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Sleep is a fundamental health requirement. In her book, Trick Yourself to Sleep, Kim Jones shows us over 200 ways we can work with our body and mind to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
Kim, welcome to 40+ Fitness.
Hello. How are you?
I'm really good. And today we're going to talk about one of my favorite things, sleep. You wrote the book, Trick Yourself to Sleep, 222 Ways to Fall and Stay Asleep from the Science of Slumber. And going through all of those 222 of them, I would say I probably knew maybe half of them. So there's a lot in this book for someone to try if they're struggling with their sleep.
Good. I'm glad to hear that you've not heard of all of them because I think that was the whole reason I wrote the book. There's just so much out there you can do to help yourself sleep. It's not necessarily doing something just before bed. It can be doing things all through the day that can help set the scene for a perfect night's sleep. So, you know, there are a lot of things you can do. So my book, I hope people will be able to dip into, try test out a few things and find some new ways to get that perfect night's sleep
Excellent. Now, one that I hadn't really thought of, obviously as an adult, but it's something we do with our children is rocking. Can you talk about why rocking helps us sleep, and then a couple of ways that we can incorporate rocking into our lives. You know, cause like I'm not going to get my wife to do it. I weigh a little bit too much.
Exactly. That's the problem. I mean, it's obviously something we all do to our babies and our children when they're small enough to do it naturally, it's innate to naturally rock them to sleep, it's soothing. And you know, researchers have wanted to find out if the same sort of feelings can, the same drowsy things can be experienced by adults who rock. So a University of Geneva study. For example, they monitored people, adults who check in that rocking bed, which was like a hammock. And they found that they did in fact fall asleep faster. But what was really, really interesting was that they monitored their brain wave activity and they found that in those people who were rocking in this hammock, there was an increase in the type of brainwave activity that's associated with deep sleep. So it actually should suggest that rocking motions can synchronize your brainwave activity to that, to associate you with sleep. So how do we do it? Like you say, you're too big to be rocks by anybody. But of course there's the good old rocking chair. They are coming back into Vogue at the moment, especially with nursing mothers. There are lots of these chairs that have been sold might be able to find one an antique shop.
Well, no, no, they actually have them. If you live in the Southeast, I think mostly they're in Southeast, it's a store called Cracker Barrel, and they have these rockers outside when they have their long waits. If someone wants to sit out in the rocker and they actually do sell those rocking chairs. So if you're anywhere near the Southeast, you're going to be able to find a rocking chair at the Cracker Barrel.
Perfect. Well, there you go. There you go. So if you can't get hold of rocking chair, apparently now that aren't rocking beds, commercially being developed as we speak, I think in the US actually. And they are sort of as they fit onto your existing beds and they do actually have that beautiful, slow rocking motion. Again, they're quite expensive. So they might not be something we can get your hands on quite easily, but just simply rocking on your feet before bedtime can be relaxing. So it's very simple. You just, before bed, just stand with your feet about shoulder with the parts and just shift your body weight onto your heels. So that's backwards. So your toes lift off the floor and then shift your weight on to your toes so that your heels rockets the floor. And if you just continue rocking back and forth really slowly, breathing deeply as you do so you are setting that rocking motion in your body and you are hopefully then synchronizing your brainwave activity into that associated with deep sleep. And you've got the added advantage of stimulating acupressure points on your feet, which can come and relax you as well. So that's an easy way to do a rock some sort of rocking motion before bed, and then very calmly when you are finished rocking on the heels for a while and to do a stretch, then get into bed and it'll have calmed you down.
Yeah. And that's one thing, you know, at the end of a workout, you know, a lot of times if we're doing group training or you've done any group training, they'll finish up with some stretching and it's always kind of that just that relaxing you're laying on the floor, you're stretching out. So stretching and yoga actually are protocols that could help us sleep better. Could you tell us about that?
