Sleep can be a dirty word. It can be something you struggle to find the time for, something you don’t get to enjoy because of all the clutter in life leading up to the point that you get to lay your head down, or it can be something you see as lazy. An indulgence that you can’t afford because you’ve got mouths to feed and a roof to keep over their head. That is dangerous and incorrect. You might think that you’re maximising your productivity by getting as little sleep as you can get away with but it can affect every aspect of every thing that you do. Having a hard-work ethic isn’t a bad thing, but having an approach to sleep that is just as hard is only going to prove dangerous in both the its short and long-term effects. Changing your attitude and behavior towards sleep is simple, straight-forward and rewarding.
According to a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 1 in 3 of us suffers from poor sleep, which can affect your overall health and make you prone to serious medical conditions, such as obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. Your risk of injury and accidents at home, work and on the road also increases. Chronic lack of sleep over a prolonged time can lead to conditions like depression and anxiety, reduced sex drive, high blood pressure, decrease in fertility and increase in weight. And that’s on top of well-known facts like increased irritability, slower reaction times and clouded judgment.
So, if you can combat that by keep better sleeping hours, you will be fitter, smarter, nicer to be around, funnier, sexier and most importantly: healthier. You can get more done during the day because your energy levels are right where they should be and you aren’t constantly reminding yourself of how tired you feed. And substituting caffeine even alcohol for real energy is not a long term strategy that you can safely rely on as it interrupts regular sleeping patterns. There’s just no alternative or way around the benefits of a good night’s sleep.
We’ve all put ourselves through times where we weren’t getting enough sleep, I’ve been there and so have you. There are so many responsibilities, pressures and distractions that keep us from a good bed time. It might be kids, work or just that new TV series on Netflix. However pressing the reasons might seem, you’re much better equipped to handle them as a well-rested person. So here’s some tips to help you get there.
Organise the next day and prioritise what you have to do. This will help focus your thoughts and prepare you for the day ahead. Stick to it as much as you can and try to do this every day, or have a set list for week days to try and maximise your time and meet targets and goals.
Get into the habit of allowing yourself a maximum of an hour or two to finish up whatever work you might have to do and leave it at that. Agreeing a set time with yourself for when you will stop can help you to prioritise what you have to do and what is most important. When you reach that point, close your laptop and call it a day.
Enjoy a meal together and share the days events with each other. Spending time with your family is important and for you just as much as it is them. Discuss things, laugh together, help with homework and be a part of each other’s lives. Make some memories with your family and find escape from the daily grind of work by engaging with them about their day. Going out can be fun and it doesn’t need to be expensive. You can go to the park together or see a sight or two. It can help distract your mind from the activities of the working day to remove yourself from your regular scenery.
Hygiene is something that should always be attended to and why not make it as enjoyable as possible? Splurge a little on bath products and make the most of it. Make it an experience. Listen to some music, an audiobook or simply enjoy silence- just try not to fall asleep in the tub. Give yourself the time to enjoy a bath. This helps your body relax and enables easier sleep as you cool down from the warm temperature — about an hour and a half after a bath is the optimum time to take advantages of its relaxing effects and sleep.
Make sure that you aim to stop eating a couple of hours before sleep and no liquids an hour before you sleep (at least) to reduce the chances of you needing to get up during the night. Get all you need before then and draw the line there. Make sure you’ve had enough to eat and have had a healthy balanced meal that won’t upset your stomach during the night (especially if you have to share your bed with a partner).
It’s also worth stressing that caffeine and alcohol should be avoided as much as possible (aside from a glass with dinner or when you get home) as these will only disrupt natual inclinations your body will have to sleep.
It’s vital to wind down. We all have sleep rituals that we do to help us relax and get into the less active mode our bodies and minds need to be able to turn off. This might be reading or watching some television or doing a hobby. It just matters that it’s nothing too taxing that you find relaxing. Give yourself a couple of hours to yourself to do something you want to do.
Turning down the light levels leading up to sleep will help your body to recognise that it’s not daytime and that you needn’t be as active. Candles are great for this, and lamps are good too. Just avoid any bright and glaring light. Making that transition from an active day into a restful night is a sensory voyage.
Sex helps release endorphins which will help you sleep better, which is something we have evolved to do over time, as well as provide a good bit of cardio and fun. I don’t really think I need to sell this point to you too much. It’s a great release from tensions, pressures and is good for any healthy and caring relationship. However you like to do it is up to you, variety is the spice of life and whatnot. Masturbation is the alternative and there’s nothing wrong with doing it yourself, on your own schedule and in the way your want.
Turn off your notifications (if not the phone itself) so that you won’t be disturbed. You aren’t a slave to your devices and don’t have to obey it or pick it up just because it makes a sound. Allow yourself freedom from the outside world. The fewer glaring screens you’re subject to in the hours leading up to sleep the better. Their light is unnatural and focusing on them can disrupt our natural circadian rhythms. Leave your phone outside your room if you can so that you aren’t tempted to check in on it, keep it out of reach. Technology can be a distraction from your sleep schedule.
However early you think you can allow yourself to sleep, aim for an hour earlier and try doing this for a few days. Give yourself more time than you think you need to sleep so that you can enjoy it more and feel less pressured and hurried. When you have to be up early the clock can seem like a countdown. Be generous with yourself. The earlier you get to sleep, the earlier you’ll be awake and can enjoy breakfast and your shower in the morning. Taking time to enjoy things is less stressful than having to hurry through them, so why not give yourself that time?
Take any opportunity to catch up on sleep and recharge. Any few hours you can grab can be very therapeutic, especially in the middle of a busy day. Even if it’s just half an hour or an hour to just lay down quietly with your eyes closed, this can greatly boost your energy levels and productivity. You can do it at lunch or when you get home. Treat yourself to it. You’ll be a much happier person and more fun to be around by taking the time to relax and de-stress. It allows your brain to sort through and digest events. Meditation can also be a fantastic thing to learn and practice.
Make the effort to make your bedroom into a palace of sleep. Relaxing colours, artwork, scents can all greatly help. Make sure your bed is comfortable and something that you can look forward to climbing into at night. Good quilts, duvets, pillows and mattress are something that is worth spending good money on
So there you have it. I hope you can take some of this advice to make your sleep count more and live a fuller life in and out of bed. I would encourage you to involve your whole household in this so that not only can they be aware and more accommodating to your sleep schedule, but also so they can be a part of it and enjoy a better night and therefore a better day. Help each other by being respectful of noise levels and bright lights and other things which might distract and disrupt the sleep process.
Good night, all!
Originally published at medium.com