All of you who neglect sleep (occasionally or constantly) please raise your hand. How many of us are guilty here? I know I am. And that’s bad. So, what do we do? We prioritize sleep. This title isn’t a gentle suggestion this time…it’s a command.
You’ve got to prioritize your sleep.
I know it isn’t easy, trust me, but you have got to do it. And that makes it even worse. We know that we need to sleep. We know how much better we feel. We understand some of it. Except, we just keep making excuses, don’t we?
I’m not going to say prioritizing sleep, getting sleep, and getting quality sleep are easy tasks. In fact, I spent nearly five years trying to heal and figure out my own sleep cycles. So I know how hard it can be. I also know how easy it is to give up and stay in our habits because even if they are bad, they are our habits.
But, there will come a time where you will have to stand up to a bad habit or succumb to the consequences. For those of you who read my blog, you know by now that I’m all about self-exploration and changing ourselves. That’s my whole thing! The reason for this is because we don’t necessarily live healthy lives physically or mentally and I want us all to be our very best, our healthiest. And that won’t happen without some hardship, some struggle, and some growing pains.
So today, we’re going to focus on sleep. What can we do about it? How can we change? Why should we change? What will happen once we change?
First things first, we aren’t nocturnal creatures. We aren’t generally designed to be up at night. Our physical features just go against it. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t like staying up late. Some of us even have circadian rhythms that encourage us to get our best work done at night. And that’s awesome! But what can we do about our lack of sleep if we do stay up late? What can we do if we are insomniacs? What can we do about this uncontrollable beast Sleep?
Well, we’ve got to calm down. If we come running into nighttime panicking about sleep, none of us will get to sleep. I promise. So, we start off by calming down and letting night time be night time. We don’t worry about the night during the day, that’s our first rule.
Second, is to set yourself a bedtime. I know, I know, we aren’t eight anymore. But bedtimes can be very beneficial. Hear me out. If we go to bed at ten one night, twelve the next, one a.m the next, then three a.m, then eleven, then one, etc our body will not be able to figure out what is going on. So, we won’t have consistent energy. Waking up will be tough. Going to bed will be tough. Everything will be tough. But odds are, if you aren’t getting enough sleep you don’t need me to tell you this!
But how do we set a bedtime? It’s a little different as an adult.
Before you change anything, examine your life, your routines. If you’re an insomniac or someone who stays up to random hours try seeing at what point you stop being productive. Notice it and write it down for about a week or two. Find roughly about your average hour then take an hour away from it. That’s your bedtime! As you start trying to get to that bedtime regularly, you might notice it changes. It might end up being earlier or later. Originally my bedtime was at 11:30 and now it’s at 10:00 on the dot.
When you set up your bedtime, stick to it. Twenty minutes beforehand, take note. Get moving towards the bedroom.
That brings me to my next point. Have a nighttime routine. Plopping ourselves right into bed is a recipe for disaster. Have a routine that helps you wind down. Start with small acts. Getting up, brushing your teeth, washing your face, combing your hair. Then move to bigger acts. Make yourself some warm milk and honey, cook up something soothing, turn off the lights in the house. Even bigger! Burn some incense, a candle, meditate or read. Then finally, sleep! Of course, there can be more elaborate routines but remember a few things, try to exclude energizing things like exercise (aside from sleep specific things like yoga), caffeine, television and electronics, and a lot of water. We’re trying to get ourselves calmed down.
About your electronics…
Get off them! You’ll notice what works best for you, but remember that our circadian rhythms work off light and dark levels. Having a bright TV, phone, tablet or something else in your face is bad, bad, bad. Try to cut it out an hour and a half before bed. But if this is unmanageable, one hour to thirty minutes will do. It’s the bad blue light. Most phones can turn that off now, remember that too! But they also engage your brain…and we can’t turn that off (nor would we want to).
Remember too, even if you fall asleep just fine your quality of sleep is affected. Don’t be arrogant on this one…cut out the electronics before bed. It’s a hard thing to do. But it is necessary.
Now finally, this. Our alarm. It’s a big problem. One of the biggest. Do. Not. Snooze. You heard me, don’t snooze. Set your alarm for an honest time, the time you want to get out of bed at and stick to it. When that alarm goes off, hop out of bed, turn it off, and get going. Snoozing interrupts our sleep and switches us into a mode that isn’t really sleeping. So if you snooze twenty minutes, that’s twenty minutes of bad quality sleep. Check it out…it really isn’t good for you no matter how good it might feel.
Okay, so now we know what we can do to fix it and how we can change. But, why should it matter? And what will happen now that we’ll change?
Well, at first it will feel awful. I won’t lie or sugarcoat it for you. It isn’t an easy process but it is worth it.
Getting up when your alarm first goes off isn’t easy, at first. Going to bed on time and earlier than usual isn’t easy, at first. Engaging in a pre-bed routine isn’t easy, at first. Turning off electronics and our bad habits isn’t easy, at first.
The key part here is “at first”. But nothing is easy at first. Nothing!
It’s hard for us to change but once we change those habits amazing things will happen. For starters, we’ll feel better. Higher libido, weight loss, energy, a stronger immune system, increased focus all come with the territory of 8 or more hours of quality sleep. Your mood will change! This helps with depression, anxiety, or just being angry. A fair number of us struggle with a short fuse and sleep really helps you out. Life looks better when you’ve slept long enough.
Here’s the deal though, if you change your habits you’ll notice for yourself what changes occur within you.
But…if you don’t change you might never realize what’s happening to you.
When we don’t sleep, we are at an increased risk for practically everything. Depression, dementia, causing a car accident, heart disease, stroke, heart attack, etc. But the big thing is this: you’re more likely to die. Woah, drama alert. But I’m not being dramatic. With all the increased risks, it should make sense that death from any number of things is possible.
My final words:
I’ll level with you, I know it’s not easy to try and work on sleep habits. We have to break everything that’s comfortable for us and sometimes it means we have to go to a doctor and say, “Hey Doc, I can’t sleep. I need help.” And that’s not a comfortable decision either. But you have got to say enough is enough and take control of your sleep. Prioritize it. Number one on the list.
If you don’t do it today, what makes you think you’ll do it tomorrow?