Preliminary work: Step 1

Crucial to correcting poor sleep, there is some preliminary work you need to do before working on improvements.  All of us have a natural genetic makeup as to how much sleep we require to be at our optimal best, and we also have a natural body clock where we will wake naturally after a suitable period. Some people think they are doing the right thing by sticking to a set bed time and rise time and believe it is normal to take a while to go to sleep. On the other hand others will fall asleep ok but then wake often and struggle to stay asleep or too early. Dont get me wrong, routines are fantastic and I will always advocate a good sleep hygiene practice but it is worthwhile to do this little exercise to ensure the time in bed is spent sleeping instead of wakefulness. Some people believe they require a minimum of 8-10 hours when the reality is they have a shorter sleep requirement, say 5-7 hours, so are actually oversleeping their natural cycle leaving them feeling washed out in the morning. On the flip side, others feel they cope  well on 5-7 hours  but actually have a longer sleep need and would be at their optimal best on 8-9 hours. You will always feel better when you match your natural sleep needs.  

Once you have done the 2 preliminary steps, you can then move on to the sleep hygiene strategies to set your habits. Sleep hygiene is a series of guidelines and practices to set the body clock and assist the mind and body for quality sleep.

Work out the time you wish to wake up, and once you perform the steps below, you can then set the bedtime.  

Step 1:  

As humans, we are encoded with an individual genetic makeup for how much sleep we need. 7-9 hours should be optimal for adults. Some of us thrive on less than 8 hours, while others struggle if they don’t get 9+ hours. There is, however, such a thing as too much sleep or to little sleep and both have a significant impact on our physical and mental state. As I said before, some people may be sleeping 6-7 hours but are naturally requiring 8 – 9 hours whereas others may be sleeping 9+ hours but would function better on 7 hours. 

It is essential to work out how much sleep you require to be at your best both physically and cognitively, so use this strategy to find your “personal sleep number”.  

This is best done when you are on holidays as initially, you may feel increased tiredness, but it is still worth doing. As a general rule, the amount of sleep we have during a break is a good indicator of our “true” sleep needs despite coping on fewer hours 

Sleep number Strategy:  

Keep a daily journal and jot down subtle changes or improvements for each period. You may notice improved thought processing such as word recall or being more articulate with conversations in addition to general wellness, increased motivation, waking more alert, noticeable change in demeanor either good or bad. Your partner or friends may comment on changes they are noticing. 

It is essential, if possible to note the times you wake during the night naturally as this will assist with the second strategy 


 The best time to do this is during a holiday break.  

Special note; Depending on your lifestyle, job or everyday stress, you may find you will experience an adrenalin crash during the first week of your holidays resulting in either getting sick or feeling very unmotivated and extreme tiredness.  This happens when you are leading a hectic life and your body is conditioned to running at high levels of stress. All of a sudden, you start winding down and your body doesn’t know how to cope at that level, so it produces an extreme state such as illness or collapse.  If you are this scenario, then you need to start winding down at least the week prior to your break to acclimatize your body. This will help to offset this natural negative response.  

Choose a bedtime and be strict with this. Sleep until you wake naturally and are ready to get up. Don’t set the alarm. Keep a record of how you feel with each time frame if it is varying. E.g. some nights you will sleep 7 hours and others 9 hours. Pay attention to your mental and physical alertness the following day and document in a journal or app how you feel. 

Bear in mind at the start of your break you may be sleep deprived from just living “life” so you may sleep longer than usual. After a few nights, you will likely adjust to your natural cycle. 

Whichever sleep timeframe you felt at your best in the morning and during the day will be your desired sleep number. For example

  • In bed 10pm and slept till 9am = 11hrs – felt tired and unmotivated
  • In bed 10pm and slept till 7am = 9 hours – felt ok when woke up
  • In bed 10pm and slept till 6.30 = 8.5hrs – felt sluggish but good during the day
  • In bed 10 pm and slept till 8.30 = 10.5 hours – Felt sluggish and unmotivated
  • In bed 10pm and slept till 7am = 9 hours – felt good when woke and during the day

This would indicate that this person need 8-9 hours to be at there optimal best and would most likely cope well on 7 hours. 9+ hours may mean they are oversleeping and pushing out their natural body clock resulting in the washed out feeling and lack of motivatiion. Allow at least 7-10 days for this exercise.

You may be surprised at the results.  I know I was.  

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