When I was in college I could pull all nighters with a surprising amount of success. One time, while I lived in Japan, I stayed out in Roppongi all night and then took my kanken (national test for Chinese character proficiency) and aced it!
Now that I am older, wiser and have kids I have learned to value my sleep. I try to make a habit of getting 7-8 hours minimum a night and it has taken a lot of discipline, but it has been worth it.
Getting more sleep has helped me kick my nasty energy drink habit, and given me the energy to work toward my goals with full force. I almost take being well rested for granted recently.
But I was reminded of the importance of sleep a few nights ago. My older son was jet lagged, so he had been waking me up for a few hours in the middle of the night for a few days in a row. On the night I was finally looking forward to a good night sleep since he seemed a little less jet lagged, I ended up having to take my 2 month old to the ER. Driving to the ER at 11pm I could feel my eyes drooping and I mentally prayed that everything would be ok and we would be home soon.
An excruciating 6 hours later my son was finally seen and he was thankfully fine after 3 stitches. 10 hours after we had checked in, we were finally discharged. After worrying and staying awake all night I was a mess. I couldn’t stop tears from streaming down my face even though everything was fine, I had a pounding head ache and I could not even function well enough to pay my bills.
Sleep is important. We tend to put sleep on the back burner. We can’t be productive or have fun while we are sleeping so it takes a low priority. After all there is that old saying “you can sleep when your dead.”
But sleep is when our body repairs itself. If you don’t sleep now, you are buying an express ticket to death. Lack of sleep causes many other problems for us both mentally and physically :
-increased cortisol which leads to increase belly fat and a greater risk for heart disease
-greater risk for high blood pressure
-impaired attention, focus and alertness
-increased risk of accidents
-lower sex drive (hey, I know you care)
-increased risk for depression and anxiety
-increased signs of aging on the skin
-impaired judgement (especially about sleep; ironic, huh?)
And those are just a few of the risks!
So how do you get a better night sleep? Here are some tips that have helped me:
1. Blackout curtains- Light affects our melatonin levels, which help to regulate our sleepiness, and with all the artificial light outside, it’s a great idea to install blackout curtains.
2. Turn off screens at least 1 hour before bed- It’s easy to get lost scrolling through Facebook for hours on your phone, pushing back your bedtime. FOMO is real. But the blue light emitted from screens like your phone or TV not only affect your brain’s ability to wind down and feel sleepy by suppressing melatonin, but new research shows it also affects your alertness the following day.
3. Create a routine- I personally like drinking herbal tea, taking a hot shower and reading or listening to an audiobook before bed, but do what works for you. It should be calming and enjoyable.
4. Remind yourself of how good you will feel- This is a big factor in creating a habit. You need to resist the immediate pleasure of scrolling through Facebook, for example, for the delayed pleasure of feeling well rested the next day. Think about how great you will feel and try to look forward to bed time
5. Meditate- Since I started meditating I found that it is a great tool to help with insomnia. If I can’t sleep, I bring my awareness to my breath and start to observe my thoughts like leaves floating on a stream, after a few minutes I am usually fast asleep. Listening to a guided meditation can also help if you are new to meditation.
6. Supplement- Generally I think supplements should be a last resort, but there are a few supplements can also help you get a good nights sleep: vitamin d, calcium & magnesium (CALM), and melatonin. Check with your doctor before supplementing.
Do you have trouble sleeping? Do you feel like you need less or more sleep than other people?
If you are interested in working with me as a health coach to help you develop an overall plan to achieve your health and fitness goals including better sleep and stress management, contact me here!