Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Beauty of Sleep

Ahhh, sleep...I love it. A cool room, a snuggly blanket, my favorite soft pjs and I'm down for the count. No issues falling asleep or staying asleep for me. I could sleep for hours. Power naps? Forget it! Take out the contacts, get comfortable, crash on the couch for 2 or 3 hours, that's my style of nap. So what's the problem? I don't get enough of it!

That's one reason why sleep, in all its beauty, is my healthy habit focus right now.

I don't have to tell you that we're not getting enough sleep or all the reasons why we're not, because you already know. I'm sure you could spout off a mile long list of all the reasons why you have to get up so early and stay up late to get it all done. We keep pushing it further down the list and learn to live each day in a sleep deficit. It takes its toll over time. Sometimes it seems hopeless, but some of you may have controllable issues (as I do) and can do something about it. Let's do it!

Why is sleep so important?

I could do an entire series on this, and just may! Here are a few key reasons

  • Lack of adequate sleep has been tied to weight gain and obesity and potentially other major diseases
  • Your body needs it for tissue repair and recovering from strenuous workouts
  • It is a primary time of hormone regulation, including stress and growth hormones
  • It helps improve concentration and energy levels
  • You won't be awake to eat that extra food!

How much sleep should I get?

This varies by person but more and more sources are saying that 7-8 hours may be optimal. Quite honestly, 8 hours doesn't seem to be enough for me (I prefer about 9), but that may be because I'm rarely fully rested. You're probably calculating times and numbers in your head just as I am. Start with the time you must get up in the morning to get ready and start your day. Count back from that. That's the time you need to be asleep! Don't stop there. Figure out how long it takes you to do your bedtime ritual and count back again. If your ritual isn't particularly relaxing, you must count back even further to add time in between so you can relax. This is going to be hard, but really worth it.

Can't I just catch up on my sleep on Saturday mornings?

I used to do this, and I guess that's better than nothing, but it still doesn't solve the issue of not enough hours of quality of sleep at a time for enough days in a row. Even better is to work toward consistent sleep every night and to keep the weekend as close to your normal sleep pattern as possible. Plus, if you're like me and you get extra sleep on Saturday, you'll just void it out by staying up too late Saturday night. Busted!

What if I'm a night owl or an early bird?

If you're a night owl (like me), the answer is, give in to your rhythm or bursts of energy, but then make sure when you go to bed you have 8 hours to sleep. Find your pattern and be consistent. That may be an answer, but not necessarily a solution if the rest of your world starts early and won't conform. That means, night owls, that you'll have to get control of yourself and attempt a compromise by altering your pattern. I'm having to do the same thing. Same is true of you crazy early birds. Maybe you can get up and get an entire day's worth of work done before the rest of the family stirs, but if you go to bed late you still may be operating on too little sleep. Perhaps you can alter your pattern too or your family can conform a little and get to bed earlier.

Here's what else I'm working on, that might also help you:

Explore and find what helps me relax. I like hot tea, a bath, a foot massage, a bedtime routine of some sort, music, quiet time and prayer. The key is to do something that shuts my brain off instead of stimulating it. The computer and TV will mess me up as can reading material that fires me up. I'm working toward keeping it mindless, comforting and calm. Another thing that is helping me is paper and pencil by my bed to jot down those sudden fly-by thoughts that plague me so I can release them without worry of forgetting them.

Get some exercise every day. I'm convinced nothing helps my body rest better than some good, strenuous exercise. I train nearly every day and I can tell a huge different in how I sleep. Some of my work requires long hours on the computer, writing or reading. If I don't get exercise too I get into a cycle of fatigue. The more physical I am the sweeter the sleep.

Treat my bedroom like a resort. I have some work to do in this area. I'm clearing out books and magazines and will not be taking my laptop to bed to finish up late night work anymore. We have dogs running in and out, which is not ideal, but they are old and sleep well, thank goodness. I love a cool room and have comfy linens already. I'm redesigning the room as an escape for relaxation, quiet contemplation, pillow talk, sound sleep and of course hanky panky.

Put the kids to bed earlier. I don't have this issue but know many of you do. Perhaps a good goal is to get them in bed so you can start your ritual earlier and get to bed yourself. Toddlers and school age children need anywhere from 10 to even 12 hours of sleep. Help yourself now by establishing a bedtime routine with them, and that helps them later in life too.

It takes a while to establish a habit, so this will be a focus for most of the month of January for me. My goal is to focus on mastering one healthy habit at a time and then maintaining each one so it builds and keeps me constantly heading in a healthier direction. I'd love to know what healthy habit you might be focused on right now!


Roundballnz said...

Good stuff Kelley,

am with you on the healthy sleep thing, something i accomplished last year. These days I don't really use any alarm system I get my 8 hours & wake up ...

In addition of the evening slow down which is a big must, One of the important things I found it make sure you bedroom is stimulus & electrically free zone - ie no electric alarm clocks (while you still need them), tvs etc.

I generally get up every day at the same time, now I f i don't get some decent exercise in I do find it impossible to sleep - Sunday was an off day for me & was getting chronic insomnia not a great start for Mondays!

these days I am a big believer we try to fit too much into our lives, ie quantity over quality - today I find time for the important things quality over quantity

now that was a bit long for me eh ?

Kelley Moore said...

Hey Alex that is a long comment for you! :>) I love it. That's great that you've tackled this and accomplished it. I just decided enough is enough and I'm the only one who can change it! Your points are really good and I will implement those. Agree that we've got to get it back to quality and not quantity. I'm finding the more I simplify my life the more I get done and the better I feel! Thanks Alex!