Yeah, absolutely. So yoga, myself I've not sort of ever been a huge yoga convert because I think before I tried it, I always thought it was difficult. You had to be really flexible, but of course that's totally not true. You can do so many yoga moves in the comfort of your own home, which are really easy and they don't require much flexibility. And when yoga moves is constantly mentioned when it comes to helping you sleep, nearly every yoga teacher I've talked to is totally, this one is the one to try. It's called legs up the wall. And it's thought to trigger your parasympathetic nervous system. That's the part of your nervous system that helps slow your heartbeat is helps you to relax and, you know, drop your blood pressures, everything down. It's really simple and you don't have to be flexible at all to do it.
So you simply, I don't know if you know this one, but you just sit on the floor with either your left or your right hip the wall, turn your body, keeping your bottom close to the wall. Then you bring your legs up on to the wall. And don't worry too much about how much your knees are bent. If it's more comfortable, you can keep your knees bent. Cause some people don't, can't actually straighten their legs completely against the wall. You can use pillows next to the wall or under your hips to support your back. It's gotta be comfortable for you to be in this position. Basically you are laying there with your legs up against the wall for a few minutes, breathing deeply. And it's really, really thought to somehow calm the nervous system and you can do it in bed against the headboard if that's at all feasible as well.
But that's definitely one pose, which I think you've got to try before anything, if you are going to do some yoga. And then do you want me to talk about any other poses? Like child's? Great stuff. So child's pose. If you are a yoga fan, you'll know the smell quite well, but again, it's one that is supposed to relax your body and mind very, very quickly, but you don't have to be too flexible again. And you can use lots of cushions and that kind of thing to help you. So you just get into a kneeling position. So you're sitting on your heels, their knees either together or it distance apart, whatever you feel more comfortable in and then roll the top half of your body forward. And if you can go a little forward until your forehead rests on the bed or the floor, wherever you're doing this particular exercise with your arms out stretched in front of you, that's fine.
But if you can't get your head to rest on the floor, I know I can't, I'm not that flexible, just rest your head on a pillow. So hold the pose for as long as it's comfortable and probably for a better maximum of three minutes. And just breathe slowly as you do, you're feeling your body, feel all your muscles sort of just getting out of that position. You've been in all day and it's a nice, relaxing, but easy blend, but there are even, there's an even easier one, which I like, which is just simply dangle there like a rag doll. So again, this is one that apparently in yoga, any head below heart pose, it's called an inversion in yoga is supposed to calm and relax the nervous system. So anywhere where you're putting your head below where your heart usually is, then that thought to really, really come down.
So again, with this one, you simply, you don't need much flexibility at all. You don't need really much strength or balance to hold the pose, but it can help release the tension and help people wind down. So if you want me to just quickly explain how it's done, you simply stand, start with your arms raised or the head, and then fold forward from your hips, reaching down towards your toes and then just hang there like a rag doll. Just as far as you can, no further, don't try to push it. Just allow all your muscles and your hair to hang heavily down and you'll feel the tension released from your shoulders. So just shake your arms loosely, back and forth, just like a ragdoll, soften your knees, if you need to. And just dangle there as long as you feel comfortable closing your eyes and breathing slowly and just letting your thoughts drift away.
And one important thing to do as well is to let out a big sigh because research shows that the actual act of sighing while you're doing this particular exercise can relieve stress and muscle tension. So there's a real reason why we say it is actually to release all that tension. So that's a nice one to do. And if you don't want to do while you're standing up, if you feel like you just want to do it when you're sitting down, you can do that at the edge of the bed as well. Simply fall forward like a rag doll at the at the edge of the bed and just get into bed afterwards. And hopefully that will have sort of loosens you up a bit more calm and relaxed.
Yeah. Stretching seems to always do that for me. It's just anytime I've ever done a class or whether it was yoga or just any other kind of fitness class, you get to the stretching part. And it's actually sometimes hard to not fall asleep on the floor.
Studies really have shown that stretching does help give you better sleep. So it doesn't matter what stretches you do as long as they're not really, you're not forcing anything to hurting yourself, but yeah, you're right. They will just calm you down. And like, you know, the science shows that study showed that women actually, who did a regular stretching routine for a few months, they reported better sleep afterwards. And things like stretching your legs can help. I don't know if you suffer like cramps at all in bed or restless leg syndrome, not something that really haunts a lot of people. They can't get to sleep with it, but if you do lots of leg stretches that can help with those such problems as well. And just generally sort of opening your chest as well. You know, we've all been in that position. If you're anything like me, you spend hours on the computer every day.
