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Month: September 2018



12 Rituals to Better Sleep

Posted in: September 24, 2018 By: Bernadette Marie Wilson

Do you have difficulty sleeping?

If you’re someone who struggles with falling asleep or staying asleep, you might be wondering how you’ll ever get some rest and how to sleep throughout the night.

There are so many things that can prevent us from really getting a good night of sleep, and over the years I’ve looked at the research and used personal experience to come up with a list of rituals to implement to help improve your sleep. Last week, I covered the importance of sleep in our cognitive performance and daily lives. This week, I’m sharing my twelve rituals that can help you get a better night of sleep, as lack of sleep is detrimental to your physical and mental well-being. While everyone’s experience will be different, these rituals have held true across the board.

Cognitive Performance’s 12 Rituals for a Restful Night’s Sleep

 

Ritual One: Going to Bed Early and Rising Early

Most highly successful people go to be at the same time every evening and wake up early. It may seem obvious, but make sure you’re giving yourself enough time to actually sleep! If you are not accustomed to going to bed early, at first you should start by going to bed when you are sleepy. Regardless of the time you go to sleep, set your alarm to get up early (think 5:30 AM-6: 30 AM). You may have to tough it out for a few days without a full 7 to 8 hours of sleep until your body clock resets.  Within a few days, you will be going to bed earlier and waking up earlier naturally. Stick to going to bed right around the same time every night to get your body into the routine. Make sure that you are getting the right amount of sleep for YOU, not based on what anyone else chooses.

Ritual Two: Enlisting Support

Talk with your significant other, or even your roommate. Whoever is around you at bedtime can serve as your greatest supporter in your journey to better sleep! If your significant other is disrupting your sleep by going to bed a lot later, it can hurt not only your sleep quality but also your closeness. Doing something like this together can help build camaraderie and leave you both waking up feeling refreshed!

Ritual Three: Electronics Shut Off

Each night, turn off the electronics around you at least 30 minutes before bedtime, but ideally an hour before. This includes computers, TVs, and cell phones. If you have to have a cell phone on, place it far enough away from your bed that you have to get out of bed and walk to answer it if it rings, or turn off its alarm in the morning.

Ritual Four: Creating a Pre-Bedtime Ritual…and Sticking to it!

Create a ritual to do each night before going to bed. Need ideas? Think of things like taking a bath or shower, organizing your lunch for the next day, meditation, yoga (I find stretching helps me to be less restless once I hit the pillow), or reading a book. Keep this time a safe zone away from intense conversation or contemplation. This ritual should be started around 30-60 minutes before your head hits the pillow.

Ritual Five: Keeping the Bedroom’s Purpose

Your bedroom shouldn’t also serve as your work office. Save the bedroom (and the bed) for the necessary things like sleep and sex. The bedroom and bed should be a retreat of relaxation and rest, not of stress.

Ritual Six: Respecting the Schedule You’ve Made

Find the time that works for you to get up and go to bed each day. This should ideally be done together with your significant other if applicable. Try to keep this the same each day, even over the weekend! However, make sure you allow for flexibility should the occasion arise, such as an especially late night event that requires a later wake up for your body to feel restored.

Ritual Seven: Food and Alcohol Before Bed…yay or nay?

I say “Nay!” Not only can the food or alcohol sit in your stomach uncomfortably, but eating large meals or drinking lots of alcohol before bed can actually lead to acid reflux and heartburn. Waking up to this is not fun for anyone. However, a small snack before bed may be needed by those with concerns like diabetes. You may want to ask your doctor to be tested if you wake up throughout the night. I recommend an apple and almond butter if you do need a snack to keep your blood sugar stable and to help you to stay asleep throughout the night.  Try to also avoid caffeine and excessive sugars for 4-6 hours before bed.

Ritual Eight: Getting rid of Distracting Noise

If you live on a busy road or find yourself with a particularly noisy neighbor, investing in a good white sound machine or fan can be life-changing. Block out that noise that will keep you awake otherwise!

Ritual Nine: What to do When it’s Cold Outside

Baby, it’s cold outside! However, that means a more cuddly night of sleep. I love and suggest lowering the thermostat to a comfortable temperature to allow warmth from the blankets rather than relying on a hot furnace through the night. Adding a humidifier can also support restful sleep if the air in your room is too dry.

