Why Sleep is so Important… and 3 Ways to Make Sure you Get Enough!

How to sleep better

Sleep helps your body repair itself, aids memory and keeps you alert and healthy. So how do you make sure you get enough sleep each night?

Have you ever spent hours and hours trying to solve a problem…

Gone home no nearer a solution…

Slept on it…

And then solved it within minutes of arriving at work the next day?

That was something that happened to me many times when I worked as an Analyst Programmer (many, many years ago… thankfully!), trawling through badly written computer code, trying to fix systems that were crashing or simply not doing what they should do!

I’d spend hours looking through code written by other programmers…

Searching for bugs…

Testing out my theories…

Stepping through code one line at a time…

But all to no avail.

I’d go home frustrated and sometimes dreading coming in the next day and having to go through the same process all over again.

Often, I’d be totally exhausted, as well.

The strange thing was…

Every time this happened to me…

Without fail…

I’d get into work the next day, after a good night’s sleep, and within minutes of turning on my computer and looking at the problem…

I’d have a solution!

More often that not, I’d wonder why I hadn’t spotted it the day before!

How could I have been so stupid?

And the moral of this story?

Quit work at lunchtime, get a good night’s sleep, and solve every problem the next day!

Haha! If only, eh!

No, this story simply highlights one of the massive benefits of a good night’s sleep.

You see…

Although the body slows down when you sleep, the unconscious part of your brain doesn’t.

The unconscious part of your brain goes into over-drive!

It keeps on working…

All through the night.

So, when your body’s resting during sleep…

Your brain is going into overtime, processing the events of your day…

Linking things together…

Making connections to everything you’ve been doing…

Processing your emotions…

Your memories…

And your problems.

And the thing is, this is uncluttered thinking.

And what I mean by that…

Is this…

During the daytime, when your conscious mind takes over in the problem solving process, your thoughts and solutions are limited by the beliefs you have…

By your past experiences…

By your inner voice.

There were times when I was trying to fix a broken computer system, that I’d have solutions in my mind and I’d repeatedly try the same thing over and over again, because I thought I knew what the problem was…

Even though I didn’t have the evidence to prove it.

I was limiting my options, so to speak.

The thing is…

When you’re asleep and your unconscious mind is working on the problem…

It works with a 100% open mind…

No limitations…

No pre-conceived ideas or solutions.

In other words…

Your brain is more creative and far more likely to come up with a solution!

The real trick, of course…

Is to learn how to think that way consciously…

All the time…

Every day.

Now,

That’s something that can be learnt…

But that’s something for another day!

Insight:

Staying up late into the small hours trying to solve a problem is rarely productive.

Instead…

Get a good night’s sleep…

Come back the next day…

And your problem will be solved faster and better.

And the other benefits of sleep?

Sleep keeps your heart healthier.

Research has linked lack of sleep with high cholesterol and blood-pressure issues…

Both risk factors connected to heart disease and strokes.

Sleep reduces stress.

When your body doesn’t get enough sleep it goes into stress-mode and creates more stress hormones to try and ‘survive’.

These stress hormones make it harder for you to get to sleep and also raise your blood-pressure…

Potentially causing heart disease and strokes.

Sleep also reduces inflammation.

Increased stress hormones create inflammation in the body, increasing the risk of heart disease.

And…

Sleep improves your alertness.

I’m sure you’ve noticed how much more alive you feel in the mornings after you’ve had a good night’s sleep…

And how hard it is to drag yourself out of bed when you’ve had a restless night.

Need I say more?

Sleep helps to improve your memory, too.

Indeed, researchers have found that sleep is massively important in the process of memory consolidation.

Again, this is down to the unconscious part of your brain working without the limiting beliefs and thoughts that you carry around with you throughout the day.

Sleep may also reduce your risk of being depressed or getting cancer.

This is because sleep affects the chemicals produced by your body.

Serotonin is increased with good sleep and people with serotonin deficiency are more likely to be depressed.

To put it simply…

The better your sleep…

The more serotonin your body produces…

The happier you feel!

Melatonin is thought to help in the prevention of cancer by suppressing the growth of tumours…

So, sleeping in a dark room and restricting use of mobile phones or other devices just before you go to bed, is likely to increase your melatonin levels…

And thus…

Reduce your chances of getting cancer.

OK, so now we know about some of the benefits of getting enough sleep…

And the recommendation is between 7 and 9 hours each day.

But…

How do you ensure that you get a good night’s sleep?

Step 1 – De-clutter your brain

What I mean by that, is learn to manage your thoughts.

Notice, I didn’t say ‘Learn to control your thoughts’.

Because, to put it simply, we can’t control the thoughts that come into our minds…

We can only manage them.

Decide what to do with them, if you like.

Decide how we’re going to react to them.

Now…

Learning how to do this is more than a simple meditative technique.

Although that can certainly help in the short term.

What I’m talking about here is developing a whole new way of dealing with your thoughts.

