Studies have shown that less than 6 hours of sleep we begin to feel stressed, and stress impacts the ability to sleep. Then, as we age we often have difficulty sleeping without interruption. Yes, we fall asleep, but wake up during the night and lay there staring at the wall. When we don’t sleep, we diminish the ability to sleep.
What can we do to sleep better?
- Just as we did when our kids were young, create a habit pattern. Not easy while on the road, but during training, or while at home… tell the body it is time to sleep.
- Turn off the television and computer a minimum of one hour before bed. And if you can, do this at the exact same time every night. You are turning off the brain and training your brain, it is time to go to sleep.
- Do not drink alcohol before bed. The alcohol turns to sugar and will wake you up during the night.
- Do not drink caffeine 10 hours before bed.
- Avoid all liquids two hours before you sleep.
- Avoid desert. Keep the sugar out of your blood stream. Chocolate is a double whammy… sugar and caffeine.
- Take a hot bath and read what I call a bathtub book… light reading that will take your mind off your day, your worries, your kids, your studies.
- Keep the temperature cool in your bedroom. The cooling down process induces sleep. The cool room will assist in keeping you to sleep. This works great just after your hot bath.
- Do not be afraid to take a nap! As a mother and grandmother, I assure you that keeping the kids awake to make them tired so they sleep better does not work. A baby that can nap often will sleep far better throughout the night… and you will too. Nap when you can!
- Breathe. You still can’t turn off your mind? Practice deep breathing and visualize the breath moving slowly through your body. We do this at yoga and I have fallen asleep on my back, on a cold floor in a gym. It works.
- Take melatonin.
Pilots cannot take most sleep inducing drugs, and neither should you. They’re addictive, and unnatural to the body. Melatonin is another story.
Melatonin is the chemical produced by the body’s pineal gland which induces sleep, and is affected by the seasons and day and night cycles. At night 5 times more melatonin is produced inducing sleep. When a pilot is flying all night, or crossing time zones, the circadian rhythm gets messed up, the body thinks it should be sleeping and yet it’s still daylight for another 10 hours…but late at night at home. The impact is that melatonin is not being produced.
I am a full proponent of pilots taking a nap during flight. The impact of lack of sleep is devastating. Personally, I would rather have my pilot rested after a 40 minute cat nap landing my plane, than one who has forced his eyes to stay open all night. Lack of sleep impacts reaction time, coordination and judgment. 17 hours awake is equivalent to an alcohol level of .05! How many pilots are flying drunk from fatigue? A scary thought.
Sleep and Memory:
Lack of sleep prohibits our ability to function properly and efficiently, creates stress, and that lack of will kill you quicker than lack of food and water. But sleep also impacts your memory, because we only store memories while we sleep. You don’t sleep… what you learned is not going into your brain permanently for retrieval later.
A note on preconditioning: If you’re not sleeping and it is impacting you, you’ve created a pattern of worry. I don’t need to be in your head to know that you fear you won't sleep tonight. You’re more than likely thinking about this through out your day in-between yawns. This thought process is actually preventing you from sleeping. Try the above techniques and tell yourself, “I am going to sleep all night tonight, and I will wake up at __ am tomorrow morning.”