Money worries, endless to-do lists and other concerns can keep the calmest person awake at night. But getting enough sleep is essential, especially if productivity is the only thing between you and your pay cheque.
Up to 80 per cent of people have trouble sleeping at some stage, and about 30 per cent of us struggle over a longer period, according to Dr Timothy Sharp, author of The Good Sleep Guide.
The good news is there are plenty of things you can do to give your zzzz a fighting chance. Here’s 10 expert tips on switching your brain off for a good night’s sleep.
1. To do: get some sleep
‘‘Probably the simplest place to start is to make sure sleep is a priority,’’ says Dr Timothy Sharp, who is also the ‘chief happiness officer’ at the Happiness Institute. ‘‘I think for a lot of people they see sleep as a waste of time, or at least as something that’s not as important as other things. Just like anything else if you don’t make it a priority you won’t get it done.’’
2. Know your AB-zzzzs
Understand the importance of sleep, Sharp says, which is just as crucial for your health and wellbeing as exercise and diet. Poor sleep affects productivity, along with moods and decision-making.
3. Ditch the bad habits
Sharp says improving sleep can come down to cultivating good ‘sleep hygiene’ - aka good habits.
‘‘What we can do is avoid things that disrupt our sleep. Don’t drink too much caffeine in the afternoon,’’ he says. Other no-nos are massive meals late at night or excessive alcohol, which can make you hot during the night, or simply make you wake in need of the loo.
The key here is to chill out at least an hour before you hit the hay, says Sharp. Soft music, dim lights, a relaxing book, a bath or a chat with your partner could do the trick. Turn off the idiot box and all your techy devices, and halt work.
* Yes, I am going to sleep for Australia tonight
‘‘All that should be turned off and put away because it takes a while for our brains to wind down.’’ Exercising too late can also get you off to a bad start.
5. Deal with your worries
Sharp says one of the biggest causes of insomnia is ‘‘worry and stress, but the good news if we get these strategies right it’s actually very treatable’’. First, recognise that worrying in itself isn’t actually going to get you anywhere. Instead, try and find solutions to your worries, he suggests. ‘‘Set aside a particular period of time earlier in the day. Sit down and write down a list of problems and write down solutions. If you need to, take time to speak to other people.’’
To every problem, there is at least some kind of solution. Some things you may not be able to prevent, such as your business going bust. But Sharp says those worries can also be lessened. In that case you could consider getting expert advice on the best, quickest or most profitable way of letting go of your venture.
‘‘I guess what you want to do is maximise your sense of control. The more we feel we’re taking control, the less anxiety we experience,’’ says Sharp.
7. Think positive
Predicting a bad night’s sleep again, before you’ve even gone to bed, won’t help your cause, says clinical psychologist Erica Frydenberg, who specialises in coping skills.
‘‘If you keep saying ‘oh I couldn’t sleep last night I’m not going to sleep tonight’ ... you’re in a negative spiral.’’ Instead she recommends telling yourself something like ‘‘I am going to give myself the best opportunity to sleep tonight. I am going to do X, Y and Z differently from last night.
‘‘You’ve got to keep saying it to the point you actually believe it.’
8. Be grateful
Frydenberg, who is also a principal fellow at the University of Melbourne, says a ‘gratitude diary’ - where you list a few things you are grateful for each day - can help your perspective and calm the mind. Mindfulness, or focusing on being in the moment, can also help. She recommends reading Goldie Hawn’s book 10 Mindful Minutes or books on the topic of positive psychology by Dr Martin Seligman.
Perhaps not the obvious thing to think about before putting your head down, but having supportive people in your life can be a great stress reliever, says Frydenberg. ‘‘Identify a group of people that you are able to relate to.’’ By articulating your problems to others in a similar boat, ‘‘we’re actually offloading rather than internalising", she says.
10. Don’t get trapped
‘‘Many people feel trapped and stuck,’’ says Frydenberg. ‘‘A lot of what I’ve said is about getting yourself untrapped.’’ Organise your time, take action, seek help and don’t forget: your own sleep is a vital part of your business success, says Dr Timothy Sharp.
‘‘If you’re not sleeping and you fall apart, the business is going to fall apart as well,’’ he says.