If you just open your chest before bed just means standing up straight and bringing your arms slightly behind you so that, you know, you're sort of correcting the rounded shoulders position that you might have been in all day. That's a nice one to do as well. That sort of loosens everything up because you don't want to get into bed with muscles that are tight and full of all the stress and tension that you've been living with through the day. Yes. So definitely like you say, like you do at the end of a workout, a nice stretch before bed really sort of loosens up.
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I'm a big fan, anything you want to change a journal is just your best friend. And you have several, you know, acts or tactics in the book that we can use a journal for. So do you mind going through a few of those and why they're valuable?
Yeah, of course. So really important to sort of get sort of worries out of your head before you get into bed. So a really good idea is to sort of schedule a time before bed. Quite a way before bed actually, cause you don't want these things particularly on your mind. So about six o'clock schedule, 15 minutes, which is called your worry time. And that's where you sit down with a pen and paper and you write out anything that's bothering you. And then you also write out some solutions, possible solutions to the problem. So, you know, this, it could be anything from, Oh, I know there's going to be a big bill coming in and you might want to write on the possible solutions. Okay, we going to have to cut back on this or that, but it sort of frees your mind from any niggles that might be there when you go to bed and it sort of stops you from worrying in bed.
So for example, if worry does come into mind at bedtime, you can actually say to yourself, I'm not going to worry about that now, because that'll be in my worry time tomorrow, it's scheduled for that 15 minute slot tomorrow. That's when I'll sorted out. That's when I'll worry about it. So it's sort of a way of putting your worries to bed if you like. And again, writing it to do list is really good. I mean, there's even been studies on this, where scientists have looked at a group of people who wrote out a detailed to do list. And then they looked at another group who wrote out a list of things they'd completed tasks they'd completed in the last few days. And it was actually the group who had written out their to do list before bed fell asleep quicker. And the more detailed the list they'd written, the quicker they fell asleep.
And again, it's the whole process of offloading on paper, things that have to be done. It helps free your mind from that responsibility and stops that list from going round and round in your head when you are in bed. So that's a good thing to do. Write all your worries and write your to do list before bed. And then another nice thing to do is think of good things, break down five good things every night that happened to you in the day. So it can be simple things such as getting a text from a friend or eating a great meal, just writing down things that are good in your life or something that you're grateful for. Again, studies, scientific studies have shown that writing these sort of a gratitude journal, or even just thinking about what's good and not bad in your life can help you fall asleep faster and longer.
So another nice reason to do that. And then keeping a sleep diary. I think you might've heard of that where you, I think you mentioned that, you know, it's a good way to find out what you're maybe doing wrong in the day that's a making you sleep badly. So in the book, I've got the details of how you can do that. You know, just buy a nice notebook. Then online, you can find really good sleep diary templates, where you can copy that section of the book and you fill in every day sort of what happened, what time you went to bed, what time you woke up, how many times in the night you might've woken. And then there's another section to put in what you ate and drank and when, and what exercise you had, whether you napped, and what you did in that hour before bed. So at the end of every week you can examine your diary for any patterns and you can see what's maybe helping or hindering your that way. So that's a nice way to sort of keep track of what you're doing and what you can make better. Yeah. So yeah, lots of ways, just sort of just writing things out on paper. I think actually I'd prefer to do it with a pen and paper myself. I think it sort of goes in better than doing anything on the computer.
Well, one of the advantages of doing it, I mean, my to do list is on my computer. As far as the rest of it, you know, journaling on paper, you're doing this, you can do this by candlelight because we know blue light computers, screens, are not necessarily things we need to be doing that the last hour before we go to bed. So if you're sitting there and particularly one of the things you had in there was just to write down a reminder. So if you were turning out the light and get ready to go to bed, and all of a sudden it was, Oh, boom, I've got to meet someone at seven o'clock, you know, or I've got to go do this thing. I need to write myself a reminder, or I need to, you know, or you're going to stay awake all night thinking about it? So it's just, you know, your alarm is set when it needs to be set, you know, you're going to be up, but just the reminder so that, okay, I know I have to do this thing, or, you know, so just getting that off your chest. And if you, again, if you get on your computer or your phone to do that, then you're dismantling some of the things we've done with the other work we've been doing.
