Starting here, you will find useful tips and information in the category Lifestyle.
Part 1: There are very few things in life that influence our energy levels – and therefore our productivity – as much and as strongly as the quality of our sleep
As Shakespeare already recognised: “…And where care lodges, sleep will never lie”.
Our modern lifestyles have changed our natural sleep patterns. While we are by nature active and more social during daylight hours, we are naturally more likely to seek rest when evening comes. Today, however, with so many interactive and entertainments choices, many of us find there is little time left for sleep, despite our needing it just as much as our ancestors did. We live in an age of what can be termed overstimulation, resulting in long days followed by short nights, causing many of us to wonder why we do not sleep well even as we feel physically exhausted. Through sleep, our bodies, mind and soul are able to regenerate. Sleep allows our bodily functions, our metabolic rate, to slow down a notch allowing the body’s repair mechanisms to be activated. Growth hormones are released, helping us to build muscle and strengthen bone density as repair materials are released while meanwhile our immune system is able to regain strength. Longstanding medical research has suggested that the human brain systematically stores all of the impressions we make during the day, putting them into ‘the right boxes’ while stabilizing our nervous system.
Current research* and testimony demonstrates that 60% of managing executives do not sleep well, report having difficulties falling asleep, and wake up several times during the night. The fact is – we spend less and less time sleeping because we are no longer able to do so, or because we do not think we have the time to sleep long enough. Increased tiredness during the day, a decline in the ability to concentrate, listlessness, AND eventually, a lack of success are the result. With the intensive research work we’ve been engaged in since 2008, focused directly on sleep and related conditions, we can, using our 24h HRV analysis, describe the architecture of sleep and identify possible obstacles faced by individuals.
Average time distribution during a restful night:
- Falling asleep: 2-5%
- Light sleep: 44-45%
- Medium-light sleep: 3-8%
- Deep sleep: 10-15%
- REM sleep: 20-25%
- Arousal: 5%
During the night we change our sleeping position on average 10 to 20 times (moving arousal). The sleep position is individual and is chosen intuitively – outside temperature and bed equally influence the sleeping position and the short arousal and awakening moments.
Sometimes however sleeping pattern irregularities may show up and can possibly negatively influence our health and performance. These varied sleeping disturbances can stem from quite distinct sources. On the one hand, sleep can be disturbed by external factors such as loud noises during the night or very high room temperatures. On the other hand, internal factors, physical and psychological, specific to the individual, may also cause sleep pattern irregularities. These factors can be organic, including conditions such as sleep apnea (short breathing interruptions during sleep affecting the supply of oxygen and causing repeated awakening) and non-organic, often psychological in nature. An overview of non-organic sleep disturbances:
- Insomnia: Difficulties falling and staying asleep, early awakening
- Hypersomnia: Tiredness during the day and sleeping attacks.
- Disturbances of the sleep-wake rhythm: characterised by a lack of coordination between the individual sleep-wake rhythm and the desired sleep-wake rhythm of the environment. Can be caused for example by shift work or jet lag.
- Parasomnia: describes undesired behaviour patterns such as sleepwalking, teeth grinding, nightmares and nightly episodes of fear (Pavor nocturnus).
“Overthinking” lifestyle habits
lifestyle habits that can influence sleep:
- How much exercise do you get during the day?
- How much and how late do you eat at night?
- Do you watch television in the evenings?
- Do you pace yourself, taking occasional breaks during the day to help limit the build up of nervous tension, allowing your body, at the end of the day, to easily switch over to sleep?
The right sleeping hygiene
The right sleeping climate is comparable to a walk in the woods: calm, dark and cool is optimal. A room temperature of 16 to 18 degrees, sufficient amount of fresh air and darkened windows are a good environment for falling asleep.
Shutting down the body-computer
Those who want to go directly to sleep from the desk or even from the home gym are, unfortunately, destined to experience sleeping problems. Neither body nor mind can shut down in a time period of minutes from 100 to 0. It is important to shut down activity programs one by one and to calm oneself with individual relaxation techniques. Calm music, for example, is ideal for this purpose. Tracks with 60-70 beats per minute are ideal as this tempo corresponds to the tempo of the heart. Try implementing an evening ritual to end the day positively (write an evening journal, take a hot bath, have a cup of tea).
Practice relaxation and regeneration (relaxation techniques, Yoga, taking breaks during the day, breathing).
Übung: Entspannter Atem
Exercise: Relaxed breathing
Lie on your back, with or without a pillow. Make yourself as comfortable as possible and make sure nothing restricts you. Now, put one hand flat on your chest and the other hand on your stomach, a little below your navel.
Breathe calmly and deeply and try to free yourself of all thoughts. Let all arising thoughts pass by. Concentrate less on your breath and try to feel it occurring naturally. Your thoughts are getting fewer, your breathing deeper and calmer.
Do not exercise too late at night
There is nothing wrong with an evening walk. Indeed it can be refreshing to occasionally leave the car in the garage and walk home or go for a walk after dinner.
But keep in mind: try to avoid strenuous activities in the evening! One may think that after a long run or an evening bike tour one can easily fall into bed to a restful sleep, but this is often not the case and can be a bad idea. Strenuous training stimulates the activity of the sympathetic nervous system, increases blood flow and the body temperature rises – this inhibits sleep. Indeed, it can take up to six hours for one’s body temperature to fall again to the point where you will be able to fall asleep easily.
Find your own rhythm
The discipline of going to bed at the same time and getting up at the same time is how many parents would traditionally get small children to fall asleep, and stay asleep. It may then be no surprise that for adults with sleep difficulties these same techniques can be helpful. Frequent change, especially in a fundamental activity such as sleep, can mean stress for the body and have a negative influence on the quality of your sleep. To keep your inner clock set, try to keep that same rhythm on weekends.