Remember earlier in this post, when I mentioned that the unconscious part of your brain works without limits when you’re asleep?

Well, you can also get to that state when you’re awake, too.

It does take time…

But it’s possible for anyone who’s open-minded enough to give it a go.

If you’re willing to let go of your current way of thinking and open your mind to the universal power around you, the benefits are truly amazing!

By letting go of your current way of thinking…

By letting go of your limiting thoughts…

By letting your negative thoughts simply drift on by in the breeze…

You’ll not only be able to relax your mind when you want to sleep…

You’ll also be open to new, more creative ideas that will start to flood into your mind.

Once you understand the relationship between your thoughts, your feelings and your mind…

You’ll start to get what I’m talking about, here.

You’ll start to operate in a different way.

You see, thoughts will always come flooding into your mind.

Distractions are always around us.

Memories come flooding back, when you least expect them.

Thoughts of what you wished you’d said or done when your boss told you he was unhappy with your last project.

Or when you were told you’d need to stay late to meet a tight deadline.

Anger at politicians who seem incapable of making correct moral choices.

The list goes on…

The thoughts keep flooding in…

Your emotions are on a roller-coaster ride.

But the key is this…

Allow your thoughts to come in, but understand they’re only passing through…

And they’ll only hang around if you allow them to.

Let them go and they’ll be replaced by another thought…

And then another.

Only when you react to a thought…

Only when you give it space in your mind…

Will it stay.

And when it stays…

It blocks the space needed for more thoughts…

For your positive thoughts.

So let the negative ones go by.

Don’t react to them.

Because it’s only when you react to them, that they have the power to create the negative feelings inside you.

And this is important to understand.

It’s not your thoughts that create the feelings inside you…

It’s the way you react to your thoughts.

Read that again and think of it this way…

If someone picks a fight with you…

If they argue with you…

What would happen if you listened to them, and simply decided not to argue back?

The argument would end very, very quickly, wouldn’t it?

The person picking the fight with you, would have nothing to feed off…

Nothing to get angry about.

Well…

That’s the same with your thoughts.

If you let them flow through your mind…

Without reacting to them…

They simply cannot cause an emotion.

They can’t affect the way you feel.

And by letting them go, you create the space for another, more positive, thought to come into your mind.

See how it works?

Meditation can get you part of the way with this.

Meditation can help you to start allowing thoughts to simply pass through.

A bit like an express train, if you like, that speeds through the station without stopping.

So that’s a great place to start.

Learn to relax the mind.

Learn to allow thoughts to pass by without judging them.

Learn to tap into the universal power that lives in and around every single one of us.

By the way…

There are two great apps you can try out to get you started…

“Calm” and “Headspace”.

You can download them onto your mobile device and both, I think, offer free trials.

Give them a go.

You won’t regret it.

Step 2 – Exercise

Now, before I get started on this…

Please make sure you get medical advice before starting out on any exercise plan!

You know it makes sense!

However, when I talk about exercise to help with sleep…

I’m not talking about 2-hour sessions down the gym 3 or 4 times a week!

I’m just talking about 20, maybe 30 minutes per day.

Get outside for a brisk walk.

Maybe do some cycling, if that’s your thing.

Maybe some Tai Chi.

Maybe a few sit-ups and press-ups.

The choice is yours.

But, if possible, get outside in the sun, weather permitting.

Fresh air and daylight are massively helpful in helping you connect to the world around you.

For helping you find space in your mind, and for helping you relax.

And all of that leads to better sleep.

Step 3 – Create a Bedtime Routine

Now, I know what you’re going to say here…

It’s impossible to create a routine for getting to bed!

I have so much going on in my life.

I have so many things to do!

Well, my message is simple…

Get more, better quality sleep, and you’ll not only perform better, you’ll also enjoy everything you do in your life, so much more…

Because you’ll have more life and energy to put into them!

As with everything in life, I’m not an advocate of rigidity.

I prefer to go with the flow.

However…

That doesn’t mean you can’t at least partially control the flow now, does it?

So…

Keep your bedtime routine simple.

  • Get to bed at roughly the same time each day
  • Get up at roughly the same time each day (even weekends!)
  • Don’t consume drinks containing caffeine in the 3 hours before you go to bed
  • Don’t eat heavy meals too late
  • Switch off and avoid using mobile devices as early in the evening as you can
  • Meditate just before you go to bed
  • Relax and wind down as much as possible before going to bed

Now, that’s not too onerous, is it?

Like I said earlier, don’t be too rigid with this.

Go with the flow.

Relax.

Play around with it and see what works for you.

Follow these 3 steps for a week and I guarantee you’ll notice a difference.

Do this for 2 weeks or more, and you’ll never go back to your old ways.

This will benefit, not only you…

But your family…

Your friends…

And your work colleagues.

Good night…

And God Bless, my friend!

Keith Jones

Keith Jones

Living a Life of Purpose