EP05: How to Improve Your Sleep

Hello CoachCast

Listen to Hello CoachCast, your free weekly access to world-class, expertoaches helping you maximise your wellbeing, relationship and work success. 

EP05: How to Improve Your Sleep

One in three adults suffers from some form of sleep dysfunction. Coach Nicole was one of them. After meningitis left her dealing with severe headaches, Nicole struggled to get consistent, quality sleep. Fortunately, she has spent years building out her toolbox to get a restful night’s sleep, and she shares those tools with you here. In her work with clients, Nicole specialises in stress solutions and helping people navigate through the stress of not sleeping. Listen in to learn the signs and symptoms of poor quality sleep, and discover the strategies Coach Nicole uses to stop bedtime from becoming a battlefield.

Your Title Goes Here

Your content goes here. Edit or remove this text inline or in the module Content settings. You can also style every aspect of this content in the module Design settings and even apply custom CSS to this text in the module Advanced settings.


Victoria: COVID lockdowns have a way of cutting out lots of variety in our life events. Going out, seeing friends, social events, dating, and going to and from work all seemed to all disappear. And when those joyful moments go out of our lives, it certainly creates the space for stress to rise in our life. And one of the symptoms of stress in our life is a lack of sleep.

And it’s a topic that I’d love to cover today to explore more around the problems that arise from a lack of sleep and insomnia, and also discuss some possible remedies and probably firstly, before. Even recognize that sleep or insomnia is a real epidemic now. And from our latest research, it’s now is saying that one in three people actually suffers from sleep dysfunction.

So I’d love to welcome you to our Hello CoachCast conversation today. One of our incredible coaches on the platform, Nicole, who’s had a lot of experience with dealing with stress solutions, recognizing the symptoms of stress, as well as helping people navigate through the stress of not sleeping. So it’s a conversation that I’m very much looking forward to.

So today, welcome back, Nicole.

Nicole: Hello, Victoria.

Victoria: So sleep. Wow. I was not aware. I mean, gosh, I know that everyone is completely stressed to the eyeballs right now and it makes sense that sleep would be impacted. So I’d love to hear about some of the challenges that you have had on the front line with conversations around this topic of what, in your experience and opinion is driving this increase in insomnia. It’s absolutely fascinating.

Nicole: Absolutely Victoria, and it is frightening to wrap our heads around the fact that it has become such an epidemic. I mean, even five years ago, if you went into a health food store, you wouldn’t see all the supplements, melatonin, all the sleep aids, they just weren’t there.

And the reason I know that is I have a great history with insomnia myself. I, um, my little story is that when I was quite young, when I was 17, I got meningitis and that left me with severe headaches. And then, exactly 17 years to the day again, I got meningitis which scars meninges and it leaves you, well it left me struggling to sleep.

I go to bed with a headache and it was really difficult with all the side effects. So it became a little bit, okay, a big chronic problem for me. So I have a very soft spot for anyone out there who does struggle with sleep. It is very boring and lonely being the only one awake in the house at three in the morning.

And it seems to always be exacerbated when you have a very important date the next day or occasion at work, or you have to be all together. So, um, obviously, as you mentioned, an incredibly relevant is the fact that we are in the middle of the midst of a pandemic repeated lockdowns, and a whole lot of uncertainty.

And even that, yes, before that you did ask me. Why was it becoming worse and worse? And I think one of the biggest problems has been just to take that step back, the rise in technology, the blue screen, light people hanging off their phones and their iPads late at night. And just the stress of modern life.

And I seem to cram more and more on to-do lists, and I’ve always actually been quite bemused by the fact that the more technology we tend to harness and be made available to us the less time we seem to have. And, I think you’ve touched on it many times, we seem to just be in a frenzy of, to-do lists and I think the rise of all of that and the pressures in the world and all the world events that, you know, everyone’s aware of and is affected by have just exacerbated that ability to switch off at night.

So when I faced my own sleep issues, I went to a naturopath and I did a lot of research and a lot of study and I have found a way to move through to the other side. I am a work in progress, but I have a lot of skills in my toolbox or tools as you would call them, that are very much my friends.

And I’d love to share them. Like now where so many people are overwhelmed are anxious because they’re, haven’t got that certainty of knowing what is around the corner. Their life doesn’t look the same. They’re juggling so much at home. Maybe work is in the same room as where they sleep. And that again is a big problem.

