Jason Bourne’s French fellow assassin advised him: “Sleep is a weapon.”
As a performing magician I have a duty to my clients to turn up looking suitably showbiz, ie, energetic and not ill, and to perform with skill and attention to detail so that the show goes seamlessly and is carried off without apparent effort.
None of this is possible if you are exhausted. I get ill, concentration is lacking and I am not able to display the requisite energy to make the performance sparkle.
What is true for the magician is, as is so often the case, true for everyone.
Sleep is a priority. We need to recognise that and act on it. Maybe we have to re-jig our lives and our routines, but the rewards more than outweigh the effort.
Skimping on sleep really is a false economy, tempting though it is.
It has recently been show that 17 hours without sleep leaves you with the same degree of mental impairment as being over the legal alcohol limit for driving. You would never dream of arriving at work drunk, so why is it ever a badge of honour to work through the night before showing up?
I realise that some people suffer from chronic insomnia. In these cases, seek professional help.
However, most of us are not chronic insomniacs, we just need to sleep a bit better and a bit more.
As well as Counting Sheep
Firstly, recognise sleep’s importance and prioritise it.
Decide to go to bed a bit earlier. Re-engineer your bedtime routine. It is hard to go to sleep if your mind is worrying about stuff, so don’t do stuff that could make you worried just before bed.
I stopped looking at TV news and news sites last thing. There is nothing I can do about the news in bed except worry about it. Similarly with emails. Give yourself an hour off from email before bedtime, let your mind switch off.
I read a novel before sleeping, it clicks my mind into another time and place.
There is a lot of talk about “sleep hygiene”: should or shouldn’t you have your smartphone or other device by your bed? I am divided on this. I use the Sleep Cycle app as an alarm clock. It listens to my movements in bed and wakes me up gently when it senses that I am in light sleep so that I wake up feeling refreshed and not groggy. I really like it.
Also, I read my bedtime novel on my iPad, propped up on my bedside table. I don’t have to hold it, I can keep my head on the pillow. If I fall asleep while reading, which I often do, then it just turns itself off.
It depends on your self-discipline. If you are too tempted to check emails, news sites or social media, leave devices outside the room and get a battery alarm clock instead.
…my best thought, by day or by night
Lastly, the podcast ”Feel Better, Love More” highlighted that how you are awake affects how you sleep. They described four elements of light, food, movement and stress.
- 10 minutes of bright daylight every day can make all the difference. Go outside mid-morning for at least 10 minutes. It will help to set a healthy Circadian rhythm.
- Eat well. It helps everything. Don’t drink caffeine too much or too late in the day. You may think that alcohol helps you to sleep. It may help you to get to sleep more quickly, but the quality of sleep will not be as good.
- Make sure you are getting sufficient exercise.
- Stress plays a big part. A daily practice of meditation, prayer, reflection and/ or mindfulness can really help us to be on a more even mental keel, helping us to sleep better.