I never realised how controversial sleep could be until last week.
I had a guest post on Unclutter about how to make more time for the things you really want to do and a few people questioned or misunderstood my suggestion of reducing sleep.
I love to sleep but I’ve had sleeping problems too and when you can’t sleep life’s harder. Sleep’s a huge part of our lives and we owe it to ourselves to make sure we get enough of it every night.
The Problem With Sleep
The main problem with sleep is not getting enough of it and I wouldn’t recommend that to anyone.
Research has shown that a lack of sleep makes people 71 per cent more likely to have depression and anxiety and 300 per cent more likely to be obese. When we sleep our mind and body recuperate and recharge ready for the next day and if you don’t get enough sleep the night before you won’t function as well as you should.
I only suggest cutting down on sleep if there’s a possibility that you’re getting too much of it and can function just as well with a bit less.
Most of us have probably suffered sleep problems over the years. There are so many things that can go wrong with sleep patterns like:
- Not being able to get to sleep;
- Waking too early;
- Still feeling tired the next day.
I’ve suffered from exhaustion through lack of sleep. It happens to all parents after their new baby is born and parental sleep patterns are thrown into disarray. I’d say sleep deprivation is a major cause of post-natal depression and definitely something to be avoided.
After the birth of my second son I was too fuddled to recognise the early signs of depression caused by exhaustion and stress and let myself get even more depressed. Even when the baby started sleeping more I was waking up after only two or three hours sleep. Then I’d spend a few hours worrying about everything under the sun (occasionally to the point of tears), before finally falling asleep at dawn and getting up a few hours later. I felt tired and grumpy most of the time and that’s why these days getting a good night’s sleep is one of my top priorities.
Teach Yourself How to Sleep
I believe sleeping is a learned skill. I taught all my kids how to sleep through the night from a young age because a vital life skill, and I’m sure adults can learn how to sleep well too. Like anything it’s easier to set up good habits when you’re young but adults can change their habits if they set their mind to it.
It’s important to get the right amount of sleep because if you get too little you’re endangering your health and if you sleep too much you could be sacrificing time that could be spent working towards living your dream. The amount of sleep you need will vary but a rough guide seems to be 7-10 hours. You’ll need to experiment to see what works best for you.
Here are my tips for getting a good night’s sleep and avoiding sleep problems. They’re obvious really but I hear so many people tell me they slept poorly then admit they had too many coffees the day before so I think it’s good to have a reminder. I mess up sometimes by having a cup of mint tea just before bed which means I wake up in the night to go to the bathroom then kick myself for having that late night drink.
Hopefully if we follow these tips we’ll get the sleep of our dreams every night and wake up feeling happier and more energetic each day.
How to Sleep Commandments
1. Get up at the same time every day. This is the key to sound sleep habits. Once you’ve got in a pattern your body clock will take over and you’ll find you wake up just before your alarm clock rings.
2. Go to bed at more or less the same time. You have to play bed time by ear because some days you’ll be more tired than others. I go to bed hoping to read for an hour. Sometimes I read longer but most of the time I get so tired I can’t continue after ten to twenty minutes and that’s when the light goes out. I then fall asleep within five minutes.
3. End the day on a good note. If you meditate or write a journal just before bed time is the ideal time for that. It’s always good to go to sleep thinking about what you had to be grateful for that day too. If you have a partner you might be able to come up with other activities that leave you both feeling happy and drowsy.
4. Exercise daily, preferably outside. Exercise and fresh air will tire you out in the best way possible and walking is a great way to get do it.
5. Watch what you eat and drink. No caffeine after lunchtime and cut back on the sugar too. Both of them will stop you from getting to sleep. Cut the alcohol out completely if you want to be well rested. I like to party but alcohol plays havoc on sleep. Even one or two glasses of wine leave you tired the next day.
6. Make your bedroom a sanctuary. It should be a place you look forward to spending time in. Splurge on top quality cotton bedding and make sure the room is dark, airy and quiet when you’re sleeping.
7. Get up early. Studies show that successful people are early risers so it’s an easy way to get on the track to success. I love getting up early these days although I never used to. It’s worth training yourself to get used to it – the early mornings are peaceful and productive and in the winter I get to enjoy the sunrise too. Start slowly by getting up 15 minutes earlier each day. If you’re struggling to get up put your alarm clock in the bathroom so the only way to turn it off is by getting up.
8. Have a morning routine you look forward to. I get up at about 6am giving me time to gather my thoughts and exercise before springing into action and getting the kids ready for school. In a strange turn around I actually look forward to getting up early and fitting in this me time. My exercise and thinking time is something that wouldn’t happen if I didn’t schedule it for first thing. Prepare everything you need for the morning the night before for a stress-free start to the day.
9. Don’t stay in bed if you can’t sleep. If you do wake in the night, get up and read elsewhere until you’re tired then go back to bed.
10. Don’t worry at night. You shouldn’t worry at all but if you must set aside five minutes for worry in the daytime so it doesn’t cut into your sleep. If you wake at night thinking of things you need to do the next day make a list of them in the day time. Keep it by your bed so if you wake up and remember something you can write it down. You’ll soon get into the habit of keeping a list and stop waking up.
11. Unplug it. No electronics like TV or computer for an hour before sleep time. They over-stimulate you and keep you awake too late.
12. No big drinks just before bed.
How to Sleep Easy
Give yourself a week or so to get into the swing of it. Like anything, good habits don’t happen overnight and you need to keep working on them. They say it takes three days to sleep train a baby but it’s much longer in my experience. You should be getting quite good at your new sleep routine after a month or so.
These days I go to sleep at about 10pm (give or take an hour) then wake up just before 6am, usually just before my alarm clock goes off.
If I do wake in the night because there’s a wierd Australian bird making a racket outside and can’t get back to sleep again fast I read on the sofa until I’m tired. And at the weekend I usually let myself catch up on any sleep I’ve missed and treat myself to a daytime nap. Blissszzzzzzzzzzz.
If you’re well rested sleep shouldn’t be controversial.
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