Yeah, absolutely. That's right. So keep that pen and paper by the bed. Don't, whatever you do, like you say, don't pick up your phone to put it on your list because that's going to hold that light, that blue light coming from your phone is going to stop you from producing melatonin, which is your sleepy hormone. So just literally scroll on that piece of paper in the dark. I mean, it might look like a complete mess in the morning, but I'm sure you'll know what it says, but that's what you should do. Keep the lights up and just scroll. So you're giving your mind permission to forget about it. So it's not going to stop you from falling asleep.
Yeah. Now I have this client and you know, I go through a lot of the protocols with her but she's blind. So it's obviously, you know, the red light/blue light thing is not something that she can really do. You know, we've talked about her meds, everything she's taking shouldn't be a problem. She's got her hormones pretty much in check for a woman her age and what she's gone through in life, but she still really, really struggles with sleep. And from a health and wellness perspective, it's really bringing her down. What's some advice that you would give to someone who pretty much feels like they've just about tried everything, but still struggling to fall asleep.
Yeah. It's not nice, is it? And it happens to a lot of us. I think that the problem is sometimes we get into a vicious circle where, you know, we've had trouble with sleeping and then we walk into our bedroom. And as soon as we walk in, we associate that room with worry and sleeplessness, and it's just an awful sort of, is almost waiting to happen. You know, just know I'm not going to be able to sleep in it. It's sort of a self fulfilling really. But you know, sometimes anxiety can keep us awake. The whole thing of feeling that there's something wrong with us. Why can't we sleep? And cognitive behavioral therapy is really good helping tackle that the sort of mindset you have to sleep. And there is a particular branch of cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia CVTI, which is really helpful for helping reduce that anxiety we feel.
And it's recognizing all of that negative and exaggerated thoughts we have about sleep and then challenging them and then replacing them with more realistic, really telling us that it's normal. Everybody wakes up at certain points in the night, but we do all have the capacity to sleep. So you can actually try, you can get told of therapists who can help you with that obviously. Or you can train yourself by making sort of a thought record and that involves again, getting a nice book you feel happy writing in. And sort of writing out your thoughts and sort of what's maybe you could say the thoughts I'm having about sleep at the moment might be, you know, I'm laying in bed. I really can't sleep. Or gosh, I need 8 hours tonight, why can't I sleep? There's something wrong with me. And then you write how this all makes you feel.
And then obviously that thought will make you feel anxious or panicky or hopeless. And then you write a more realistic, balanced version of your thoughts and where you might say something like, okay, well, it would be nice to get that solid 8 hours, but not everybody really needs 8 hours to function. Well, there's plenty of evidence that support the beliefs that, you know, people can get by on six or seven hours. So there's lots of ways to do this particular exercise, but my book does explain quite easily how to do it. And eventually if you start challenging or negative thoughts in this way, not only at night, but even through the day, if you start to recognize when you're getting into a negative thought pattern and then you try and look at it in a more sort of calm and balanced way, and then it just becomes more of a habit that you start to challenge your thoughts, and then you actually sort of stop panicking in your mind so that, you know you're actually calming down your whole nervous system by thinking in this way. You're being kind to yourself, you know, sort of all the good fit, the feel good hormones are coming out rather than the anxiety inducing hormones is switching off the adrenaline in your mind, and that all can help with falling asleep.
In the end, it takes a little bit of practice, I've got to say, because you know, your initial thoughts when you're laying there for two hours, and you're not always likely to feel that way, but you can train your mind to be less catastrophic. If you like you can train your thoughts to veer away from that side of a feeling to a more calm and realistic side. So, you know, maybe that's something that your client could look at.
Well, cause the, the mind/body thing is, is so, so huge in anything that you're telling yourself you know, sweats was it Ford who said, if you think you can, you can, if you think you can't you're right. You know, either way, something like something like that. Anyway, I butchered that, but you know, what we tell ourselves is typically going to be true, unless we take the time to remap the way we think about things, the way we structure it, then we're setting ourselves up. So I see that, you know, and when you're getting hormone responses and the fight or flight, just out of being in the bedroom, that's not how to start a good night's sleep.
