Sleep Well on Tour: How to Get the Rest You Need
Late nights, early mornings, jet lag and long hours can impact your sleep patterns. Have a look through these strategies and pick one or two to work on – you don’t need to implement them all at once! Your goal is to set up conditions that are conducive to sleep: being sleepy and being relaxed.
Sleep is essential for your health. It refreshes the mind and repairs the body. When you’re functioning well, your body will give you the type and amount of sleep that’s needed all by itself.
How much sleep do I need?
While there is no ‘one size fits all’, some large scale studies recommend seven to nine hours being optimal. A small minority of people need only five hours of sleep each night, while others require up to 10 hours. Good sleepers take less than 30 minutes to fall asleep and will wake up once or twice during the night. We all have nights where it takes a long time to fall asleep, or we’re wakeful overnight. This is often triggered by stress, and will usually pass after a night or two. The body is designed to tolerate short term sleep loss.
If you do have a sleepless night, research shows that we only need to catch up one- third of the sleep lost. So, if you sleep for two hours on one night and you normally get six hours, the next night you will only need to get one extra hour to catch up.
Try to aim for a longer sleep after a poor or short night, but don’t feel you have to recover every lost minute of sleep.
What is insomnia?
Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder, defined as regular and chronic difficulty falling asleep or returning to sleep following night-time awakening, with significant consequences for daytime functioning and/ or mood. The good news is that insomnia and poor sleep usually respond well to treatment. If you are worried about your sleep, speak to your GP.
Should I take sleeping pills if I can’t sleep?
If you’re considering sleeping pills, speak with your GP and ask for advice before using any medication.
Tips for sleeping well
- Get up at the same time each day – where possible, within an hour.
- Go to bed only when sleepy – that is, close to nodding off. If you are not sleepy, engage in a ‘wind down’ activity – don’t expect to finish work at 11pm and be sound asleep by 11.30pm! You need time to unwind.
- Don’t worry, plan or problem solve in bed – if this disruptive thinking occurs frequently, set aside time each day to do the thinking, problem solving and planning that your brain wants to do.
- Don’t sleep with the enemy – get rid of the clock. Trial not looking at the clock overnight. Do this for at least a week before you decide whether it’s a helpful strategy for you. Whether it is 11pm, 2am or 4am your aim should be the same – relax and let sleep happen.
- Manage matinees – finish work at 11pm and have a matinee the next day? You may have to anticipate a shorter sleep for the night (as an exception, not the rule). A shorter sleep once or twice a week over the course of the season should be sustainable for most people.
- Manage sleeping in different rooms – reduce noise (use ear plugs or request a room away from the elevator). Reduce light (eye masks, or black out curtains). Bring your own pillow if you can – one that you know is comfortable – or request additional/different pillows from your accommodation provider.
Managing fatigue – mindset is key. Reassure yourself that a night of short sleep here and there is OK.
- Try self-talk along the lines of “I am willing to feel fatigued for this short period because I am doing the job I love and have worked so hard for”.
- What is happening outside the body – what can you hear, see, touch, and smell? Focus on this rather than focusing inwardly on symptoms of fatigue, which can intensify the fatigue experience.
- Spend time outside in sunlight.
- Know what re-energises you – do you benefit from time alone (introverts) or do your energy levels pick up when socializing (extroverts)?
- Try a short daytime sleep of 10 to 20 minutes – power naps can be hugely beneficial!