Why not to sacrifice it and how you can improve sleep.
I realized I've been neglecting this super important topic!
Everyone knows sleep is important. It's a given. If we are lacking, we can absolutely feel how important it is, physically for us.
Now, just a note. I'm gonna go off on some things to consider and try in order to get a better night's sleep, but there's one population that I want to partially excuse, moms of babies and young children. I believe you are all superhuman, first. I also believe that there is an evolutionary thing kicking in that allows you to function in ways that you couldn't normally. Not sleeping the night is important for that time, your body knows it, somehow it is equipped and someday it'll be easier. So just putting that out there.
Anyhow, we all know what it feels like when we have a lack of sleep- the fatigue, the irritability, the brain fog, the lack of motivation.
But there is so much more that, especially chronic lack of sleep causes.
It starts with also noticing that your hunger and eating schedule gets messed up. You're awake longer, so you're going to want to eat more, and usually the wrong snacks.
This definitely adds to the increased risk of obesity and also is linked to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and depression, according to the CDC.
It also doesn't allow the body the time to rest, heal itself, slow your heart rate, and to literally recharge mentally in order to reduce stress and anxiety.
And I think for most of us, we knew a lot of this information already. And many of us know that we should get more sleep. We also have unique needs when it comes to sleep, in regards to length of time, and what we need for quality sleep.
First is amount. It's generally known that we need less sleep as we get older, and women need more than men, sometimes by about an extra hour.
How do you know how much you need? Go to bed decently early on a day where you don't have to get up as early, like a weekend, preferably on a day where you don't need an alarm. When did you naturally wake up? Did you feel rested? Over time, try this at least two more times and as long as you woke up and felt rested, you now know how much you should aim for.
Say you figured out that you need 7 hours to feel rested. Say you have to be up at 7am. Bedtime at midnight? Wrong. Give yourself an extra 30 minutes to a half hour to accommodate "winding down", random wake-ups and those times where we wake up before our alarm. Aim for 11 to 11:30.
What if you have issues staying asleep or winding down?
Be aware of your unique needs. What actually makes you wind down? They say staring at screens doesn't allow people to get drowsy, but for me it's just the opposite. If I'm staring at a screen after 11:30pm, there's a good chance I'm falling asleep in front of it. TV's are the worst, but I have absolutely fallen asleep while gaming, sometimes even in a group.
Sometimes people read a book to get drowsy, others will be awake all night with a book in their hands.
So the bottom line is to have that list of activities that help you specifically fall asleep. Still at a loss? Try yoga, daydreaming, meditation, some sort of routine that slows you down, or just getting into bed sooner to take the time to get comfortable, so that you don't feel "in a rush" to get to sleep.
Still having a hard time? Try this: a lighter latest meal or snack, no alcohol before bed (sometimes makes my heart race, so that makes sense), adjusting the temperature and darkness amount, exercise more during the day, cut off caffeine earlier, and perhaps consider a magnesium supplement.
Other things to consider:
Is a pet waking you up? You may have to keep them out.
Is a spouse keeping you up? That means they need something different to sleep better too! Make it something to work on together.
Air quality and movement, some people need a fan.
A fitbit to monitor your sleep- mine instantly improved once I was aware of the numbers.
The support of your pillow
Fresh sheets and blankets
Your thoughts before going to bed. Come to peace with the end of your day. If you must go over your busy day in your head for tomorrow, do so for a moment and then consciously tell yourself you have spent enough time on it and that sleep is more important in order to get through it all. Gracefully transition your thoughts to slower, peaceful and happier ones, even if it's a daydream about a vacation.
And to the busy moms out there with the constantly interrupted sleep, kudos to you for making life happen. Hopefully these tips at least can improve the quality of the sleep that you do get.
Make sleep a priority. It really does help with quality of life. How do you think your sleep measures up?