The Value of Sleep
As a nation, I think we are overworked and overtired. We rush from appointment to appointment and task to task without thinking about the importance of rest. We tend to schedule every minute of our day, except the important evening hours we should be dedicating to sleep. According to numerous studies we are a sleep deprived nation.
So why am I talking about sleep? Well, because this week I had a malfunctioning carbon monoxide alarm in my Tiny House. After I ruled out an actual issue with carbon monoxide build up in my house, I tried to get the alarm to turn off. This turned out to be a futile endeavor. I spent almost three hours trying to sleep on my kitchen floor so I would be close enough to silence the intermittent alarm. Needless to say, I was not well rested the next day!
Here’s what I realized after only a few hours of sleep. I am not nice when I don’t have sleep…I am irritable and cranky and generally no fun to be around. I have a hard time concentrating and my creative energy is gone. One of the advantages of downsizing and generally slowing my life down is that I almost always get 8 hours of sleep now, which I absolutely love. This alarm incident was a great reminder for how important sleep is in my life.
Benefits of Sleep
Here is what I was reminded of this week. Sleep renews your mind, nourishes your soul, makes you more productive, allows you to handle stress more effectively and helps keep you healthy and fit. There have been tons of articles and books written in the last few years explaining why we should get more sleep. So if sleep does all of these things, are you making it a priority in your life?
I haven’t always made sleep a priority. In high school and college I was chronically overtired, a situation that remained an issue during my first job that required crazy shift work. Then a couple of years ago I was struggling with insomnia and restless sleep due to stress and anxiety.
What I have realized is how much better I feel when I am well rested. I am more fun to be around, I am more energetic, I am more likely to exercise and eat better and I am generally a lot more creative. realize throughout these “bad sleep” periods of my life is how During that time I read everything I could about sleep and how to improve my sleep cycle. Here are some of the things I learned.
1. Make sleep a priority
Until you decide getting enough sleep is a priority in life you will always find something else to fill your time. You’ll watch one more episode of your favorite TV show, flip through your Facebook account one more time or read a few more chapters of that new book before you climb in bed.
I think a lot of people look at sleep as a chore, something that has to be done, rather than a gift of replenishment. I know until about two years ago, I never gave much thought to how much I slept or when. However, once I decided that I wanted to get at least 8 hours of sleep a night I found it relatively easy to adjust my schedule to accommodate that priority. The fact that I love to sleep helps!
2. Protect your Regular Sleeping Hours
The experts recommend setting a standard time for going to sleep and getting up each morning. This includes the weekends. If our body is in a routine, we will find it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep the full recommended 8 hours a night. This means you might have to say no to evening invites or social engagements. Obviously the occasional late night won’t be the end of the world, but by committing ourselves to regular sleep hours we can become more productive, happy and healthy.
After all of my reading I also decided to eliminate naps. I know a lot of people swear by naps, and I still take the occasional 20 minute power nap, but regular napping can make it harder to go to sleep at night and can disrupt our sleep patterns. I tried skipping naps for a month and had a noticeable boost in my mood and energy. I find I can easily skip naps when I get the full 8 hours of sleep a night.
3. Establish a bedtime routine
If you have a hard time falling asleep when you climb in bed at night, experts recommend establishing a bedtime routine. By creating a routine you will prepare your body to go to sleep at the appointed time. Pick any routine that restful and relaxing to you.
My routine normally involves getting ready for bed, settling in and reading for 30 minutes or so before I go to bed. However, I have found reading to be a mixed blessing. Sometimes reading gets my mind going again, so this is one of those things I may cut out in the future.
4. Say no to electronics and distractions
I recently read an article that said our electronics to include TV’s, phones and tablets are probably the single biggest culprit in stealing our sleep. Not only does the glow from the electronics stimulate our eyes, technologically typically stimulates our cognitive function, which can make us more alert and tense…neither of which are good when we are trying to fall asleep.
In one study they recommended not looking at electronics for at least an hour before you are ready to fall asleep. I am trying to implement this in my routine, and I have to say I think it is helping me sleep more soundly.
5. Create a peaceful environment
Finally, make sure your sleeping environment is peaceful and relaxing. If your room is a mess, chances are you won’t be excited about climbing into bed at night. Take the time to remove distractions from your room and make your bed as comfortable as possible. I love my super fluffy comforter and pillows, it makes my bed feel like a retreat.
I also made a habit of making my bed every morning because for me, the action of climbing into a cozy made bed makes me feel relaxed and happy. Find what makes your room feel like a retreat and take the time to nurture that environment.
Are you getting enough sleep? If not, what can you do to change your schedule?