Sleep – getting what you need for good health and wellbeing

Chris Tavner sleep
During the upheaval of this lockdown, many people are struggling to maintain good and healthy routines, and sleep is an essential part of that.

It does seem kind of crazy that sleep should be a difficult thing to do.  Afterall, it is the very definition of ‘doing nothing’. How can doing nothing be difficult?

And yet so many of us struggle with sleep.  If you’re like me, our beds in the morning can feel wonderful, warm, snug places to be.  We feel completely relaxed and at peace.

Which is frustrating, because our beds when we got in the night before felt horrible.  I find dealing with rejection hard enough as it is, without being rejected by furniture.  Hey, stop being mean bed. I own you!

So yeah, I’ve had my share of problems with sleep.  When I struggle with something, I end up doing a lot of research into why.  My favourite problem to research is why I procrastinate. Oh yeah, I spend hours searching for and reading articles on that!

But anyway…

Here is a list of things that I have tried out, which I have found successful in helping me sleep.

Sleep routine

One suggestion that often comes up is the importance of routine.  Your body clock gets used to what time you go to bed, and what time you get up.  It helps if you stick to this routine.

Usually we mess with this at the weekend – we go to bed later than usual, and we get up waaaaaaay later than usual.  Often we add booze and kebabs into our ‘bedtime routines’ which really messes stuff up.

If you’re in any doubt about this, think how hard it is to go to sleep at a reasonable time on Sunday night for work/school the next day.  So hard!

The advice is to try and stick to the same bed times for every day, and wake at the same times too.  Now, during this pandemic, for many every day is the weekend. Try and fight the urge to throw the concept of time out of the window.  Routine is your friend.

Relaxing

Another problem I have had before is physically relaxing.  When in bed I often had restless legs – literally twitching, like my legs want to go for a run, even though the rest of my body wants nothing to do with it.  Especially my brain – that bit never wants to do exercise.

There are many suggestions about how to relax your body – warm baths,  cold baths, Chamomile tea.  However, I can only talk about what I have tried myself.

For me, an essential part of my bedtime routine has been to take magnesium up to an hour before hitting the sack.  It relaxes the muscles, and stops that restlessness.

You can get it in capsules, put also in sprays to apply to your skin, or even bath salts.  The spray is meant to be the most effective way of taking in Magnesium, but if you’re lacking in the mineral it can make your skin itch.  Temporarily, but still, that’s not something you want to put up with when you’re trying to relax.

So I stick to the capsules.  I currently take 300mg each night, and I can take more if needed.  Sometimes your body may need extra magnesium, as minerals may be lost during exercise, for example.

However, be careful – it relaxes all your muscles, and can have the same effect on your bowels if you’ve taken too much.  It is not easy to sleep in a bed you have just shat in. You heard it here first!

Blue light

Another thing to consider with a night time routine is giving yourself a long enough break from TV and other devices before going to bed.  The reason you want to avoid these is because of the light, specifically blue light.

The blue light fires up your brain, and keeps it buzzing.  Think about it this way – the sun goes down and you have dark, and this environment is the one in which you sleep.  Now we have artificial light that makes your brain think it’s always day time.

If I have to have screen time later in the evening, I have a pair of glasses that cut out blue light.  This is the pair I use (blue wig is only needed if you’re creating time traveller character from the future):

Chris Tavner comedian

I know AFC Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe got the players to start wearing them later in the evening.  Better sleep routines mean better health and performance in general. You’ll have to ignore the fact that we’re in the relegation zone.  That’s not because of the glasses!

However, the best way to combat blue light is to get away from screens altogether for at least 90 minutes before bed.  Maybe listen to music, or better still, read. I would recommend fiction over non-fiction for this. Non fiction gets you thinking over what you are reading, where-as fiction you can dissolve into.

I know good fiction can be engaging, but it genuinely does appear to help your mind relax.

Also, if you’re someone who spends a lot of time on social media, it will also help to disengage from all that.  Martha putting that vague message about not being able to trust anyone anymore is not worth staying awake over. Martha is an attention seeking idiot, and YOU CAN TELL HER I SAID THAT.

Fucking Martha.

I know you may have FOMO, but seriously, all that stuff can wait.  I know you don’t want to miss out on the next amazing blog by Chris Tavner, but believe me, they never get posted at 11pm.

Easier said than done

However, I don’t want to come across as preachy.  Everything I’ve spoken about here I have found helps in terms of sleep routines.  But that doesn’t mean I always follow them.

For a start, I’m a stand up comedian.  That means travelling all around the country to perform, so therefore a lot of late nights.  A lot of routine being thrown out of whack.

Also, even when I’m not working, I also sometimes indulge in the aforementioned booze and kebabs late into the night.  Add to that staying up late watching crap on TV, and trying to get Bournemouth into the Premier League (where they belong!) on Championship Manager 97/98 (only losers play games released in the last 20 years).

But, there is no doubt about it.  Having a good bedtime routine and habits really does help with physical and mental wellbeing.

Even if I do get in late from gigs, I still try and avoid alcohol and watching TV.  Reading gives my brain time to let go of the adrenaline from the latest standing ovation / chairs being thrown at my head / insipid indifference.

We are all having our daily schedules knocked out of shape because of the Coronavirus.  But try and create routines to look after your wellbeing. We all deserve that.