A salad for lunch, diligently studying and relentlessly working out… none of these will get you to your maximum health, weight loss, or productivity goals without one main component: good sleep.
Sleep is as essential as drinking water. It’s as important as eating food daily. The negative effects of lack of sleep affect mood, mental health, immune system, relationships, body weight, parenting, anxiety and so much more.
We live in a world where productivity is scrutinized, overworking is sensationalized and output becomes a measure of our success. How can we fit in sleep when we have such a to-do list to live up to?
Parenting and working become our main priorities, and we’re proud of ourselves if we actually sit down and eat a meal that day. And so, sleep becomes a part of life that’s squeezed into too few hours. It’s robbed from our nights.
To maximize your ability to learn new information and create memories, you need quality sleep. While in our younger years, we could skate by with little rest, mastering our day with continued energy, but as we age, our bodies can’t handle it as well. Hormone production changes, brain neurotransmitters fire differently as our physiology changes, and our bodies produce more cortisol, the stress hormone. Increased cortisol encourages the body to store more fat, making weight loss efforts seem futile. Additionally, lack of sleep has been shown to increase appetite making it challenging to keep up with healthy eating habits.
Now what? It’s apparent you need sleep, but how can you prioritize it better?
Put sleep at the top of your to-do list: a.k.a. make sleep a priority
How normal is it to go to bed based on when you’re ‘tired’ or finally finished the tasks of the day? Or you go to bed and lie awake scrolling as time flies by?
Health professionals (including myself) recommend that adults get 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Yet, 35.2% of adults say they sleep less than seven hours per night. The problem is that many people forget to carve out time for proper sleep.
Aim to sleep 7-9 hours per night
Plan your sleep like you plan your commute. Figure out when you have to wake up the following day and calculate back to reach the recommended bedtime for 7-9 hours of sleep. Use that bedtime as your hard stop. Meaning lights out, phone down. If you pencil bedtime in like an appointment, you won’t want to be late for it.
Establish a bedtime routine
Our brains work off routine, and if you want to fall asleep at a specific time and obtain the optimal amount of sleep, you must give your brain a routine. Begin winding down the kids in ample time. Children can be a significant source of bedtime delay. Take care of your skincare routine early on, so it doesn’t hold you up just before bed. Use the bathroom to eliminate the need at night.
Here are more ideas for a nighttime routine:
- Use a diffuser with calming scents like lavender
- Have a cup of herbal tea like chamomile
- Turn on a sound machine or white noise
- Turn your phone on night mode and turn down the ringer
- Turn off any blue light in the room as that promotes wakefulness
- Set a timer for phone scrolling or reading
- Turn the temperature down low —our bodies sleep better in cooler temps
Avoid work emails before bed
Opening a work email is a can of worms no bedtime routine needs. Business or work emails only make you want to handle work-related issues or think about what’s on your schedule for the next day. Not only does handling work emails before bed make it more difficult to fall asleep, but it affects your ability to stay asleep as well. Thinking about the to-do list for tomorrow only adds anxiety.
Steer clear of financial, political or stress-inducing conversations before bed
Drumming up anxiety is not the answer to quality sleep. Difficult conversations not only delay bedtime but they’re often not solved that night, leaving you feeling anxious, angry or sad. If you know you have a big talk, save it for when you have more time and a clear head.
Intentionally create a loving relationship with sleep
Anticipate sleep like you would a fun outing. Look forward to it and embrace it. Welcome it when it’s nighttime and allow yourself to experience it without feeling rushed. Like anything else, a positive attitude around sleep will make it a more positive experience. Congratulate yourself for making you and your sleep a priority.
After all, what good is great skincare, the best diet choices or working towards having patience in your daily life if you’re unraveling your efforts by overlooking one essential ingredient: sleep.
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