It's really not. And there's another section called acceptance therapy where you actually accept worrying thoughts in a way that's almost you know, you welcome them. There's a particular proponent in the UK, Dr. Guy Magis, who I interviewed him once. And he said to me, what you should do, if a worrying thought enters your mind at night, you should welcome it as if it's a friend. So you should say something like, Oh, hello, worry. Here you are again, how are you? And by welcoming this in that way, you are switching off the stress, you're, like you just said, you know, you are changing your whole mindset, your body reactions then become different. You're not under threat. So your fight or flight system is not coming on. So that's another sort of way to try and change your thoughts, sort of welcome those thoughts as you would a friend.
Yeah. Now, as I mentioned, when we first started the show, I'm a huge fan of sleep and also a huge fan of napping when you need to nap and I'm a regular napper. But in the book you go through and I've seen this advice several times, but it doesn't really fit the way I like to nap. So, you know, as you share in the book, and many people may know a standard sleep cycle typically lasts about 90 minutes. And so there's about four or five, depending on what school of thought you want to term things, as you go through there's lite, sleep REM sleep, and then deep, deeper. But anyway, as you go through those sleep cycles, it's, you want to go through all of them. And if you're getting good sleep, that's what's happening. So for me taking a nap, I want that 90 minute nap because I go through a full sleep cycle and I wake up feeling really good.
And if I do that early enough in the afternoon, waking up no later than say 3:30/4:00, I'm, I'm good to go. But other people may need to nap less. Can you kinda just talk about napping and you know, the shorter version, cause I've done that too, you know, like at work and you can't, they're not gonna let you lay at your desk for an hour and a half. So going out to the car and taking a quick little 20 minute snooze was what, all the time I had so I've done both, but I can tell you, they both have value.
Yeah. Yeah. And, you know, that just sort of illustrates the fact that everybody's different. Everybody needs different amounts of sleep. Everybody, you know, some people can do things during the day, like have a long nap and it doesn't interfere with nighttime sleep. Other people, you know, even if they do 5/10 minutes, that's going to interfere with heir night time. So there's no one size fits all. But the general advice is that your nap should be 10 to 20 minutes, no longer than 30 minutes. Because after that, you get into that deep stage of sleep. It's very typical to wake up from you get brain fog, you're sluggish and you know, if you can carry on and go through the whole sleep cycle, like you've done then brilliant. But like you're saying not many of us have that time during the day to do that.
But one thing I would say is the timing of your nap is really important because between 1 and 3:00 PM in the afternoon, we experienced a small drop in our core body temperature. Now that's something that happens every night and it acts as a signal to our brain to release melatonin, our sleeping hormone. And so that drop in body temperature happens every night about 9:00 PM or when dusk falls or whenever, just sort of starts to make you feel sleepy. It also happens at this time between 1 and 3:00 PM. If you want to work with that natural depth in your body temperature and work with your body's natural circadian rhythm, then maybe 2:00 PM would be the ideal time to have that sleep. And as I say, if you just don't want to get into, if you don't want to be woken from the deep stage of your asleep, then stick to 10 to 20 minutes and definitely no longer. But yeah, it would be nice to have the 90 minute nap every day, but I don't think we've all got that luxury unfortunately.
I just thought I hate being woken up during my deep sleep time. It just, I get angry, which is why I stopped using an alarm clock four years ago. Unless I have to get up for a flight. I'm like, I'm going to use my natural rhythms and I'm going to wake up when it's light sleep and I'll look at it. But if I wake up, you know, I'm supposed to be up at six o'clock and I wake up at 5:30, I'm up, you know, there's no sense in me trying to get another round of sleep because it's not going to happen for me. So yeah, I'm one of those that I hate alarms and I hate being woken up and you can ask my wife, that's just, don't wake him up when he's in deep sleep.
