How is A Balloon the Key to a Good Nights Sleep?

March 18th, 2021

By Kathryn Buxton

I don’t know about you but a good night’s sleep has become more and more elusive in my old age. Ok, I’m only 61 but you know what I mean – you go from sleeping deeply for hours when you’re younger to being hyper-alert during the night when you have a young family. Then it’s downhill from there; the worries and stresses of adulthood take hold and plague you at 3 in the morning.

Like me, maybe you catch up on sleep during the day with a nap or choose to plough through the day with copious amounts of caffeine. However you cope, the nagging feeling that you’re sleep-deprived and rarely wake up from a night’s sleep feeling refreshed and ready for the day creeps up on you. Some of you might just shrug your shoulders and admit defeat. Giving in to the notion that this is the way it’s always going to be from now on. But, like looking after your physical and mental health, giving your sleep patterns a good overhaul could be your ticket to nights of blissful slumber.

I spoke with Joanna Kippax, a Sleep Hygienist who founded Wye Sleep after years of working in Children’s and Adult Mental Health. She noticed that many children who were diagnosed with Attention Deficient Disorder (ADD), were in fact sleep deprived and that once good sleep hygiene was put in place their attention improved greatly. Not only does Joanna know the extent of the benefits of a good nights sleep, but she also knows how to get it!

7 Ways To a Better Nights Sleep

1. Get Some Light in the Morning

According to Joanna Kippax, our body needs to experience as much light as it can during the day to help set our body clock. So get out in the morning for a walk, some time in the garden, or just stand in front of an open window to soak up some of that natural sunlight. Obviously, there is less light in the winter and it isn’t always possible to get out if the weather’s bad. Why not buy a daylight lamp or a daylight bulb which helps imitate natural light? Turn the daylight lamp on first thing in the morning to simulate daybreak and watch how your body starts to learn when it is time to wake up and when it is time to sleep.

2. Adjust Your Mindset

Unfortunately, we live in a culture that admires people who can function on little sleep. It’s almost seen as a badge of honour that you can stay awake all night working or partying and then go to work the next morning. We even extend this culture to our children, who are rewarded with staying up late if they are good. According to Joanna, we need to understand the vital importance of sleep and reward ourselves and our children with going to bed early. Joanna believes we need to start seeing sleep as a wonderful, luxurious experience and not something to try to avoid. How can we expect to properly function if we are missing out on vital REM time?

3. One Bad Nights Sleep Won’t Hurt You

Did you know that a few bad night’s sleep is completely normal? Just as our day time activity varies, so does our night time pattern of sleep. But if we have a couple of night’s bad sleep – we go to bed anxious that we won’t sleep and that floods the body with adrenalin and the hormone cortisol. These stress hormones then ensure that we don’t sleep and so a vicious circle develops and we end up having more night’s bad sleep than we need to. Instead of tossing in bed and counting down the hours until morning, try to give yourself a break. Stop clock watching, read a book, put on some relaxing music or go and get yourself a cup of tea. You will benefit more from feeling relaxed and will soon find those elusive Z’s.

4. Bad Night’s Sleep? Don’t Take It Easy The Next Day

This might sound counter-intuitive but if you’ve had poor sleep don’t try and take it easy the next day. Joanna likens our ability to sleep at night to blowing up a balloon. The more we fill the day with things like exercise and social contact, the more our balloon fills up and is ready to sleep, and crucially, stay asleep. If you take it easy, then the balloon is not full enough by bedtime and could lead to another poor night’s sleep.

5. Go To Bed When You’re Sleepy

There is a tendency to believe that you should be in bed at a certain time, getting a set amount of hours of sleep each night. But it’s important that you hit the sack when you are feeling sleepy. So if that means staying awake for an hour longer than your normal bedtime then so be it! Maybe read or finish a chore or chat with your partner for a while. The key is to go to bed when the balloon is fit to burst and you feel exhausted.

6. Get Up at The Same Time. Every. Single. Morning.

For those of you who like a lie-in, this is not going to be good news! According to Joanna, one of the key things for a night of good sleep is to wake up at the same time every morning – even at weekends! Waking at regular times sets the body clock to start the process of filling the balloon again. If you lie in then you’ve allowed yourself less time to fill up the balloon during the day which could impact the quality of sleep you have the next night.

7. DON’T Nap!

Joanna recommends not having a nap during the day as this will deflate the balloon and leave you less tired at night time. She says you want to build your sleep drive throughout the day so you’re able to sleep at night. However, a 20-minute nap before 3 o’clock is less harmful – as long as it’s no longer than 20 minutes. She suggests having a caffeinated drink before the nap as this takes about 20 minutes to kick in and should wake you up. A 20-minute power nap can boost your concentration by about 30%, any longer than that and you go into a deeper sleep cycle, which is a bit like eating a donut before a big meal and will interrupt your nighttime slumber.

The most important thing to realise about sleep is that just as no two days are the same then no two nights are the same either. A few bad night’s sleep is the norm and your body will always sleep at some time during the night:

“If you haven’t had a good night, the chances of you sleeping better the next night are actually greater because you’ve got more chance to blow up the balloon.” – Joanna Kippax

So next time you find yourself tossing and turning in bed – don’t let the mind worry too much and remember there are ways you can help prepare yourself for a good night’s sleep.

Listen to Joanna Kippax chat about sleep in our podcast Things You Should Care About:

Find more from Joanna here.