I just woke up from a really good night’s sleep. When I looked at the clock it said 7:17. That’s about right. No alarm except for the internal one that said “it’s time to wake up.” Through the years I’ve noticed that left to my own I usually wake up naturally somewhere between 7-7:30 am. That’s if I’ve gone to bed at a “decent hour”, which for me is somewhere around 10 pm. Most folks consider themselves to be either a “morning lark”, or a “night owl.” I am the former. Turns out that there is a reason for this. It’s called chronotype and it’s your bodies own natural rhythm. But even as the saying goes, “early to bed, early to rise, makes a man, healthy, wealthy and wise”, goes, as with everything, we are individuals and we all have our internal chronotype.
Sleep is one of The Four Seeds of Self-Care because sleeping well is vital to our overall health and well-being. While we are asleep our brain is busy removing toxins, creating and maintaining new pathways in our brains that are crucial for learning and creating new memories. Scientists are making new discoveries about what happens during sleep, but there is still much to learn. So, what can we do to make sure we get enough quality sleep? And how much do we actually need?
I’ve found several things to be helpful in my journey to better sleep. Here are my top five:
Set a consistent sleep schedule.
Create a bedtime routine.
Make your bedroom a sleep sanctuary.
Make sure your bed and bedding are comfortable.
Make exercise part of your daily routine (another one of The Four Seeds.)
For me, I follow my own internal clock and aim for lights out around 10:30 during the week. This may vary some on the weekend, but usually not by much. This allows me to get between seven and eight hours of sleep on a consistent basis. Bedtime routine is probably the biggest culprit for most of us. Our technological evolution has slowly crept into our daily lives to the point of impinging on our bedtime routine and bedtime! According to the National Sleep Foundation, ninety percent of people admit to using a technological device within the hour before bed. So what’s the big deal checking the email one last time, watching an episode of your favorite television series? Well, that blue light emitted by your device has this nasty little way of interrupting your ability to produce melatonin, the hormone that we produce to help us fall asleep. What’s more, our REM sleep is reduced, which compromises our ability to feel well rested the next day. The problem is that it’s more than a little grogginess. Over time this lack of sleep can lead to many health problems, including obesity, heart disease and depression.
When my kids were really little I remember “putting them to bed.” This was a routine that consisted of giving them a bath, picking up toys, getting a drink, sometimes a small snack, brushing teeth and then choosing books to read before going to sleep while either rocking, or lying in bed. This was our nightly ritual. The number of books usually outnumbered my ability to stay awake until said child was asleep. Sound familiar? After about book number three or four I was usually the one being put to sleep. Thinking back, not only were these cherished memories (where did those little ones go?!), but this was a GREAT routine! One which went by the wayside as the kids got older and the days grew shorter with many more things added to my to-do list! After living a sleep deprived life for a time and experiencing the affects of surviving on five or six hours of sleep, I have reintroduced a bedtime routine for myself, consisting of saying goodnight to everyone (yep, those dishes can wait until the morning) and brushing my teeth and then dimming the lights and crawling into bed to read. And just like that, I'm out like a light.
Regardless of which area you decide to tackle first, start. Start with a small step. Tidy up your bedroom. Place a plant on your nightstand, along with a diffuser. Begin to dim the lights an hour before bed. Drink some herbal tea, or take a nice warm bath. And if you're feeling really brave, put down that cell phone at least 30 minutes before bedtime and pick up a good old fashioned book! Once you begin to see the positive difference made by getting good consistent sleep, you will never look back!
With love and gratitude,
Kinda and Rachel