Yeah. Same with my other half yeah, let sleeping dogs lie, as they say, just leave them alone. But there's another bonus to not napping during the day because I know a lot of specialists actually say, don't nap it'll interfere with your natural drive to sleep later in the night. But I think a really good bonus side to napping is that it helps retrain your brain to realize that falling asleep can be easy because usually if you're having a nap during the day, you're tired, it's not difficult to fall asleep. So you're actually telling, your brain is saying, Oh, okay, well that was easy, I fell asleep. So in a way, it you know, it could help retrain you to sleep better at night as well.
Now, again, the book has 222 ways, and there's no way we could cover all of them in a podcast. And some of them are really, really good. We, like I said, I love sleep. We could talk, I could talk about it for hours. So this is, this is just really cool to be able to try these things out, get a journal together, start recording the things that are working for you and those that aren't and find the right thing for you. Kim, I define wellness as being the healthiest, fittest and happiest you can be. What are three strategies or tactics to get and stay well?
Okay. So I'm obviously gonna say get enough exercise more because we're all, so many of us are just sitting at a desk for 7 to 10 hours a day and that's just not natural. So I definitely advise everybody to move about more and to get your exercise. It doesn't matter what sort of exercise, you know, as long as you enjoy it, it's gotta be enjoyable for you to stick at it. So whether, you know, you like walking or tennis or whatever, just make it a regular habit. And again, you're going to help your sleep by doing that. All the research points to, if you are a regular exercise, it doesn't matter if you do aerobic or a mix of aerobic and resistance training, all this science points to the fact that you can sleep better because sometimes if you go to bed and you haven't done any exercise during the day, you're not going to be tired enough to fall asleep usually.
So I'd say definitely get enough exercise and move more. Personally. I also, what makes me happy is getting my daily dose of being outdoors. I think if we stay cooped up indoors all day, we're exposed to so much artificial light from our electric lights, our TVs, iPads, blah, blah, blah. It's sort of what we're exposed to unnatural light patterns that confuses our body clocks. So keep your body clued up, but getting outside, I love being outside exposed to all the natural patterns of daylight and dusk helps my body clock. I just love being surrounded by nature. I'm lucky enough to live near woods, you know, plenty of outdoor spaces, but no matter where you live, I think just being outside and connecting somehow, no matter how small with nature is just so good for you, good for your body, good for your mind, it helps you slow down.
You know, listen to that bird song, listen to the ocean waves, walk and enjoy what's around you. And you're getting all that natural benefits of the, you know, what time of day it is, you're keeping your body aware of what time it is. And you're likely to get better sleep that way as well because your body knows when to start producing melatonin because it's getting dark or it knows when to stop producing melatonin because it's daylight. And the other thing I'd say is, and this is something that I've only really started doing in the last few years is meditating, but it's not meditating in a really big way. It's not something that has to take up hours of your time. My meditation will be just literally, if I am, if I've gone to bed and I'm not falling asleep quickly, I just do a very quick meditation, which is something like the hundred steps.
Like just pretend I'm at the top of this beautiful mountain and counting down from a hundred and each step I take down takes me sort of, lowers everything and my heart rate, my breathing slows and meditation is fantastic for sleeping because actually loads of research has been done into how it actually changes the structure of your brain. And it sort of diminishes the concentration of gray matter the amygdala, which is the area of the brain associated with anxiety and stress. And it's even find that people who meditate before bed can increase their output of melatonin, the sleepy hormone. So it's got to be good for you just slowing down your breathing, slowing down your heart rate and taking yourself somewhere in your mind that's really pretty and calming. So yeah, those are my three things that I think can help you live a healthy life.
Thank you, Kim. If someone wanted to learn more about you and learn more about the book, Trick Yourself to Sleep, where would you like for me to send them?
Okay, so it's published by a fantastic and the experiment. So you can find them at theexperimentpublishing.com they're based in New York. My website is KimJoneswrites.co.uk. The book is available from all good stockists and online places like Amazon and Barnes and noble and Books-A-Million that kind of thing. And it's all information's on the website.
Okay. You can go to 40plusfitnesspodcast.com/439, and I'll be sure to have the links. So Kim, thank you so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness.
Thank you so much for having me. It's been a pleasure.
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