How often have you heard adults say that they only need 5-6 hours of sleep a night to function? Heck up until very recently I thought that was all I needed, too. It’s just not true though. An adult should be getting 7.5 -9 hours of sleep every night. How many of us actually get that though? The importance of sleep can't be overlooked if we want to be the best version of ourselves.
Instead of shrugging off the importance of sleep you should realize that not only does lack of adequate sleep cause moodiness, sickness (from colds to higher risk for heart disease and high blood pressure) but it also decreases your sex drive, can lead to weight gain, and it also ages our skin (gasp). Lack of sleep has a lot of consequences but none more counter productive than a skewed view on sleep itself. When we are sleep deprived we start actually believing that we’ve adapted to getting 5 hours of sleep a night and are functioning well when in reality we are not.
When it comes to your general well being, both physical and mental, the importance of sleep cannot be overlooked. I can hear you already, “But there is so much to be done.” Or “My To Do List won’t complete itself”. Better yet I’ve heard this one SO many times, “If I don’t do it, it will never get done.” I get it, I really do. In the grand scheme of most mothers/wives/adult women the importance of sleep is overlooked for the importance of our daily tasks. I’ve been there and frankly I’m still crap with getting enough sleep BUT there are some tips that can help you get into a healthier sleep pattern.
Your Bed Is For Sleeping…and Sex
I’m guilty of taking my lap top and working from bed all the time! This is possibly one of the most counter productive practices when it comes to getting to sleep at the end of my day. Your body (and mind) should be trained to associate your bed with sleep (or boinking) time but if you work, watch tv, or spend your time at home in your bed then your mind doesn’t know this is the place it’s supposed to shut off. So because I understand the importance of sleep I work at my desk even though I loathe sitting in an office chair to work and watch TV. The upside is that I’ve noticed it does help me fall asleep at night if I only crawl into bed to sleep.
Set A Bed Time
You may feel like you are back in grade school but this is hugely important for getting back on track with your sleep. It doesn’t matter if your To Do List isn’t done (let’s be honest-they’ll be a longer one the next day anyway) or if the dishwasher needs unloading, get into bed and shut down. It might sound silly but having a regular time that you go to sleep, every night, as well as wake up every day, helps your body set it’s own natural rhythm. I hate getting up early on the weekends but when I do I notice I have less problems falling asleep at night and waking up on Monday morning. When you understand the importance of sleep it gets easier to have a regular schedule that will improve the quality of sleep you do get, even if you aren’t getting the 8-9 hours you should.
Even if you understand the importance of sleep I don’t know anyone who can go from full blown mental activity to sleep immediately. I know you want to get those last couple of things done but respect the importance of sleep by letting them wait and relaxing before bed time. How should you unwind though? Studies show you should avoid the television as a method for falling asleep because it inhibits the production of melatonin (your bodies sleepy chemical). Chiara has a great tip for unwinding which is to allot 30 minutes each night to reading prior to lights out as a way to decompress her brain. I don’t hate this idea, though ideally the book should be recreational and not informational; the brain should be relaxing. If you have the same problem I do, not being able to put a book down and staying up until 3am to read, then this isn’t the right decompression activity for you. Instead try a warm bath/shower, some light stretching, or listening to Sarah McLachlan by tiny twinkle lights (am I the only one that does that?).
Control Your Thoughts
We’re all guilty of placing our heads on the pillow only to come up with the next genius invention, story line, or To Do List item. Lord knows we can’t just go to sleep because we might forget it, so up we get to write it down, enter it into our iPhone notes, or worse we actually start writing. You have to exercise control over your thoughts as you lay down. Concentrate on your breathing, relaxing your muscles, and on letting go of your daily worries. This is one of the hardest tasks for me to conquer even though I fully understand the importance of sleep. A woman's brain, a successful, badass, world changing woman's brain doesn't just simple, shut off. It has to though if we want to conquer all those goals the next day.
The Importance of Sleep in Perspective
I talked about perspective last week and this is another time when it really comes in handy. I know that unfinished project, unloaded dishwasher, and pans in the sink are making you insane but remember that without adequate sleep EVERYTHING about your life decreases in productivity. You aren’t functioning as well as you could be, no matter how much you tell yourself that you are, if you aren’t getting enough sleep. The importance of sleep means that without enough of it you aren’t being the best mother, daughter, wife, girlfriend, sister, or friend that you can be. Hell, you aren’t being the best YOU that you could be. So, let the dishes sit in the sink, to hell with the unfolded clothes, they can wait because you, and your health, are more important.
I know a lot of this is easier said than done but try a couple of these tips and I promise you’ll start seeing improvements. You know the importance of sleep, I know you do, now it's time to start taking steps to get it. Taking the time to get good rest means you can be MORE productive during your waking hours, can be more alert and engaged, and can handle stress better. And really, who doesn’t want that?