15. I will improve sleep quality (not just quantity)
Probably the most valuable currency of modern life is attention. The quality of attention we bestow on another human being so they feel truly seen and heard is in increasingly short supply. The second most valuable currency (okay, top five, for sure) would be sleep. It would be rare to meet anyone who wouldn’t give a “hell yes” to the question “Would you like two hours additional sleep a week?” or who isn’t carrying some sort of a sleep debt around beneath the artfully applied Touche Eclat.
Our bedtime is what sets us up for the quantity of sleep we are going to get. You go to bed at x time, get up at y time, therefore possible maximum sleep is z hours. And that is what we all tend to focus on — the quantity of sleep. But this is hard to move given how many responsibilities people are juggling. The easier gains are to be had in the area of sleep quality. Here are a couple of tips for improving your sleep quality:
1. Knock the booze on the head a few more nights of the week. I know, I know. Annoying but I have to say I have been amazed at how well this works. I haven’t got the space here to go into all the ins and outs of it, but basically even a fairly small amount of alcohol disrupts your deep sleep / REM sleep quality in the second half of the night (we tend to drop off quicker, but the second half of sleep is more disrupted). Hence feeling a bit slow and groggy in the morning. The “just one or two” glasses of wine do make a difference. This is not about cutting out the social occasions, just the one or two small ones of an evening at home. Personally, I have found I need less sleep (about 45 minutes less) as the quality of sleep is so much improved.
2. If you find it hard to drop off to sleep, improve your sleep quality by having a bath or a shower before bed. We do this with babies and children as standard — the bathtime routine being the signal that it’s night-time, and time to calm down. That bathtime effect works on adults too. A warm shower or bath before bed artificially raises your body temperature, which means it drops more quickly than usual when you slip between the sheets, telling your brain that it’s time to go to sleep now. It really works to improve your sleep quality.
3. Lastly, a quantity tip. Getting an extra hour’s sleep a night is hard for most adults: we are busy and there is stuff to do in the evenings. Going to bed a whole hour earlier when you might only get home from work or the gym at 8pm is not an appealing thought, and, frankly, it’s pretty hard to do (yep, we have experimented with that too) but going to bed just 15 minutes earlier? That is easy. How do you do it? Where do you find the extra 15 minutes? You eliminate the “faffing about time” — the aimlessly checking instagram for no reason in particular. The starting the new episode when you know you are not going to see it through to the end. The random tidying of stuff that doesn’t matter. The going up and down the stairs for different things rather than just cleaning your teeth and getting into bed. We all have 15 minutes of Faffing About Time we can cut out without feeling any pain and, if you do that, you gain just under two hours of sleep a week. A hundred more sleep hours a year. The equivalent of 12 and a half extra full nights’ sleep a year!
More columns in this series
- See How to set your 2018 on fire: Part 1
- Part 2: I will face forward
- Part 3: In 2018 my body will move my mind
- Part 4: In 2018 I will speak up, not eat up
- Part 5: In 2018 I will (sometimes) accept the unacceptable
- Part 6: I will set boundaries around my phone
- Part 7: I will be happily less than perfect
- Part 8: Let them do them. You do you.
- Part 9: I will claim my power
- Part 10: I will be my own cheerleader
- Part 11: I will say something when there is nothing that can be said
- Part 12: I will be a deep listener
- Part 13: I will be mindful of the stories I tell myself
- Part 14: Change your world by making your bed
Through her online Happiness programme “Wellbeing Warriors”, life coach Louise Thompson helps people unlock their happiest and healthiest life. Sign up at
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