It's never too early or too late to prioritize your sleep. Making it a habit to get enough sleep has radically changed my overall wellbeing.
I’ll be honest, I haven’t always prioritized sleep. In my early 20s, I worked at Dave & Buster's—after getting off work at midnight we’d head out to party, and return at 9 am the next day to do it all over again. When my lifestyle changed from partying to parenting, I had babies—and then teenagers—keeping me up at all hours of the night. I honestly don’t know how I did it, the strange out-of-body feeling I get from not getting enough sleep is not fun!
Since then, staying up late has been redefined as being in bed by 9 pm (sometimes in my pajamas by 7:30 pm!) where I read and listen to a guided meditation (I love the ones offered on Insight Timer) before falling asleep. Now I’m committed to prioritizing my sleep routine, which might sound dull, but it makes the day-to-day challenges of life less daunting. Today, I prioritize sleep over yoga, working out, eating right and even my social life. Knowing how getting off my sleep schedule can disrupt my entire life, not to mention the effects of alcohol on my sleep, it’s a small sacrifice to make. And I promise it isn't as sad as it sounds!
A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures for anything.
Importance of Sleep
Only 65% of women are getting at least seven hours of sleep on a regular basis. Sleep is an essential function that not only helps you to recharge but is also a crucial factor in your mental and physical health. During sleep your body
- Repairs and rejuvenates itself
- Builds a strong immune system
- Repairs your bones and muscles
- Restores energy
All of our sleep cycles are important, but REM sleep is particularly important to brain health. During REM sleep, your brain
- Stores memories
- Makes creative connections
- Clears out toxins (which can cause Alzheimers)
- Improves memory and learning
- Increases attention and creativity
- Enables good decision making
Lack of sleep has been linked to a higher risk for certain diseases and medical conditions which include high blood pressure, obesity, type two diabetes, heart disease, stroke, poor mental health and early death. Not getting enough sleep
- Weakens your immune system
- Speeds up the aging process
- Adversely affects your memory
- Can cause weight gain
- Increases risk of different diseases
Adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night, without pills or alcohol to get to sleep. Taking a sleep aid doesn’t give us the quality of sleep we need and drinking may cause us to fall asleep quickly, but as the body metabolizes the alcohol we tend to wake up frequently and our sleep is restless. The importance of having a set bed time and waking time can not be overstated. If we don't follow set sleep times, our body clock and our circadian rhythms are thrown off. The same things that happen when we "spring forward" each year.
How to Prioritize Sleep
I started to make sleep a priority four years ago. These tips help me achieve a good night’s rest more often than not.
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on the weekends.
- Your bedroom is for sleeping. And sex. Move all other activities to another room - including working and watching TV.
- Use an alarm clock instead of your phone.
- Eliminate all sources of light - including street light, sunlight and light from devices.
- No caffeine after 4:00 pm.
- Disconnect from your devices (putting them out of sight) to help quiet your mind.
- Cooler temperature of your bedroom versus warmer is optimum.
- Avoid overeating or overdrinking in the hours leading up to bedtime.
- Have a bedtime routine – a warm bath, reading, guided meditation – any relaxing activity is perfect.
- If you wake up in the middle of the night - don't allow your brain to turn on by thinking and planning - it may not turn off for a while.
I also find a weighted blanket to be very helpful for falling and staying asleep. The weight of the blanket exerts pressure on the abdomen which calms the parasympathetic nervous system which is our fight or flight response.
If you’ve prioritized your sleep and still don’t have the energy level you wish you had, try implementing these self care strategies.
Getting a good night’s sleep can be like anything else - two steps forward and three steps back. With consistent practice and prioritizing sleep, you’ll experience a good night’s rest more times than not.
Come Back For More
This collection is part of our Year of Self Care Guide. Each month, you'll find a new collection of simple practices that will help you honor, love, forgive and prioritize yourself, week by week.
This blog is intended to provide helpful suggestions for self care and overall well-being. I am not a mental health professional. If you’re struggling I encourage you to seek the help of a professional. Find a Mental Health Professional | National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline: Dial 988