When I was a kid, I never wanted to go to sleep. My parents would give me milk and cookies and send me off to bed, but as soon as they tucked me in and closed the door, I’d turn my flashlight on under the covers and read a book, or write notes to friends. I would stay up until all hours of the evening, g-d forbid I might miss something!
Well things haven’t changed much -- I still have to force myself to go home, shut off the TV, tear myself away from the electronics and make myself go to sleep. Until recently, I ignored my body when it told me I was tired. Why? Because I am invincible of course! Sleep? I don’t need no bloody sleep!
It got to a point where I didn’t know what it was like to feel rested.
Over time, however, the ramifications became clear. I didn’t feel as sharp. My memory started to fail. Typos would creep into my emails. And from a vanity perspective, I looked puffy and washed out.
I needed to change. So over the last year or so I have made a concerted effort to focus on getting more sleep. To experience what that actually feels like and how it affects me.
The average American gets 6.8 hours of sleep per night, way below the recommended 7 – 9 hours (how much you need varies by individual). Studies show that consistently getting a good night’s sleep results in a focused productive mind, better mood, reduced inflammation (the cause of many diseases), improved health, increased libido and better weight control. Ever notice how you are thinner when you wake up than when you go to sleep? That’s because you really are! Your body has spent the night exhaling carbon atoms and water vapor, and thus the weight loss. Sleep also regulates the appetite hormones (ghrelin and leptin), so with a good night’s sleep you will eat less, and hence keep your weight in check.
An additional bonus is alleviation of pain, since your body focuses on repair (plus the reduced inflammation helps).
Given the data on the benefits of sleep, it’s a no brainer to make it a priority! Even just one extra hour a night can help.
But how? Article after article suggested things I didn’t want to do. Like that stubborn child who doesn’t want to go to bed! Begrudgingly I started to implement some of the tips, not every one every night, but many and often. And they have worked!
- Make your bedroom cozy and sleep inducing – use yummy blankets and pillows
- Keep the bedroom dark – in a city like NY that can be tough, but close the shades, or better yet get those black out shades. Cover up any blinking lights like the wireless router, or that digital humidifier screen
- Use amber light bulbs as the evening approaches
- Ditch the electronics – they give off blue light, which stimulates your brain and suppresses melatonin. Not good at bedtime (you can download an app like F.Lux which dims your computer screen as the day goes on, reducing blue light)!
- Create a sleep ritual to signal bedtime is approaching – have a cup of mint or chamomile tea, listen to soothing music, take a bath with Epsom salts and/or use an eye pillow or mask.
- Keep your hands and feet warm -- your blood vessels will dilate, allowing heat to escape and body temperature to fall, initiating sleep.
- Get 20 minutes of fresh air during the day.
Note: If you wake up congested, you may want to wash that dust ruffle or vacuum.
Things to avoid: caffeine, alcohol, sugar or strenuous exercise too close to bedtime. And, if you’re eating late, go for light snacks/meals.
Even with all of that, sometimes my mind is unable to shut down. I find that writing down whatever chatter is ruminating in my brain helps me get it out of there, and is conducive to falling asleep. Heck, it will be there when I get up!
One of my favorite remedies is to practice deep breathing, especially if you wake up during the night. It’ll lull you right back to sleep.
Although I still don’t find it easeful to go to bed, it’s gotten much better and I am pleased to report I can tell the difference already.
I’ve especially found sleep to be the only thing that has helped me recover from the cough making its way around the country that I’ve succumbed to.
What kind of sleeper are you? What small change can you make in your routine to allow for more or better quality sleep? Please share!
I have friends who could fall asleep standing up, and I envy them! That will never be me, but I can dream.
Marjorie, Chief MOJO Maker™