So yes, sleep has become a huge epidemic.

Victoria: You’ve hit on a couple of really important areas. And I wonder whether people, whether there’s, look, we’ve just ascertained that one in three has experienced insomnia. And then I’m wondering, I mean, I’ve certainly experienced periods where I don’t sleep and wander around at 3:00 AM in the morning for a variety of reasons. I’m wondering whether people are experiencing insomnia. Via a lack of quality of sleep. So they’re either not staying asleep for long periods of time. And then there’s another type of sleep disturbance when you are waking up at three or 4:00 AM and you just can’t get back to sleep.

And I’m wondering in your experience and your understanding from the clients that you’ve coached with around this particular topic, are there varying degrees of insomnia and stress associated with our sleep patterns?

Nicole: Absolutely. Victoria hit the nail on the head. So there are two kinds of insomnia in a sense, just to simplify it, there are, there is what you hit on a, you can’t get to sleep.

So you’re laying awake for hours and hours and getting more and more anxious or I’ve got to sleep. I’ve got to sleep. And the other situation, which is even worse is you find it very difficult to fall asleep, but you also wake up, like you said, at three wandering round for various reasons. And. That is not only very distressing for individuals, but long-term effects of sleep loss and chronic insomnia, uh, you know, point to things like Alzheimer’s, uh, diabetes, because often when you’re at that tired the very next day you’re snacking on sugar, and then you’re getting the insulin spike. And you’ve got hormones released, like ghrelin, which make you need to eat more and more. And people reach for the junk food because they just want that comfort food when they’re feeling miserable and exhausted. So it’s a bit of a self-perpetuating cycle. It’s a bit like a panic attack goes around and around, but there is hope and there are things you can do.

And I’ve learned. A profound difference can be made by looking at your sleep hygiene, your general health, your exercise, and you do need to have an exercise regime of some kind and your mindset. And I think I’d love to expand on those if you want me to, but that has changed my life.

Victoria: Thank you.

And I absolutely agree that there are definite remedies out there and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy half the time going back to sleep hygiene. I’m almost probably going to put that into a category of having a sleep ritual or preparing. I’ve coached many clients over the years who have anxiety and who have struggled with sleep.

And it’s creating a specific bedtime ritual that they disconnect from devices at eight o’clock, you know, or they’ll have a bath or a shower though, getting to bed, read a book. They’ll literally remove devices, going back to what you were talking about before and that blue light stimulation and the constant ease of jumping on a technology device.

And it actually works against us because it’s gearing our body up to thinking that we’ve got to stay in an overstimulated space. Whereas if we have a ritual at night, it helps us prepare and it anchors the body into a mindset state. Oh, it’s sleep time. Now I actually need to, I actually need to slow down here and start to de-stress my brain from the day’s events.

And I’m wondering if you’ve also had, come across some of those examples when you’ve coached clients of the importance of a ritual. And is that your version of sleep hygiene?

Nicole: Absolutely. Absolutely. Victoria. You’re right. first of all, if you look at our circadian rhythms, our body is attuned to going with the light.

So essentially. You’re right. Original is so important. There’s gotta be a time in the day where you are switching off, slowing down and letting your body know. Ah, okay. I’m coming into that next cycle, which is I’m getting ready for bed. I’m getting ready for sleep and yes, eight o’clock. I even say to people at six o’clock put down, you know, your work hat, take it off and start slowing down and also.

You know, there are beautiful things that you can do, which actually make you feel a little bit special, which can help, particularly with anxiety too. You can run a bath, you can use essential oils, such as lavender rose, geraniums. Anything that you actually liked the smell of. You’ve got to test and try it a little bit, but there are specific oils like that, which helped you become sleepy.

I also tell people to not, um, see if you can black out your room. So it is really lovely. If you could get to sleep by about 10, wake up at six naturally with the light and then. I always say, this worked for me to go and sit outside in the sun in the morning with your coffee or your tea.

Just take a few moments, breathe and get 10 minutes of sun. Repeat that at lunchtime and in the evening at sunset. And then your body is getting more attuned with the right circadian rhythm, which is why people use melatonin because that’s the hormone. We basically need to sleep. Yes. So the ritual is important and apart from that, the other thing is if you really must be on your device, makes make sure you switch it off.

