I love sleep. I love my pillow. Really I do. The comfort they give after a too-full day of “busy-ness” is just the recipe I need. Makes my little heart sing just thinking about it. And yet, I must admit, I’m no sleeping beauty. I sleep hard and wake up puffy faced, hair sticking out in every direction and little hope of spreading sunshine without a wake-up shower. In fact, the last thing I send my sweet husband off to work with in the morning is my puffy zombie face, complete with a dragon breath kiss (ahh wedded bliss). I’m always sure to thank him for all he does for our family in hopes it will make up for the vision I leave him to start his day with…but I digress.
I need sleep. When I was little, people were warned about my ugly side if I didn’t get enough ZZZs. I can still feel rather grumpy when my sleep is interrupted by any number of things that happen in the middle of the night when you’re a parent. Now, my sweet husband tells me I often hold my breath when I’m sleeping and he’ll nudge me awake to take a breath (hmm, maybe time to look into that.) But seriously, I really can tell when I don’t get enough. Maybe you have some of the same symptoms: Your more prone to eating something (s) you know you shouldn’t, you say something you know you shouldn’t and you’re certainly not productive or feeling as creatively inspired as you could be. I believe we all know we should not attempt to live on 4-5 hours of sleep every day, but often excuses X, Y, and Z keep us from reaching our “just-right” amount of precious sleep that is so essential for our health. Think about these life-giving benefits of 7-9 hours of sleep:
- Beyond the obvious way to avoid looking like Ozzy Osbourne even on a good day (sorry Ozzy), reaching optimum levels of sleep has benefits that reach the cellular level. When you haven’t replenished your bodies sleep needs, you place your body under red-alert. It increases the stress hormones and may raise your blood pressure. The increase in stress hormones raises the level of cellular inflammation which in turn, may raise the risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes or cancer. Sleep (not milk) does a body good!
- Sleep increases your energy and allows you to make the vital choices you need throughout the day with relative ease. Deep sleep allows your body to make the connections and absorb what you’ve done throughout the day, enhancing your memory. Well-rested souls are more likely to choose to participate in stress relief activities such as deep breathing, stretching, various forms of exercise like walking and simply enjoy the beauty that surrounds them. Taking time for these activities during your day will ensure a more peaceful slumber that night.
- Sleep may help you lose weight. Everyone loves to hear this, and yet it is not a license to lay in bed for fourteen hours. Researchers have found that the hormones that regulate appetite are affected by sleep. When you receive less than 5 hours of sleep each night you are putting yourself at risk for obesity. Another reason not to stay up to watch the eleven o’clock news.
- Quality, slow-wave sleep (SWS) improves judgment, and may help you remember tasks you’ve learned earlier in the day. Here’s an article from Harvard Medical School explaining more about this theory.
- Consistent, peaceful, nightly sleep may just save your life or that of someone you love. How often have we heard the horror stories of someone falling asleep at the wheel and the consequences that followed? Or the medical intern that made a serious mistake after a long shift? We live in a country that thrives on constant activity and quickness. I think its high time to adopt the idea of a siesta and let our minds and bodies rejuvenate. Am I too bold when I suggest that I suspect this would increase the collective health of the nation one weary soul at a time?
Here are just a few reminders to reignite your peaceful slumber:
- Try to maintain consistent sleep/wake times-even on weekends. Early to bed and early to rise seems to be the best routine for healthy, solid sleep and good productivity the next day.
- Sleep in a dark room that is clean and free of clutter. Too much stuff is stressful and your body knows it’s there, even when you sleep. Do what you can to create a calming, peaceful environment.
- Avoid the T.V. and computer while in bed. This makes it harder to slow your brain and body down in preparation for rest. News stories or computer games are not one the list of options at a relaxing spa retreat so why would you want to add them into your relaxing sleep zone?
- Keep in mind that cooler room temperatures may promote a more restful sleeping environment. Reduce the layers on your bed, turn down the thermostat, or make your sleeping partner stay on their side of the bed to avoid the increase from their body heat-explain that it’s not because you don’t love them but you’re working on your self-care and they could benefit too!