“Stress & Sleep”

blog post by Danielle Brown

Biocrystal - Stress & Sleep

Success in any environment is characterized by having a winning mentality. Spending seven years at the top of my game as a world record shattering, gold medal winning archery champion has given me a unique insight into exactly what it takes to thrive under pressure and employ that winning mindset to achieve a dream. It takes commitment, talent, mental toughness, discipline and relentless drive to be the best in the world, but none of that matters without a good night’s sleep! Researchers have discovered that sleep enhances performance, improving an athlete’s accuracy, reaction time, speed and concentration levels.

When you’re going for gold, everything riding on that one competition, sleep is an essential part of preparation. But you know what it’s like! The night before a big event, excitement starts to gnaw away and getting to sleep becomes an impossible task. Our thoughts take over, running wild as we mentally rehearse what’s about to happen and we end up lying wide awake for hours.

When you’re going for gold, everything riding on that one competition, sleep is an essential part of preparation. But you know what it’s like! The night before a big event, excitement starts to gnaw away and getting to sleep becomes an impossible task. Our thoughts take over, running wild as we mentally rehearse what’s about to happen and we end up lying wide awake for hours.

 

The biggest competition of my life, the one my entire career built up to, was when I got the opportunity to represent my home country in London 2012. Out there I was the hot favorite to win and I can’t begin to describe the immense pressure I was under. Winning gold meant everything to me. I’d worked so hard for it, giving up my hopes of a career in law so I could concentrate on my training and on that world stage I was given the chance to prove that I was worthy of taking the title. In a very tight match I dealt with all those expectations heaped upon me to clinch the gold and standing on that podium in front of my family and friends, gold medal around my neck, is one of the proudest moments of my life.

 

In the years leading up to London 2012 the bulk of my training focused on raising my mental game, learning how to channel that nervous energy into a winning performance. The night before my competition I wasn’t plagued by those “what if” thoughts, preventing me from getting to sleep. In fact I slept remarkably well in the Olympic village, something my training had helped me prepare for and which undoubtedly contributed to my success. But it’s not just elite athletes that benefit from a good night’s sleep! You will find yourself much more productive and efficient if your body is well rested, especially when life throws those curveballs your way.

 

After retiring from sport I am now using my story to help you accomplish your own goals and give you that competitive edge necessary for success. Those spectacular comebacks and world record breaking performances, where world class athletes dominate their fields are the result of  implementing established psychological techniques. Athletes have to perform under pressure when it matters the most and I am teaching others how to prepare and perform like elite athletes in the workplace.

 

Being able to thrive when the stress piles on is necessary in today’s economic climate. In the words of the prominent endocrinologist Hans Selye, “It is not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” A little bit of stress is stimulating, increasing your performance levels. But as you can see from the graph, too much stress becomes a problem.

 

Performance, efficiency and effectiveness all goes down and it indisputably wreaks havoc with your health and your sleep patterns.  Stress invades your thoughts at night, stopping you from sleeping and this lack of sleep makes you even more susceptible to getting stressed out. It’s a vicious cycle which forces you even further down.

 

Therefore improving your sleep will have a knock on effect on stress levels, equipping you with the energy to face all the pressures and strains inherent in your working life. Here are my top three tips to help when stress is keeping sleep at bay:

1. Relax before bedtime: It’s going to be a struggle to get to sleep if your brain is in overdrive. Working right up to bedtime and even watching fast-paced, action-packed television programs can contribute to this. Not only that, but the artificial light from computer, television or phone screens also inhibits your melatonin production, the hormone that is responsible for making you feel drowsy. With a heavy workload it is far too easy to work long hours, often finishing well into the evening. Set a cut off time where you will finish for the night and then fit in some time to relax. Examples of relaxing activities before bed can include reading, running a hot bath, meditation, listening to calming music and light stretches or exercise. This gives your brain time to switch off, so you’re not kept awake by lots of thoughts running through your mind.

 

2. Keep a stress journal: Many people find it therapeutic to keep a journal, writing down a few sentences about their day. Focus on all the things that have caused you stress, trying to find a plan of action to resolve these problems. Managing your thoughts has many benefits. After a while you will start to notice patterns emerging, giving you an insight into how you react to stress. This will enable you to respond to these stressors much more effectively in the future as you will start to develop coping mechanisms to deal with it. This strategy is also brilliant for helping you to sleep better. Once you have a solution in mind you are much less likely to lay awake at night worrying about the worst case scenarios. Remember not to do this exercise just before bed for the reasons stipulated in the first point.

 

3. Make yourself comfortable: Having the right support in bed ensures that you don’t wake up achey, tired and stiff, making getting up in the morning a lot easier! Instead of going out and buying a brand new bed I sincerely recommend the Biocrystal® SleePadTM. This product completely surpassed my expectations and after a few days I began to notice that I was sleeping longer and waking up feeling more refreshed. A notorious grouch in the morning, I couldn’t function until at least one cup of coffee but after using Biocrystal® I am awake and ready to start my day. I’ve even given up caffeine! The best part is that I can take my SleePadTM with me wherever I travel. This means that if I have an important meeting at the other end of the country or an international competition I know I will have the energy to perform at my optimal level the next day!