Ritual Ten: What to do When it’s Hot Outside

Nobody likes to sweat while they sleep. In the summer, I suggest keeping the room cool enough so that is comfortable and allows for a good night of sleep, sweat-free! Help your busy brain to unfocus on the discomfort of heat by stimulating your tactile and olfactory sensations with a cool shower before bed and then wearing light night clothes. You may want to then add the light aromatherapy scent such as lavender or sage. Your thoughts will wander to the positive sensations and help you to experience restful bliss.

Ritual Eleven: Turn Off That Light!

Invest in blackout curtains, turn off all the lights, and turn electronics face down. Eliminating all light sources actually helps cue your brain to release melatonin, which is the natural sleep hormone signaling your body it’s time for rest. Keeping lights on will only confuse your brain and keep you awake longer.

Ritual Twelve: Establish a “Wake Up” Routine Using Natural Cues

Loud sounds are never a soothing way to wake up! I recommend using a light-based alarm clock that increases light intensity as it gets closer to your wake up time. This helps your body wake up naturally rather than being rudely interrupted by the beeping of an alarm.

My Challenge to YOU:

If you read my blog last week, then you might have seen my challenge about keeping a sleep journal. I’d love for you to continue that this week, implementing one or more of these rituals at a time and then thinking about your experience. Some may be easier than others, but after a while, they will become just another part of your routine.

The Importance of Sleep

Posted in: September 17, 2018 By: Bernadette Marie Wilson

Last week we talked about tracking progress and making plans (which you can find here). For the next few weeks we’re going to focus on the importance of sleep, exercise, and a restorative diet for your overall wellness. These three components are all necessary to help speed up your ability and focus to execute your plan to becoming extraordinary!

If you haven’t yet, make sure you download my e-book on Becoming Extraordinary. You can download it by entering your email here. You’ll find blog posts here on my website to further unpack each section and give it to you in bite-sized pieces. I look forward to sharing this journey with you!

Today I want to share with you an overview of the importance of sleep for cognitive performance and how insufficient sleep can lead to far more than just feeling groggy. As a NeuroCoach, I find myself talking my clients through a range of things that might be affecting their cognitive performance. One of these things, while often underestimated, is sleep! We all need it. While the amount of hours per night that different people need will vary, I can’t say enough about how important sleep is in every function of life. Settle in, and let’s unpack this a bit!

What is Cognitive Performance?

Cognitive Performance is the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses. To achieve our best performance, we should strive to have peak cognitive performance. Included in cognitive performance is the brain’s ability to process information of knowledge, memory and working memory, judgement and evaluation, reasoning and “computation,” problem solving and decision making, comprehension, and comprehension and production of language. So, where does sleep come into play?

Sleep to Improve Cognitive Performance

We tend to underestimate the importance of sleep for our cognitive performance. Our sleep, including how long we are asleep and the quality of our sleep, has a lot to do with our productivity, brain function, and ability to do things like safely operate a vehicle. The National Sleep Foundation took a “Sleep in America” poll in 2005 and found that 60% of adult people (around 168 million people at the time) said that they had driven a vehicle while being drowsy in the past year prior to the survey date. Not just that, but 37% of those people said that they had fallen asleep at the wheel. In my e-book, Become Extraordinary, I share a tragic story of the Hardman family, who lost multiple lives on a trip to Disney due to the teenaged son falling asleep at the wheel.

Sleep doesn’t only translate into driving safety, but also into your productivity levels and cognitive performance at work. Research is demonstrating that sleep deprivation actually degrades higher-level cognitive capacities such as memory and perception overtime. That’s a scary thought! I also took a look at Neuroimaging evidence and found that research shows the prefrontal cortex of the brain is the most affected by sleep deprivation. Why does that matter? The prefrontal cortex just so happens to be responsible for executive function tasks, which we can then connect the dots to see how sleep deprivation could affect major functions, both on the job or off. Staying awake for more than eighteen consecutive hours hinders your reaction speed, short-term and long-term memory, and cognitive speed amongst other functions. Now think about cutting back sleep even more. Not only will it affect your cognitive function, but also other areas of your life and body!

Sleep and its Effect on Weight Gain

The ghrelin hormone is what signals hunger and tells your brain to eat. The leptin hormone is what tells your brain that you are full and that you don’t need to eat anything else. Not getting enough sleep affects both of these hormones, which causes ghrelin levels to increase and leptin levels to decrease. This confuses the brain and leads to your brain wanting more food even when it is not necessary. Heard of the munchies? Not getting enough sleep can also cause snacking when you’re up late as well as more serious things like impaired insulin metabolism. These both can contribute to increased weight gain.

