5 tips for a great night’s sleep

“Sleep is the greatest legal performance enhancing drug that most people are probably neglecting Dr Matthew Walker Sleep Expert and Neuroscientist

Nothing can quite beat a good night’s sleep … but how many people feel they have a decent night’s shut-eye every night? I have over the years going from port, then as a pilot to having mandated rest periods as we knew our performance dropped (and we would be more dangerous) without sufficient sleep. As a father to 3 youngsters under 8? Well read on!

Probably very few, with many waking up after a night’s disturbed sleep feeling bleary-eyed and listless the next morning.

Let me introduce you to sleep hygiene, a term to describe the different practices and habits necessary to have good night-time sleep quality and full daytime alertness.

Insomnia can be a real problem for some … but trying to get that ‘good night’s sleep’ is something everyone yearns for yet remarkably few achieve night in and night out. Many have fallen into bad sleeping habits which range from going to bed too early to working right up to a few minutes before they turn in for the night. The mind doesn’t automatically shut down when you think it’s time for bed. “The WHO has decided to classify any form of nighttime shift work as a probable carcinogen”

The problem is that many people simply try too hard to get off to sleep and can easily commit some basic mistakes while struggling to do so.

The good news is that the solutions are simple and can be highly effective. Basically, only try to sleep when you feel really sleepy and don’t disrupt your sleep patterns once your body has slipped into an effective sleeping routine.

Many people will have an early night if they’ve a big day the following morning – everything from a job interview through to competing in a sports event. Trouble is, when they turn in early they may not be sleepy. So, once between the sheets or under the duvet their mind quickly gets into thinking mode about the day to come … and then the mind starts trying to tell itself to go to sleep when it’s really not ready.

That’s when it becomes a real problem. Sleep’s not something you can turn off and on. The body has to be sleepy to fall into a deep slumber and the key here is that it’s not the quantity of sleep but the quality that counts. Six hours decent kip will leave you feeling way better than 8 hours tossing and turning. “Sleep is the greatest legal performance enhancing drug that most people are probably neglecting”

In fact, many sleep researchers believe you get most benefit from your first 3 hours of deep sleep. So make sure your body and mind has hit what’s known as a high sleep drive before your head hits the pillow, which means you’re absolutely ready to sleep. When it comes to sleep, the mind and body can’t fool themselves. If you’re not sleepy you’ll probably struggle to nod off into a deep slumber whereas if your eyelids are truly drooping and you’re struggling to keep your eyes open then you know it’s the right time to hit the sack.

A low sleep drive means you may well be heading for a restless night as you were never really ready to sleep in the first place and that’s only going to lead to sleep anxiety. Remember, the degree to which you feel rested depends on how much deep sleep you get, not how long you’re in bed.  

“Regularity is most important – go to bed, and wake up at the same time every day” Sleep needs a routine and you can mess that up simply by having a lie-in at the weekends. For many, if they wake up on a Saturday and Sunday at the usual time they’d get up on a weekday but then keep dozing they’ll often end up feeling fuzzy-headed. In short, think of it as sleep jet lag. That dozing has done more harm than good. It may not be what you want to hear but it’s best to wake up at the same time each morning whether that be a weekend or a weekday.

A real issue happens if your sleeping is becoming so bad you then start to associate your bed with wakefulness, a condition known as Problematic Sleep Conditioning. That’s why it’s crucial to only go to bed when you’re genuinely sleepy. If you can’t sleep then it’s pointless staying in bed worrying about it. Get up and do something you find relaxing until you feel sleepy again.

You may come home tired but that’s different from being sleepy. Don’t confuse the two. Tired means you may feel fatigued or exhausted but sleepy is a very specific term for when your body is ready to fall asleep.

To get into that mode you need to glide down what’s dubbed the sleep runway – genuinely unwinding and relaxing so both the body and mind are ready for sleep. Everyone will find their own triggers for this but you normally can’t beat reading a good fiction book in bed – certainly nothing too heavy or newsy that may set your mind off again. You could even listen to an audio book. 

“We are a dark deprived society in this modern era” – this lack of darkness is destroying out quality of sleep. For others, watching TV, simply listening to music or doing yoga or meditation will do the trick. The more cluttered your mind is with the troubles and pressures of the day, the longer the runway you’re likely to need to wind down. Relax the mind by gently distracting it – looking at your mobile phone, iPad and other electronic devices may stimulate it and there’s even a suggestion that the light from these screens can have a negative impact on sleep.

And forget drinking yourself into a good night’s sleep. While alcohol is well-known to help you fall asleep faster, too much close to bedtime can disrupt sleep in the second half of the night as the body begins to process the alcohol.  

But do think about getting a bit more exercise into your life. As little as 10 minutes of aerobic exercise, such as walking or cycling during the day, can drastically improve night-time sleep quality.   www.sleepfoundation.org

And think about what you’re eating. According to The National Sleep Foundation, heavy or rich foods, fatty or fried meals, spicy dishes, citrus fruits and carbonated drinks can trigger indigestion for some people. When this happens close to bedtime it can lead to painful heartburn that disrupts sleep.

