Tag Archives: Sleep disorder

This post is inspired by sundaebean.

We often hear our fellow expats complain about a lack of sleep and work taking over their lives -it seems that expat lives involve far too much work and impact sleep significantly. So for this edition, I thought I would talk about setting certain ground rules in our lives to get out of overdrive.

Getting Out of Overdrive Mode in Life

Christine Hansen, sleep expert and founder of Sleep Like a Boss, has detailed and often surprising insight into how expats can improve their sleep hygiene. Let’s dive in:

  • Before any ground rules can be established, it is important to figure out why expats have such frequent complaints about their sleep. The root cause can be traced down, surprisingly, to expats themselves. We just want to do everything as international professionals. Work, explore new locales, experience the local food and culture and architecture, give time to the family back home in another time zone and engage the kids in activities. As a result, sleep is the first thing that gets sacrificed in the quest to make each day last longer.
  • Many people, expats or otherwise, still question the science behind needing to sleep a certain minimum amount. The evidence is clearly there in your daily productivity – work output is shoddier and error-prone and any time you theoretically “saved” by sleeping less is consumed in correcting those mistakes. The evidence is also there in the long-term effects of low sleep, our bodies deteriorate with age and too little sleep not only accelerates it, but it also leaves us vulnerable to a host of symptoms and illnesses. Is that really a price worth paying for “a little more time” every day?
  • Sticking to the scientific approach, a good approach for expats who want to do it all is to figure out precisely how much sleep they need. It may seem counter-intuitive, but you start by getting slightly less sleep than you need. Then, by keeping the time you wake up at unchanged for the next two weeks – maybe use an alarm, you work your way backward in increments of 30 minutes until you reach a point where you find yourself waking up just a few minutes before the alarm is supposed to go off. That point may be less than 8 hours for some people, more than that for others, but this exercise will allow you to pinpoint the right amount for yourself. That way, you can schedule the rest of your life around the optimal sleep time.
  • As with most things in life, consistency is key to establishing great sleep hygiene and getting optimal quality sleep. That can sometimes get difficult if you have kids and have to travel, jet lag is the ruin of any good sleep routine! That’s why it’s important to try and continue on that routine even during travel, it really helps! An interesting tip here, especially for children, is to make certain fragrances part of the “going to sleep” routine. Our bodies react really strongly to familiar scents, so you can take these fragrances everywhere you go and they will help maintain the same sort of sleep your children get in the comfort of their own beds. This works for adults too, our olfactory senses really are that amazing!
  • Let’s face it, most expats have busy lives. There are many however whose lives are so busy that they frequently have no time for themselves and they end up encroaching on sleep time for their hobbies. The recommendation for them, inflexible and tough as it sounds, is to schedule “me” time in advance. It’s really the only way to consistently squeeze in hobbies and relaxation time into the very busy schedules.
  • Throughout these suggestions, the recurring theme has been “add structure, plan your sleep and your life around sleep” which can seem boring, but the benefits reaped from high-quality sleep are immense! Tired people are irritable, prone to more illness and generally not nice to be around. I am sure we can all relate to that last one!
  • One thing that can really help you get into the right frame of mind to improve your sleep hygiene is to remind yourself why you are doing it: Whether it’s for better work performance, or quality time with family, reminding yourself why you want quality sleep will help you be motivated – it’s human nature to prioritize yourself last and choosing external motivators will prove more effective for this.

To wrap up, one last tip: Something you can do immediately to improve your sleep hygiene is to start a sleep journal. Just take five minutes out of your day to just jot down all the crap and rubbish and stress you face in a day. That way, you’ll take it out of your brain and see an immediate uptick in the quality of sleep you get.

Many of my clients are stressed and anxious. Moving to a new country is one of the top ten stress factors in life.

Birds relocating

I recommend you learn progressive muscle relaxation (PMR)

Progressive Muscle Relaxation is a guided exercise where you tense and release muscles in your body either sitting or lying down. It is proven to have a healing effect on the body and helps you into deep relaxation. The effects range from better and deeper sleep to better concentration and in some cases better relationships on all levels. It is important that you make Progressive Muscle Relaxation a routine. I recommend to practice after lunch and before you go to bed.

Why I recommend it

Most of you have to learn 101 new little details every day which is one of the hardest challenges when you move abroad. You often also have to take care of several family members. Your own needs often fall behind. I perceive most of you as tense, nervous and many of you report that you do not get enough sleep.

Often in a new location you also change nutritional habits and your weight often goes up. Being heavier increases your stress level.

Where to find short teasers

You can try out PMR with these videos before you buy a CD >> CD in English.

Let me know what your experience is with this technique.