How to sleep well

September 6 2023

Are you struggling with tiredness and can’t seem to bounce back? Well, you’re not alone – 2023 has been named as the year of ‘hyper-fatigue’, alongside research increasingly exploring how vital good sleep is for our bodies and minds. Read on for some sleep strategies that should help to perk you up …

Think positive

Constant negative thoughts are depleting, according to sleep expert Dr Nerina Ramlakhan. We have a natural bias towards negative thoughts, as a survival technique to keep us alert for danger. This can be easily triggered in an anxious, post-pandemic world – and fatigue is a common side effect of anxiety. It takes 30-40 seconds to embed a positive thought, says Ramlakhan, whose advice is to slow down and consciously take stock of happy moments. These memories can then be revisited when you feel low or tired, with the boost we get from positive thoughts.


Regular mealtimes

Research shows that eating main meals around the same time every day helps to regulate your body clock and releases energy-building hormones when you need them, and sleep-conducive hormones when you need to rest. ‘Mini clocks’ in our cells and gut bacteria are influenced by when we eat, says Dr Emily Leeming, gut health expert. Eating at regular times means you body will prepare to release insulin before the meal, enabling your gut to quickly make use of sugars to boost energy and alertness. Balanced meals with protein, fibre and fat release sugars into the blood more slowly, sustaining a steadier energy level.


Rest little and often

Take regular, short breaks, advises Dr Ramlakhan – and keep them screen- and scrolling-free. Having a 3-5 minute break every 90 minutes supports our body clock function and the break can be something very simple, such as going outside to look at the sky or playing with the dog. We get energy from these physical, mental, emotional and spiritual practices, says Dr Ramlakhan. If hot weather is making you feel tired, make sure to drink plenty to combat fatigue from dehydration.

Listen to music

Music can be energising. DJs know that when a tune reaches 120bpm, people head for the dancefloor, states exercise and sport psychology professor Costas Karageorghis. His advice for boosting your energy level is to listen to three or four tracks that gradually build from a slow tempo, around 68bpm, such as the Chariots of Fire theme, to the 120bpm level of a track like Lionel Richie’s Running With the Night. For an energy build for a desk job, use the same principles but choose music without lyrics, as these can be distracting.


Vigorous exercise

Quick 3-4 minute bursts of intense exercise – stair climbing, bursts of fast walking or carrying heavy shopping – may improve sleep but in addition, even without better sleep, help to counter some of the negative effects of sleeplessness, including a raised risk of heart disease or cancer mortality.*


Find your healthy clutter level

Some of us find clutter stimulating: others, exhausting. The mechanism our brain uses to filter out unwanted stimuli, named by neuroscience professor Sabine Kastner as our ‘attention function’, will struggle or thrive with clutter, depending on the capacity of our individual attention function. Try to find your optimum level by living and working with different levels of clutter to see what suits you best.


Researchers at the University of Vienna were surprised to find that social isolation reduced energy and increased fatigue to a similar level to that created by not eating. Their research was conducted on a group in which some went without socialisation for eight hours, some without food for that period, and others had both. So when working from home, getting in a lunch date or shared walk around the park might give you a boost.


And finally – get humming

Humming with our mouth closed combats tiredness, says Dr Ramlakhan, by producing nitric oxide in the nasal cavities, which is antiseptic, antiviral and anti-inflammatory.


*Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis, University of Sydney
With thanks to The Guardian Lifestyle 1.7.23


Emma Browning, our Pastoral and Wellbeing Lead at Livability Millie College. Emma has supported people to improve their wellbeing for over 20 years.

Emma says: ‘Wellbeing is something woven through Livability’s work and I’ll be sharing some wellbeing themes and approaches in these blogs. My hope is that you enjoy reading them and they build a strong foundation for your wellbeing.’

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