Natural Sleep – We've evolved that way
If our species has evolved to spend so much time sleeping it must provide something critical to our wellbeing and survival.Studies show that when we are well-rested we function better in all areas of our wellbeing and our mental and physical performance.
Sleeping is a natural process designed into us. From birth, we all do it automatically, albeit with personal differences in the amount of sleep we need. We develop sleep habits through life. These can be both helpful or unhelpful, but two points are important here; sleep habits are powerful, but they are not fixed. They can be learned and unlearned.
Sleeping is as important as eating and drinking; the mechanism is designed into you. If you suffer from insomnia it is not that you don’t know how to sleep, its that something is getting in the way.
People often report that disrupted sleep started for them at a specific point in their lives, say, when they left home for university or started a job that meant working odd hours.
Once sleep patterns are disrupted it takes discipline to get back into a healthy sleep routine.
Also, the ‘common sense’ things we do to compensate when the problem arises actually contribute to making it worse.
Sleeping in the day because you are tired, for example, can interfere with sleeping properly at night when you try to get back to a normal day/night routine.
So, if you suffer from disturbed sleep and there is no medical cause, it's reassuring to know that you can retrain yourself back into a healthy and restorative pattern of sleeping.
Keeping a Sleep Journal or Diary
It can be useful to learn about your sleep patterns and habits by keeping a daily sleep diary, or journal. You can use any exercise book to keep a journal, whereas a sleep diary usually guides you towards recording specific aspects of your habits around sleep.
If you choose the journaling approach, here are some points you might consider noting:
- The times you go to bed and wake in the morning
- How long and well you slept
- If you were awake during the night, when and for how long
- Any caffeine, alcohol or other stimulants you consumed and at what time
- A record of TV watching and/or social media use
- Anything you ate and drank, and when
- Any stress of emotional tension or upset the previous day
- A record of any drugs or medications you took
- The type and amount of exercise you had during the day and what time.
If you'd prefer to keep a diary, you can download the PDF below, provided by the Loughborough Sleep Research Centre. (Find it online here).
Whichever method you choose, the information you collect will provide an insight into your habits around sleep, and may give you an indication of things you could change to help improve your sleep.