represents our body clock. Its job is to coordinate and align the various processes that happen inside the body with one another and make sure that the whole body is aligned with the world outside. That ensures each process takes place at the right time across the 24-hour light-dark cycle.

For this alignment to happen, the body clock needs regular exposure to light and darkness. Now that relates to when you open and close your eyes. Try to wake up and go to sleep around the same time every day, seven days a week. This will support good physical and mental health, and also sleep.

2. Notice what you do during the day

We live a busy, fast-paced life, and often it’s all about doing rather than being. We try to multi-task and spilt our attention between three things at once. Rarely though do we take the time to acknowledge when we have achieved something because we are already on to the next problem. And what’s the outcome of this? An inner restlessness of the mind, a mind focused on all the unfinished tasks on our never-ending to do list. Falling asleep at night can become a struggle because there are all these thoughts about the things we haven’t done.  

After finishing one task and before starting the next, take a few slow, mindful breaths to ground yourself. No matter how big or small the achieved task was, take a moment and acknowledge what you have done before you start on the next (sub)task. This can help to settle the mind during the day and at night.

3. Take some ‘me time’ in the evening

A busy day, whether that’s interacting with lots of people, helping them solve their problems or working intensely from home and trying to finish a report – requires energy and will power. In order to do the same the next day, we need to replenish our resources – we need to build recovery time into our routines.

Take some time to do something that you enjoy. Something that takes you away from the business of the day and that fully absorbs you and helps you to detach. This could be something like reading a book, or taking a bath, or painting, or something that helps you learn something like learning a new language. Whatever it is, make it your choice, and create some ‘me time’.

Sleep is a central component of recovery and helps our bodies restore themselves. Taking some ‘me time’ in the evening also supports good sleep.