TTC: I’m not really into new year resolutions. Instead, I like to think of one word that I would like to try and incorporate more into my life the following year. Then when I’m up against it, or stressed, or thinking about taking on more, I can come back to my word and ask, ‘does this fulfil my resolution?’ If yes, great – I go ahead. If not, I can say no – happy in the knowledge that I’m staying on track.

My word this year is ‘rest.’

I know I’m not alone in needing more. I was talking to my friend Sarah and she told me, ‘I’m exhausted. I feel like I’m making poor decisions all the time because I just don’t have the space to think clearly. I can’t remember the last time I had a good nights sleep. All I want to do is find the time to rest more.’

Rest can feel unachievable

But for some of us the idea of rest can throw us into a spin. ‘Who the hell has time for rest?’ ‘It’s a luxury I just can’t afford right now.’ ‘I’ll rest later, right now I need to work’. Or alternatively it can be seen as being lazy. ‘What, you have time for a cat-nap? I wish I had your life.’ You meditate in your lunch hour? I’d love to but I just don’t have the time.’

Rest as a choice

As our to-do list grows, it’s easy to let self-care drop off the list. Many of us feel constantly exhausted, strung out and ready to snap at the smallest thing. If we don’t prioritise activities like rest, it often doesn’t happen. Like eating well and exercising, we need to make time for rest, and plan for it.

The easiest way is to get more sleep.

The simple fact is that women need more sleep than men. No matter how you spin it, research shows that men and women are biologically designed to need different amounts of sleep. Current research shows that women need an average of twenty to thirty minutes more of sleep each night than men. And while women need more sleep, research also shows that most women aren’t getting the rest they need.

Why sleep is the answer

When your mother told you that everything would look better in the morning, she was wise. In the excellent book, ‘Why We Sleep’ by sleep scientist, Matthew Walker, he writes about the positive effects of sleep.

We sleep in 90 minute cycles, and it’s only towards the end of each one of these that we go into deep sleep. Each cycle comprises of two kinds of sleep. There is NREM sleep (non-rapid eye movement sleep); this is then followed by REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Walker explains, ‘During REM sleep, your brain goes into this incredible synchronised pattern of rhythmic chanting,’ he says. ‘There’s a remarkable unity across the surface of the brain, like a slow deep mantra.’

Yogis have known this for years. During the ancient deep relaxation practice of Yoga Nidra, (or yogic sleep) the body is consciously put into the REM state which yogis call ‘turiya’. This is the deep, healing, restful sleep that we need to replenish and restore our bodies and our minds. If you’re sleep deprived and need rest – yoga nidra is one answer. There are others too…

Other ways to get a better quality of sleep

In 1942, less than 8% of the population was trying to survive on six hours or less of sleep a night; in 2017, almost one in two people were. We now spend more time awake than ever before. One way to find out if you need more sleep is to ask yourself, ‘Would I sleep on if my alarm clock didn’t go off?’ If the answer is yes, you need more sleep. Here are 5 ways to get better sleep:

5 ways to sleep better:

  1. Give yourself a non negotiable 8 hours of sleep each night. Keep regular hours. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
  2. Go to bed earlier. Set an alarm so that you have at least half an hour to wind down before you go to bed.
  3. Turn off computers, TV’s and phones at least half an hour before bed. Light is a profound degrader of sleep.
  4. Don’t regularly work late or pull all-nighters. Many of us don’t have set start and finish times so we work late. This makes it harder to get to sleep.
  5. Practice your breathing techniques before bed e.g. bhramari bee breath or yoga nidra. They will help you slow down your mind and prepare you for a good nights rest.

And finally…if you’re a night owl you might be a bit disheartened by this list. Don’t be. Research tells us that a 20 minute cat-nap during the day improves alertness and performance without leaving you feeling groggy or interfering with night time sleep. If you know you’re not getting your 8 hours, finding a quiet corner in the day to get your head down is a great way to top up.

*TTC – Trying to Conceive