At least I think two hours before you go to bed. Reading is so much better. Don’t read any stimulating study book or war and peace. Just read something. That’ll let you let go. And another really big tip is, do not eat a massive steak at 9:00 PM because your body is trying to rest and digest and you’re going to have weird dreams.

You’re not going to, and we all know about gut health and how 90% of, um, you know, our wellbeing comes from a happy gut. So if your guts working so hard to do that late while you’re sleeping, that is really counterproductive. So try and have a bigger meal at lunchtime, and a smaller meal at night.

Dim the room, block out the curtains, if you can. And you know, there is the old saying your bed really should only be used for sleep or sex. And I stand by that. it’s a pretty good way to go. If you’ve got all your desk in front of you and your clutter, because you’re working from home, I suggest you try and move to another room of the house, or at least de-clutter your desk, or put a screen in front of it.

Victoria: And yeah, I agree. There are so many amazing solutions and strategies that I’ve just been taking note of as you were talking. And, it’s one of those things, again, of being so mindful and aware such as when you were saying, going out and sitting in the sun of a morning like all of us right now have, are experiencing less vitamin D because we are not moving around as much.

We are all indoors. We are under, you know, in lockdown and we’re just not getting out there to absorb the nutrients that we need to create healthy, serotonin and melatonin levels. And, that’s something to be. certainly very mindful of. So there are some amazing tips in that I wanted to ask you a question around they are.

So what you’ve covered is some really like really practical solutions. If you’re aware that you have sleep insomnia, what about the people that have stress around their sleep, but are not aware that they have an issue or lets call it the label of insomnia? What are some of the symptoms before we get to solutions of behaviours that we would see that would be indicative that they’re suffering from stress around their sleep? I’d love just to know.

Nicole: Excellent question. I think one of the biggest red flags is if you see going to bed as a bit of a battlefield a bit, if you’re fighting with sleep mentally, so you may not realize that you have insomnia.

But you, you are aware obviously that you’ve got, heightened stress. I think you said, am I right? Your stress? I think a symptom of that is you get into bed and your mind is racing. You’ve got all sorts of thoughts flying around and like in meditation, I mean, not everyone meditates, but I mean the premise and it’s becoming obviously much more prevalent in the workplace everywhere, um, is that we, we all have these thoughts, but if you could possibly just let them come in, acknowledge them, you know, listen to them and then let them go. That’s healthy. But if those thoughts are coming in and starting to spin around and around and you’re fixating on them and you’re feeling a bit agitated, that is a pretty good indication that you are… you’ve got some issues with unwinding and that’s going to definitely impact the quality of your sleep as well.

Nicole: And that’s the thing, we’re taught that we should get between seven and nine hours of sleep most people anyway, but what I’ve learned is it’s the quality of your sleep that is even more important than the quantity. I mean, we all know Napoleon could manage on four hours. I’m not Napoleon, but if you get unbroken sleep, I know I feel much more refreshed and research tends to point out that yes, it’s the quality that truly matters.

Victoria: I’m curious to understand more of the symptoms that could prove to be a warning system for people, obviously, who are listening to our conversation today that may not even be thinking that they’ve got stress around their sleep.

How does it present in someone’s behaviour? So I can only speak from personal experience and other clients that I’ve coached over a long period of time that it can come across through irritability. Yes. There’s certainly that mind racing that it goes, it’s this perpetual it’s like your thoughts are, as I have explained to clients over the years, your thoughts are stuck on a washing machine spin cycle and there’s there’s, there’s no exit point.

Victoria: It just goes round and round around, around, around until you are aware that you cannot keep operating like that. And then you need to put in measures to switch, you know, push the stop button on the machine washing cycle. and I’m conscious that yes, our, our behaviours can become frayed. We can certainly become more frustrated.

We become more short-tempered. We can become angry. We become highly irritated. What are some of the other warning bells? That could help bring awareness to those who are listening to, to help them even start to be curious that they actually may have sleep insomnia going on.

Nicole: Great question. you’ve covered many of them with irritability, a short fuse, whereas normally you’d say, "Come on kids, we’ve got to get everyone off to school," you like get in the car, you know, everyone’s a little bit more frayed than usual. Um, I think a good thing to notice would be if you’re waking up, not refreshed. And if your productivity is affected in any way, or you’re starting to feel. you’re losing your sense of purpose a little bit.

