A slow sleep
A number of simple things can be done to improve our sleep patterns and, with them, our health.
The first part of SLOW is always awareness. It’s not ‘just sleep’, in the same way that it’s not ‘just food’ or ‘just sex’. Sleep is a major part of of our lives and must be nurtured as we get older. The best way to do this is to pay more attention to it.
Just because sleep is an unconscious activity, this doesn’t mean we have no control over it. The things we do while we are awake can greatly influence the quality and quantity of our sleep.
Strategic planning and targeting of appropriate goals
If we are busy people, it is important we give ourselves adequate time at night to sleep. If we habitually come home in the evening and work quite late into the night, we usually reduce our overall sleep time. So whenever we are able, we should plan to go to bed a little earlier. Relax, listen to our body, and then when we feel sleepy, toddle off to bed.
Sometimes more sleep is not the answer. For example, if we do start to experience long night-time awakenings, we should not simply spend more time in bed. Just the opposite, we should reduce our time in bed. For example, if we are lying in bed for eight hours, but only getting seven hours sleep, we should only stay in bed for seven hours, thus spending almost all of our time in bed asleep. This will give us better quality sleep and help associate the bedroom and the bed with sleeping, not being awake.
Accentuate the positive of sleep, eliminate the negative
Sleep is not a punishment (as it sometimes seems to be for young children). Along with appropriate scheduling and pacing of our days, establishing ‘sleep routines’ – whether they involve sex, reading bedtime stories or simply slipping between a clean set of sheets – can be an enjoyable part of the process, as well as a very healthy one.
We can also make waking a positive experience. There are few things more stressful (or irritating) than an alarm clock so loud that it scares us awake. This sort of rude awakening can damage our memory, learning, attention and mood. An established sleep pattern is almost always accompanied by a healthy waking pattern.
Although sleep is important, it is better not to unnecessarily worry about sleep, especially while in bed, where it will strengthen the association of the bed with worry. This can lead to anxiety that will prevent sleep and lead to feelings of fatigue the next day.
Making choices that are sustainable for the long-term
Slow solutions are those that can be incorporated into our daily routines and become good habits. Our body clocks will love us for employing them as they make it easier for us to keep to time. Where possible, we should attempt to go to sleep when we normally feel gathering drowsiness, not earlier or later.
We should try to maintain the same ‘wake-up time’ and morning light exposure every day, and resist sleeping in to attempt to ‘catch up on sleep’, as this can delay the timing of our body clocks for the first few days of a new week and lead to those ‘Monday morning moody blues’.
Last Reviewed 02/Mar/2014