Finding it hard to get a good night’s kip? Esther O’Moore Donohoe spoke to a sleep expert…
There are many reasons to be jealous of Kimberly Noel Kardashian West. She is the owner of two hugely successful businesses, Skims and KKW Beauty, valued at $1.6 billion and $1.2 billion dollars respectively. She generates millions in revenue each year from additional media and commercial work.
She’s a leading advocate for criminal justice reform, has a personal net worth of over one billion dollars and recently played the role of Delores, the poodle in PAW Patrol: The Movie. On top of all that, at time of writing, ‘Kim Kardashian butt’ returned 46,200,000 results in Google. Ask yourself, how many clicks has your bottom gotten today, hmmm?
Butt – sorry – but, it is not for any of the above achievements that has me jealous of Keeks. Earlier this month, Kim posted a screenshot on her Instagram Stories from her Oura Ring, a sleep and activity tracker. It turns out that on top of huge wealth, beauty, influence and highly clicked glutes, Kiki averages 8.5 hours sleep a night. I actually gasped. Maybe Kim is the one person on planet earth who truly has it all? And by all, I mean, all the sleep.
I don’t own a sleep tracker but if I were to grade my own sleep record, I’d give myself a solid ‘could do better’. I envy the Quick of Sleep and their cousins The Stay Asleepers With Minimal Pee Breaks. Sadly I am not that girl. Until this July, I had worked irregular shifts for over 12 years which had left my sleep pattern in, what is medically known as, a bit of a jock. For ten of those years, a typical work week would mean 5am alarms for 6am starts. Throw in split shifts and working weekends on top of that, and it was a decade of perpetual drowsiness. I’m not offering this up as a tale of woe by the way (I know many people have it worse). I’m just sharing my deprivation with the room.
WHAT’S YOUR SLUMBER NUMBER?
I know that when I’m well rested, work and life both run smoother and feel better. But getting sufficient shut eye can be so hit and miss. If there’s a method that guarantees me a great night’s sleep, I want to know about it. I needed an expert opinion so I asked sleep coach, health scientist and shift work specialist Tom Coleman if getting a 10 karat, Kim K, eight hours is possible for everyone. Tom says it’s personal. ‘For most people the standard requirement is about 7-8 hours whereas for others 6 hours is sufficient.’ He says that some people need more and others significantly less. He adds that it is possible to train your brain to sleep at certain times but that our brain ‘determines what the sleep requirement is for you’.
Whatever your magic slumber number, our sleep regime influences the quality of our rest. Tom says that with a little discipline, we can alter our sleep patterns in 1-2 weeks. ‘Shifting our circadian rhythm must be done incrementally’ says Tom, ‘especially if we want to fall asleep earlier. Our sleep/wake cycles and the mechanisms that carry that out, form part of a larger system and so shifting one aspect will have knock on effects. We can help align these changes by also changing our mealtimes, exercise and other components which inform circadian rhythm.’
BUT WHAT CAN WE DO?
We probably don’t need to be told that hovering our phone inches from our face whilst necking a coffee seconds before you get into bed is not the best way to optimise sleep. I understand the urge after a long day, to carve out as much off-duty time as possible. This sometimes means binge watching shows when we should be unwinding, device free, in bed. It feels good in the moment, but when we wake up the next day feeling groggy, we reflect that six episodes of Succession in a row mightn’t have been the best choice. We then promise ourselves that we’ll get to bed earlier that evening, only to repeat the very same pattern that night.
However, it’s not only the hour or two before bed that impacts our sleep quality. Our daylight habits also contribute to our sleep health ‘Everything we do during the day will in some way inform our ability to fall asleep, maintain sleep, and the quality of that sleep’ says Tom. The HSE website advises that being active, avoiding stimulants, sticking to a routine and ‘relaxing your body and mind’ are key to aiding sleep. Tom also believes that getting enough light into your day is important too. ‘Get lots of outside light in the morning, around midday and throughout times you need to be active and then avoid light when you should be less active and sleeping.’
In our never-off world, with its bottomless distractions (do you see what I did there?), it requires effort on our part to switch off and act as parents to ourselves. No one is going to stop you from having a double espresso at 9:30pm but if you aspire to a solid eight hours, you need to step away from the coffee beans – bible. Why not start tonight? Leave your phone outside your room, make your bed as cosy as possible and wear an eye mask to shut out any light. Of course, if you don’t have an eye mask, our sleep heroine Kim K is a source of further inspiration. Simply get your finest pair of 80 denier tights, cut them in half and stretch them over your head. Are you going to the Met Gala or are you going for a snooze? Who can tell?
TOM’S TIPS FOR BETTER SLEEP
If you want to know what actions to take to aid your night’s rest, remember TC-SLEEP
Technology: App companies rely on the addictive reward mechanism of our brain to keep us scrolling. The white/blue light suppresses the hormone melatonin which causes drowsiness. Use your tech for relaxing music or meditation rather than scrolling.
Caffeine: Stimulants interfere with sleep onset and also how deep we sleep. The general advice is not more than 2-3 cups and not after 1pm.
Stress: Ensure you don’t cause a bump in cortisol levels in the evening and that you are fully unwound and relaxed before bed.
Light: Move towards the light in daylight hours and reduce your exposure to light around bedtime.
Environment: Make sure you create a haven for sleep by keeping your bed sheets fresh and the room cool, dark and clutter free.
Exercise: Physical activity during the day reduces sleep latency (the time it takes to fall asleep). It improves sleep quality and reduces wake episodes.
Predictable: The brain loves routine, so develop a nice sleep ritual and go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time.