Sleep and rest

Get adequate sleep and rest

Set yourself a sleep routine

Sleep and rest are essential for survival, health, fitness and wellbeing. Your brain and body systems can work at a different level of activity, allowing your batteries to recharge ready to face another day of stimulation, threats, challenges and activity.

The quality of sleep appears to be more important than quantity but too much or too little sleep can lead to irritability and poor mental performance. How long should you sleep? This varies enormously from person to person. Most people sleep seven hours each night whilst some need nine and others only five. Frequently, worry about losing sleep produces more symptoms of lack of sleep than the sleep loss itself.

If you are experiencing regular sleep disturbance, do not worry that this could be leading to ill health or lack of ability to perform. Even if your sleep patterns are erratic, you get more sleep than you think you do; certainly enough to avoid unhealthy consequences and very poor performance. Your body is geared to make sure you get enough sleep, otherwise you would not survive.

Stress is one of the main causes of sleep disturbance; lying awake at night, trying to get to sleep, worrying about current problems or becoming anxious about future events. When you eventually get to sleep you wake feeling tired and find the worries and anxieties are still there. People who are depressed usually have little difficulty getting to sleep but they often wake early.

It is also important to get the right pattern of sleep. The kind of sleep called rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which results in dreaming, is very necessary. Dreaming, even if you cannot remember the dream, is the body’s way of sorting out information and problems and ensuring that the body and mind have a complete rest. Alcohol as well as tranquillizers and barbiturates all decrease the amount of REM sleep, so after taking them you may wake up feeling tired or depressed. If you have nightmares, this may be a sign of anxiety or depression. Recurring nightmares are a sign of distress. Meditation can reduce the anxiety associated with nightmares and can help eliminate them altogether.

If you have sleep difficulties then try the following:

Set up a routine that will condition you to get to sleep. Unplug the television, put the milk bottles out, have a warm milk drink (it contains tryptophan which promotes sleep), clean your teeth and lastly try reading a short, pleasant story in bed.

Avoid taking naps during the day or evening.

Sit up in bed and meditate for five minutes and then lie down.

Before going to bed avoid caffeine, too much alcohol, a heavy meal, particularly foods high in fibre and fats.

Make sure you get plenty of exercise during the day.

If your mind is racing get up and move around, go to the kitchen and make yourself a warm milk drink. When you have calmed down return to bed and try to think of a pleasant scene where you feel secure. Try to picture it in your mind’s eye and concentrate on it.

Ensure that your environmental conditions are conducive to sleep; bedroom not too hot or too cold, light rather than heavy bed clothes, minimal noise level. Switch off electrical appliances at the socket (to avoid mains hum) and use well-lined curtains to reduce light levels.


Slow down, do not hurry, why race the clock?

Tackle one task at a time and enjoy it

Learn to occupy your time whilst waiting

Organize your daily activities to avoid queues

Accept the mistakes and trivialities of yourself and others

Avoid getting angry over things you can do nothing about

Avoid creating unnecessary deadlines and cluttering up your calendar with appointments

Smile and give love and affection

Practise being a good listener

Learn to relax; look around and appreciate nature and your environment

Play games for fun and not to win

Type As, through their beliefs, attitudes and habits, frequently perceive situations as threatening and challenging when no real threat or challenge exists. A traffic jam or a slow-moving supermarket queue is clearly not life-threatening but they can provoke anger which activates the aggressive fight part of the alarm reaction.

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