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Getting a better night’s sleep – what’s worked for me

Tim Collings
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Hello again sleep devotees!

How’s the sleep been going?

Good?

Not so good?

8hrs? 5hrs?

Mine has been, well, mixed at best I’d have to say.  Long days, stressful days, kids waking up at 2am, big Southerly blusters slamming the verandah furniture into the bedroom doors at various hours – it all leads to one thing, not getting the sleep I need. However, only some of this is controllable, so what can you do?

Well, control what’s controllable.  What is controllable, as I’ve spent years now experimenting with, is much of the list below.

Over a sustained period of at least 3 years at this stage, I’ve been picking from the advice I’ve received from books, podcasts and conversations with various fellow leaders who recognise good sleep as a game changing benefit, to establish a combination that’s really moved the dial on getting refreshed and replenished for the next day ahead.

Here’s what I’ve found works really, really well…

Change the focus – it’s quality not quantity, and quantity over the week not per night…

Getting 8 hours of sleep is a good thing, but 6 hours of great sleep beats 8 ordinary hours. How to get the great sleep, that’s the trick. Many of the practices cited below I’ve found massively improve the quality of sleep, so despite the uncontrollable interventions, the overall gain is improved.  And when on those rare occasions you do go 7 or even 8 hours without an interruption, wow, it’s a whole new me!

The likelihood of that ever happening each night of the week is close to zero at this stage, so rather than let this stress me out each morning that I hadn’t ‘got my 8’, I take the approach advocated by Nick Littlehales (see my earlier article) of tallying total sleep over the week rather than on a per night basis. Be consistent in when you get up – 5.30 for me – and get to bed earlier to catch up on the hours missed due to travel, late calls to overseas clients or teething kids.

A few simple routines…

Get as much work free downtime as possible before bed. Sounds simple and hard to achieve at the same time I know, but for a mind like mine which just itches for the excuse to drag me out of bed and over to the whiteboard at 3am, the earlier I get into home/husband/dad/me mode the better the sleep.

As the first part of this buffer and the last part of the work day, I spend some considering and setting out my intentions for the next day. This can be a simple 3 item to-do list (whiteboard or paper, I prefer a tangible list to strike through as things are completed), or even a broad statement to reference as I begin the next day.  I find that doing this helps me both settle and clear the mind having cycled through what’s most important to cover the next day, and gives me a sure footing and a launch pad for a productive day when I wake.

Once the intention is set and the head starts to clear, what I’ve found then really helped is one if not both of these – yoga and mediation.  I know, I know, mediation mediation it’s still ‘on trend’ but for me this quiet, reflective time at the end of the day is the most conducive means to disengage whilst taking stock of all that’s been done, achieved, left unattended from the work day. What follows then is a quick intention setting exercise so that as soon as I’m up and into my day I know where my focus should be, and having done that I’ve found calms the mind and helps me find the rest I need once I hit the pillow.

Yoga is great at relaxing the body, especially when the day has been spent in a long commute or seated position. Especially when my wife and I can muster the energy after the 5 & 1 year old are both in bed to do a yoga session together, it becomes a crucial time just for us. This is critical and benefitical for everyone to take pleasure in their key partner in life, especially when it’s become harder to find time to do so with young kids and a rapidly growing international business. An app which I’d now wholeheartedly recommend, which was first recommended to me by one of my coaching clients, is Yoga Studio, ideal because it has short guided sessions including ones specifically for the end of the day or general relaxation.

A few things to accessorise with…

Certainly not having any screen time for at least 2 hours before bed is ideal. Not manageable most of the time when growing a busy business demands more hours than the day contains, so once the kids are in bed it’s back to the home workspace for just a few more hours. But, blue light glasses do take the edge off this, reducing the most direct sleep-impacting effect, the circadian rhythm upsetting light from monitors, TVs phones etc.  My wife got me a pair of these for my birthday 2 years ago and they’ve been my daily evening accessories ever since.

Now, this next one might start to stretch the friendship a little, but stay with me – grounding sleep mats. What? Ok ok, essentially a mat which connects you via the earthing point in a standard wall socket to the earth’s magnetic field. Still with me? The benefits of this are many, but in terms of sleep, this connection has a relaxing, sleep-deepening effect and also has been shown to reduce inflammation and improve physical recovery (that’s why you see Tour de France cyclists and the Aussie cricket team wandering around with no shoes and socks on these days). I picked up one of these around 2 years ago, and recently added a single bed version to my son’s set up which has had the cascading benefit of improving his sleep, and therefore mine too!

A few things to drink…

A nice cup of cocoa before bed seems a bit nanna-ish right, but there’s a pragmatism to this that makes a lot of sense. A warm beverage has a calming effect on body and mind, and rather than cocoa, there are some fantastic sleep enhancing drinks out there. My absolute favourite is Organifi Gold, containing more minerals and plant-based nutrients than I’d care to mention here but here’s what I will say, it tastes awesome, I’ve never slept better than after drinking it, and after turning her nose up at it initially, my wife is the first to re-order when the jar runs low. I’ve also done a few turns with a pure Reishi powder like this one, which is one of the ingredients in the Organifi mix and certainly one proven to have major sleep beneficial qualities – but it’s not so easy on the palette. Of all the herbal tea blends out there, my preference is this one from Pukka which you can pick up at Coles or direct from them.

And one to spray…

The final part of the routine is a quick spray of topical magnesium, this being my preferred one. I’ll thank Shawn Stevenson of Sleep Smarter (see another earlier article) for this one – one of the first of his recommendations that I adopted and one that certainly does the trick. Some folk have advised me to spray onto my stomach, others onto my arms inside the elbow or simply wherever hurts depending on the day and the ache – to be honest I’m yet to find a location that does more for my sleep than another, so as long as it does on, it works.

All in all, this combination has taken me from near exhaustion and really not being able to string much together from a cognitive perspective as a young Dad and Founder entrepreneur to a much more effective, productive and (I hope) overall nicer guy to spend time with.

I hope this has been helpful, and will look forward to any comments or experiences you’d care to share.

All the best,

Tim