Not only will the late night munchies add on extra and unwanted weight, but they can also contribute to nighttime acid reflux. If you’ve ever gotten up in the middle of the night with acid reflux, you know how unpleasant it can be. Not only is the stomach pain and odd taste in your mouth unpleasant, but the effects go far beyond just internal discomfort. These interrupt your much-needed sleep and can lead you to wake up feeling even worse. Grogginess and brain fog definitely don’t help you on your journey to improved cognitive performance!

Challenge Yourself

My challenge to you this week is this: Take a journal of your sleep habits. Write down when you go to bed and when you wake up, as well as how much you slept. Do this for the next five days.  At the end of the five days, take 10 minutes to mindfully reflect on your entries. As you do this, do you notice any patterns?

How many hours of restful sleep did you get? Did you wake up feeling groggy? What about waking up to go to the bathroom or get a snack in the middle of the night? Did you check your phone or time a few times?

Once you get to know your sleep habits, you can start taking the steps and make the necessary changes to have quality sleep. With quality sleep, you will be more alert and perform your best in your waking hours.

Have questions? Let’s get in touch. I’d love to work with you to help you improve your Cognitive Performance and overall wellness. Sweet dreams!

Plan Your Work, Work Your Plan

Posted in: September 10, 2018 By: Bernadette Marie Wilson

Today I want to share with you all the importance of developing a plan and tracking progress towards it.

If you haven’t yet, make sure you download my e-book on Becoming Extraordinary. You can download it by entering your email here. You’ll find blog posts here to further unpack each section and give it to you in bite-sized pieces. I look forward to sharing this journey with you!

Planning Through History

Let’s start by going back in history. While these days, the hectic and busy nature of our lives may make it seem close to impossible sometimes, planning has been going on for what feels like forever. Think back to Imhotep (2667-2600 BCE). If you aren’t familiar with this name, he was the architect of the Step Pyramid of Saqqara, Egypt. This is the oldest pyramid in Egypt, and it is still standing today. Think about the planning that had to go into this success. He lived in a world with no “how-to” guide, no Internet search engines, and no textbooks. He used his intelligence and ability to plan to construct this monumental accomplishment.

Pat Riley’s Success

You might be thinking, “How does this apply to me?” Well, think of a plan you have now or one that is in the works. Whether you’re planning your next move or simply your next vacation, mapping out the road to your goals is essential. I want to encourage you today to build a chart for your progress. Write down your goals for where you want to be in the next six months, in the next year, and even down the road up to 20 years. In my e-book, I shared a quote by Pat Riley, the successful coach behind the Los Angeles Lakers and the New York Nicks. He states, “plan your work, work your plan.” This can be applicable in all areas of our lives. Pat Riley was successful…and you can be too! In fact, you can be extraordinary.

Measuring Progress

Once you’ve got your plan, let’s talk progress. Progress can be measured in tiny amounts or in huge steps. If the goal is small, use small steps. Note little victories and successes along the way. If your goal is large, create goals along your timeline. These goals will vary, and remember – they can change. Just because you make a goal or plan at one point in your life doesn’t mean it is static. Leave it flexible, and give it room to grow if necessary.

Measuring Goals

I also shared a quote from Peter Drucker, who found success as a management consultant. His phrase, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure” speaks to me in this situation. You have to have a goal to measure. You have to pinpoint points along your journey that will allow you to manage your time and goals effectively and efficiently.

Channeling Your Energy

Now, let’s focus on the energy behind your goals. I want you to learn how to insert creative energy into your work and into achieving those goals that have been set. Do this through documenting your ideas to meet your goals and allow yourself to reel in the energy to make them happen. Share ideas with others and get the ideas down on paper. This also frees up room in the brain for other thoughts. It unclutters your brain and leaves room for creativity, more ideas, and improved clarity. Allow yourself, and your brain, some breathing room! You reward is increased creative thoughts and more “out-of-the-box” thinking.

Recording progress also causes an increase in your belief in yourself and your capabilities. You will learn to move past setbacks, to push through major or small disturbances, and to keep your eyes focused ahead. Writing progress down makes it tangible. Support yourself and allow yourself the chance to recognize positives and progress. Your work has been planned, and now you can plan to work.

For more insights on how to remove barriers and get unstuck, take a look around my website. I’d also love to discuss how my services can work for you!

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