According to research conducted by Censuswide in August 2018 only 17% of adults in the UK report enjoying their NHS recommended 8 hours of sleep every night, and over half (51%) say that amount is 6 hours or less, every night! Wow! Add that up over a week and that’s 14 hours of missed sleep. And it isn’t just the quantity of sleep that’s lacking, quality is also a huge issue. 69% report their sleep is often disturbed and 50% would describe their sleep as poor. Poor indeed.
How do you sleep?
As entrepreneurs, sleep is imperative – without it the brain cannot function properly.
Sleep is what allows your body and mind to recharge and- without it- you’ll be less able to concentrate (with potentially dangerous consequences!), you’ll be less productive (uh-oh) and you’ll find it harder to make decisions – none of which are helpful attributes to running a successful business.
My relationship with sleep has definitely changed over the years, let’s just say I didn’t always see its value or give it the gratitude it deserved. In fact looking back, sleep was a gamble... a not so great game of roulette, it was never a certainty whether I would sleep well or not. I would shift the blame and put it down to external factors – mainly blaming my job of running a restaurant. The hours were long, and they were all over the place too. I felt like I had no control whatsoever and that a lack of sleep- and being tired- was simply part of the job. Little did I know back then that getting enough sleep was actually down to me, and that the sleep I was or wasn’t getting was fully within my control. It’s no co-incidence that when I started to work on my mindset- shifting limiting beliefs and becoming more consciously aware of the power I had over my thoughts and reality- that I started to become interested in sleep and that I started to take control of it too.
In fact, I didn’t just take an interest… I dived right in to learning all that I could about sleep, somehow knowing that it was needed as part of my entrepreneurial journey, despite what my pesky old beliefs (i.e beliefs that I couldn’t help it, and that I didn’t need it) previously had me believe.
Here’s what I learnt, and what I’d love for you to know too:
There are four stages of our sleep cycle:
1. The transition between wakefulness and sleep where everything starts to slow down. 2. Deeper sleep where eye movements stop and body temperature decreases (this is the longest stage). 3. Heartbeat, breathing, and brain wave activity all reach their lowest levels, and the muscles are as relaxed as they will be. 4. REM, or Rapid Eye Movement sleep occurs about 90minutes after falling asleep. It’s the one we’ve all heard of – it’s the stage where dreams happen. Our heart rate, breathing and blood pressure increase again. On average we flow through the 4 stages in 90-120 minute cycles.
I used to have nights where I would lie in bed overthinking, not necessarily about anything majorly important, just thoughts rushing around my brain, keeping it active and preventing me from sleep.
It definitely affected my mental health and something needed to be done.
Once I’d learned what I’d learned, and knew that something had to change, I could begin to put a plan in place.
These are the actions I took (and still take) which helped improve the quality and quantity of my sleep:
• Screen free: I removed the tablet I used to watch TV or listen to podcasts on in my room and don’t look at my phone for the hour before going to bed. I also don’t look at it first thing in the morning, but that’s a different blog for another day. • I installed a daylight bulb in my room, making the light levels less harsh as I was preparing for bed, and put up black out curtains. • I try to stick to a set bed time, including the time I start to wind down and prepare for bed. Being a night owl, this is the one I find the hardest to stick to! • Evening meditation – I normally do a short (10-15 minute) meditation every evening, this may be guided or a fire meditation or simply just sitting quietly. Not sure where to start? I have a free hypnotic sleep recording you can download here, there are also meditations I have recorded available in my membership ‘The Bubble’. • Aromatherapy – Everyone knows lavender and sleep are best mates. Personally, I love the smell of lavender but there are other options if it’s not for you.
This doesn’t mean I ALWAYS have a perfect night’s sleep, I don’t, but my sleep has vastly improved and so has my mood and mindset.
I did notice that the quality and quantity of my sleep diminished when I got pregnant again (17 weeks at time of publication). Hormones, of course, play a huge part in this, but so does anxieties and excitement. My changing (read growing) body will also impact my sleep as the pregnancy progresses. As an Expecting Entrepreneur there couldn’t be a more important time for me to refocus on prioritising my sleep because not only physically and mentally do I need the recharge to grow and birth this new baby, but my 2 year old son and my business need me on top form too!
I was delighted therefore to be gifted a Sleep Survivor Self Care Box from Mama Hug UK (Full disclaimer, Mama Hug gifted me the box but I am under no obligation to recommend them or mention them). As someone with a pretty good sleep routine I wasn’t sure if it would help, but I was ready to try, because, why not!?!
The box came beautifully packaged, I felt pampered straight away, and contained:
• HotTeaMama Night Owl Tea – I was a sceptic. But this stuff is lovely. Not only does it taste absolutely delicious it also works! I drink a cup about 30 mins before I go to bed and I have really noticed how much easier I fall asleep when I do! • Bampton House Primrose Lane Candle – I’ve used this a few times for my night meditation, staring into the flame and allowing the scent of the May Chang and Rosemary to engulf me in peace. Fire mediation is a great mindful exercise. Simply light a candle and stare at the flame, noticing the magical mystical movements and power. • Better You Magnesium Sensitive Spray – I haven’t used this every night but when I do I ask my husband to spray it and rub it into my back. Again, it smells lovely and I believe it really makes a difference. • Tisserand Sleep Better Roller Ball – lives by my bed now! I add a bit to my temples and behind my ears as I rest my head on my pillow and it’s there if I do wake in the night, which isn’t happening very often. • Natural Birthing Company Sleepy Mama Pillow Spray – Wouldn’t rest my head without it now. It smells lovely and is now a vital part of my sleep routine. As with everything in this box, I’ve used them to train myself into a good night’s sleep… and it works!
Again, I don’t have to recommend Mama Hug, and other gift boxes are available, but I really did love my box and feel it would make a great gift for a pregnant friend. You can learn more about this box plus the other boxes Mama Hug UK do for pregnant people and new mums here.
However you choose to do it, choosing to look at your sleep- if it’s something you feel you need more of and/ or a better quality of- could well change your day to day life and the bigger picture overall. Bad sleep doesn’t have to be accepted and hopefully I’ve given you some ideas on how to start to improve it. If you are really struggling, please do talk to your primary care provider or GP as they will have other options for you.
It could just be the missing piece in unlocking a positive mindset, especially if you feel you’ve already tried to work on all the things, yet you’ve perhaps dismissed sleep as non-essential just like I did (thanks hustle culture!). Give it a go and see how your mood and mindset improve.
Until the next blog, sweet dreams xx