You’re losing your focus, all those things, that seem to come up when you’re not having quality sleep. And yet some people are very driven, like you say, and they’re just on that treadmill and they’re not really recognizing, so it is really important for people to step back for a minute and think.

Nicole: Are there big changes in my productivity or do I feel the same way? Am I loving my work the way I usually do? Yes, I have had a short fuse lately. Do I wake up feeling like, oh my God, I’m ready for a new day! Or, I’m kinda tired, just weary. And it’s almost a world-weariness. And over time it can become very debilitating, but in the beginning, it’s great that you’re asking to look for those personal markers apart from the really good ones you pointed out.

I think it is really your attitude to life. And I think that can come from diminished quality of sleep. They may not even know it. They might even just have sleep apnea and not realize that they’re waking up all the time. But I think when your wellbeing and your sense of joy and purpose and all those things seem slightly diminished.

I’d start to worry then a little, well, not worry, but I’d look at it. Things, take a step back and just start keeping a journal, keep a sleep journal. And also,

Victoria: yeah. Yeah, I think it’s, again, you’ve raised some really good points because I was, I was reflecting on. What we’ve covered so far in our conversation.

And curious as to when people do lose their sense of joy or their sense of purpose there, how that then feeds into depression and depression, I know is such an unspoken symptom and also an epidemic within itself. And. If you’re not having quality sleep, your serotonin and your whole brain function is so impacted on such a negative level that you don’t think straight.

You’re not thinking rationally, it does increase. You know what I call it with my clients over the years, ‘mad scientist’ thinking. It’s just literally like this mad scientist behaviour where you’re constantly ‘on’. You’re constantly thinking and it’s just, your mind is racing and eventually you get burnt out, you get to deep chronic fatigue, but all along, I think our bodies are so clever and they will give us the indicators that we need. If we are awake enough and we’re mindful to our bodies, they can give us such clues to know that we’re out of balance somewhere in our system.

And it may be sleep, sleep. Maybe the common offender here that – I know that then goes onto another conversation that I’d love to have with you around our bodies and health and stress – but they are certainly, they can give us, they’re like temples. They give us clear direction and they communicate with us in a language that tells us where either thriving or we’re diving and our job as human beings is start to become so conscious around that.

That the sometimes subtle symptoms that we may get, if we don’t take action around it, they end up becoming deep symptoms of chronic ill health, such as sleep insomnia. And we’ve raised some really, really interesting points today because. I do believe that so many of us have, aren’t getting enough sleep and are dealing with stress and stress is impacting so many people.

And, but they’re not necessarily aware that they might be. They’re waking up, but they wouldn’t necessarily know that, okay, this is my opportunity to get my sleep hygiene in place. This is the opportunity to increase my exercise, to help deal with stress and physical stress and offset some of that mental stress.

And. That then pushes you in or encourages you then to have a positive mindset. Like everything absolutely, you know, feeds into one another. Right. And it’s, oh yeah. I just find it fascinating. The whole mind-body-soul connection of the relationship between all of them.

Nicole: Well, you raised a beautiful point, and a critical point to be aware of.

You said it so well, people particularly very driven and busy people who thrive or think they’re thriving in that busy-ness and who may be having diminished sleep. The word burnout is a worry because what’s happened, like you pointed out, they may not be aware because they’re so in their busy-ness that suddenly they head for breakdown.

And you’d mentioned the word depression, and one of the, if you follow Nerissa Peer in the UK, she has got a, she sets out depression as having a big underlying factor. Not following your heart’s desire.

Victoria: I know oh my God that was like music to my heart. I mean, this is, I know this is not for everyone, but there is again, our body and our heart will always try and wake us up.

And if we’re depressed in our lives and on our life path, this, Nicole, gets me so excited. This conversation is we have to, we have to tell them about at another point, but again, their body is such an incredible, internal compass for us. If we slow down enough to listen to the signs that it’s actually trying to help us on our journey.

So gosh, so many amazing insights. So many amazing solutions. thank you so much again, for another incredibly inspiring conversation around the stress and how to be aware of that. We have issues with our sleep and some solutions to help navigate us back to a place of having a happy mindset, having positive sleep hygiene.

And thank you again, Nicole, for being on our podcast today and being a part of our conversation. And I definitely look forward to having you back again.

Nicole: love that. Thank you so much, Victoria. You’re very welcome.

Victoria: Thank you, Nicole.

Hello Coach Horizontal Logo

Want to be your best self at work?