Finally, make sure you have a comfortable mattress – after all, you spend around a third of your life in bed so it’s well worth the investment!

Here are my 5 good sleep tips:

1.     Only go to bed when you’re sleepy.

2.     Do something that you know relaxes you on your sleep runway.

3.     Don’t break your natural sleep pattern by having an early night or a lie-in at weekends.

4.     Don’t drink too much booze or eat rich food. During deep sleep at night, there is a sewage system in the brain that cleanses the brain of all the metabolic toxins that have accumulated throughout the day

5.     Make sure you’ve invested in a really comfy mattress. Humans beings are the only species that deprive themselves of sleep for no apparent gain.

Why trust has to be at the centre of everything we do

Why trust has to be at the centre of everything we do 

It’s a small word that passes many people by but if it’s not central to all you do in life you risk losing everything.

It governs all we do from our personal relationships and politics through to how we shop in the technological age to how successful we are in business.

That one simple word is … trust. It’s something that always has to be earned but it can also be so fragile if not carefully cared for, leading to disastrous consequences

There is a saying that “trust takes years to build, seconds to break and forever to repair.”

Without it – or if you lose it – then everything can quickly fall apart and can be so difficult to put back together again. If couples don’t trust one another it can rapidly lead to relationships crumbling. Every time we buy something online we are trusting the seller – people we’ve never met and who sometimes live thousands of miles away – to provide what we paid for. If trust falters in a business then that signals the beginning of the end of that business.

The late American businessman and keynote speaker Stephen Covey, who wrote the popular book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, said: “Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” 

Look at the world around us now and there is a clear crisis of trust wherever you look.

The whole General Election was about trust. Did the voters trust Boris Johnson to get Brexit done or trust Jeremy Corbyn to get a better Brexit deal and then put it to a public vote. The landslide victory shows which party the British electorate trusted most on this (and their other policies) … but only time will tell if this trust was well-placed or misplaced.

Aircraft manufacturer Boeing’s reputation has taken an international battering since two of its new 737 Max planes crashed in Ethiopia and Indonesia, claiming hundreds of lives. Former Boeing engineers and aviation analysts seem to be blaming faulty sensors for the crashes and the incident has caused other safety concerns surrounding Boeing to surface.  

The 737 Max planes have been grounded worldwide since March, costing the company a fortune … but it could prove to be costlier in the lack of trust passengers and even some employees now have in the company. Rebuilding that trust needs to go far further than a solution to the cause of the crashes being passed by regulators so the Max planes can fly again. The company will need to show to the world it has learned from what has happened and there has been a major culture change within it when it comes to safety.

There’s been a crisis of trust at Facebook too with its users’ confidence in the company plunging by 66% as a result of revelations that data analysis firm Cambridge Analytica inappropriately acquired data on 87 million Facebook users which it used to target voters during the 2016 USA presidential election. A survey showed that only 28% of Facebook users now believe the company is committed to privacy, down from a high of 79% the previous year. Imagine how long that’s going to take to retrieve.

In September 2020 hackers managed to get into 30 million Facebook accounts and take all kinds of data including emails and phone numbers.

The question is who will now trust Facebook’s new dating app and another new app it’s brought out which allows people to share videos and make video calls given its recent poor track record on protecting people’s data?

Qualities you’ll need to earn people’s trust include being reliable, dependable, competent, and sincere and if that trust slips you’d also need throw in humility and by this I mean being able to admit mistakes to rebuild it.

Yes, trust can be earned out of something that’s gone wrong. Sandra Sucher, an economist and professor at Harvard Business School, asked market researchers to study what happened when a customer experienced a problem at a company. She discovered that if the business sorted out the problem to the customer’s satisfaction then their trust in the company was not only reinstated but actually increased.

She said: “This is so different from how we normally think about trust. It’s not as fragile as we believe. Trust can actually be regained and it may not be lost forever.” 

When it comes to the workplace trust is all about teamwork. 

David Armistead, a consultant to businesses and communities seeking to thrive in the emerging new global economy, said: “Trust each other again and again. When the trust level gets high enough, people transcend apparent limits, discovering new and awesome abilities for which they were previously unaware.”

If people feel part of a team and trust one another to do their jobs well then the business will thrive but for this to happen employees need to have the self-discipline to hold themselves accountable by making sure they don’t let themselves or anyone else down by failing to do their best at all times.

Once a workplace has that ethos managers will have confidence in employees designing their own jobs and creating systems to do their jobs to the best of their ability. Trust is about sharing information, caring about other roles, opening yourself up to constructive feedback and providing support even when it’s not your job to do so. 

This is helped by managers acting more like mentors than taskmasters and providing positive feedback on how people are doing. Telling someone they’re doing a great job will fill them with more confidence and they will feel they’ve reached a high standard they won’t want to let slip.

For, as author Ernest Hemingway said: “The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”

But let’s leave the final word to someone people have no problem trusting, the Dalai Lama, who said: “To earn trust, money and power aren’t enough. You have to show some concern for others. You can’t buy trust in the supermarket.”