Is Sleep Deprived your “Normal?”
Hi friends! Happy Weekend!
How many hours of sleep are you getting each night? We all know we need sleep to survive, but is survival merely what we’re looking for in life? How about living a fully present, productive, thriving life? A life where your weight, body image, mood, and stress levels all feel stable and give you the confidence to bring your best self to your career and relationships.
Approximately 7-9 hours, depending on the individual, is the scientifically proven range of sleep required for bringing your best self to your commitments.
I know, it’s bad news for a lot of us and, in many cases, is something we’re not looking to improve. Our dynamic bodies can adapt to sleeping 5 hours per night and “feel good” when we wake up, but the problem is that “good” is relative. Our bodies quickly forget what the 7-9 hour "good" felt like (or have never felt it) so the 5 hour "good" becomes acceptable until we suffer the more serious consequences of sleep deprivation.
Let's think about it from a health standpoint.
We all know that to be healthy, we need to be mindful about what we eat and drink, and to exercise at least 30 minutes/day. But if we’re waking up after 5-6 hours of sleep to get to the gym, we’re not coming close to giving ourselves the energy and restoration our minds and bodies need to be our best. We’re actually damaging our bodies, risking exercise injuries, cognitive impairment and weight gain, among many other negative behaviors. It’s more beneficial for our health to sleep 1-2 additional hours and reap the numerous benefits of rest:
- Focus and willpower
- Decrease in appetite and cravings for sugar
- Increased metabolic rate/weight loss
- Improved cognitive function and mental clarity
- More energy
- Better quality workouts
- Being present and experience an increased sense of fulfillment
- Disease prevention
The list goes on… and there is hope for all of the sleep-deprived people that feel there aren’t enough hours in the day to do it all, because the more sleep we get, the easier it is to prioritize what’s important.
So if you’re constantly feeling overwhelmed by your to do list, staying up late trying to get it all done, allow yourself to go to sleep earlier for a few days (start with 10-20 minutes), and only focus on the most crucial deadlines. I promise, there’s no way that everything on your list has to be done NOW! It's our minds that create the urgency. You’ll see that as you get more sleep, the anxiety related to getting it all done decreases and you’ll be able to manage your time more proactively and efficiently.
I know that “going to sleep earlier” is not an easy feat. I’ve definitely had my fair share of sleep challenges, but have made vast improvements, including settling a mind that just doesn’t want to slow down at bedtime. However, I'm always curious to learn more...
So my mom and I went to see Arianna Huffington speak last night through the Chicago Humanities Festival (CHF) Spring Style Program. I’ve been a fan of hers since she started The Third Metric column of the Huffington Post, where she aimed to “Redefine Success Beyond Money and Power” after her collapse from exhaustion and burn out in 2007. She views this "wake-up call" as a gift because she was forced to re-evaluate what success meant to her and that well-being, curiosity and volunteering would lead her and many others (including myself) to live more authentic, fulfilling, successful lives.
Thus the birth of “The Sleep Revolution.”
In her talk, Huffington gave a number of sleep tips, but the most memorable one for me (because I know it works) is the importance of developing a sleep ritual, a winding down process. This is extremely helpful for the person who either has trouble falling asleep or wakes up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back to sleep (it will help you stay asleep).
I’ve combined her tips with my own to help you get some ideas to incorporate into your routine (or start a routine if you don't have one). Choose one to start and you may add on more as you go because you will see, the benefits are endless!
- First and foremost – turn off the TV and any other technology at least 1 hour before you want to be sleeping
- Calming music is a good substitute for the TV noise (I personally love Norah Jones and John Legend)
- "Empty” your current thoughts into a journal
- Make sure you have a set of dedicated, comfortable pajamas
- Drink a glass of warm tea, milk or milk substitute (I love almond milk)
- Take a shower or bath (Epsom salts are great for detoxing and relaxation) and water “washes the day away”
- Read a real book (no blue light)
- Sleep with your cell phone in another room if you’re tempted to look at it while falling asleep or in the middle of the night
- Dim the lights or light a candle (battery operated candles are safest and effective)
- Sleep with ear plugs (these are my favorites)
- Diffuse calming essential oils
- Make your bed each day so you have a fresh bed to get into each night