Sleep, do we think of it as a need or optional? With our busy lives, technology, social media, and all the other distractions we have in the world, sleep seems to have become “optional” instead of a need like food or water. How has this happened?
Some of my observations are we are always “on”. For example, when do you turn off your cell phone (other than to restart it when it’s slow)? When are you not thinking about the thousands of new information that has been given to you throughout the day? Here is what is going on my head right now while I try to focus to write this blog:
- 2 new recipes I just received that I want to try with chicken.
- I need to take the dogs out before I leave for a meeting.
- What else can I get done on my “to-do” list today?
- What should I eat for lunch?
- I’m so glad there are leftovers from last night for dinner.
- I just a notice for a podcast I want to listen to.
Those are just a few I’m sure I could go on with more. We seem to be pulled in so many directions and have so much going on in our life sleep seems to be the one thing we feel we can skip out on to keep up. Not to mention how do you turn off all the thoughts going through your head when you lay down to sleep?
What I have found in my own life is I wasn’t associating how I felt during the day with how my sleep routine was. For example, if you are low on energy during the day do you think about how much sleep you got? Maybe, but do you think about if you get enough sleep every night? Probably not. It’s not just getting one good night’s sleep. It is a routine that needs to be established. If your sleep habits are not good chances are it will take a longer adjustment to get them where they need to be to see the changes in your waking hours.
My experience in sleep or lack thereof comes from my time in the army where we were taught to be able to be alert and ready for anything even while sleep-deprived. While I was deployed in Iraq, for a year, daytime there was nighttime here in the US. I worked night and day missions over there so my sleep was when I could get it. Coming home after a year of sleeping during the day and the night off and on whenever I could, caused me to have insomnia for years.
One of the main effects my time overseas had on me was my body got in the habit of sleeping during the day. The reason it was so easy for me to sleep during the day is the threat of attacks over there was less during the daylight hours. So, when I got home daytime sleep was easier for me to relax and let my body rest. At night when it was dark I slept very light and when I woke up I couldn’t go back to sleep. I didn’t make this connection right away. I just thought I couldn’t sleep at night and would nap during the day because I didn’t sleep well.
I had created a routine of sleeping when I was tired and not at regular sleep times. Once the pattern was established I had to work harder to rewire my brain to sleep at the proper times of the night. This took me a long time but I was able to do it. Here are the sleep habits I have created for myself that worked to stop my insomnia and help me feel rested during the day.
- Go to bed at the same time each night (as much as possible).
- No electronics/TV at least 1 hour before bed.
- No food or drink at least 2 hours before bed (water only).
- Read a book 30 minutes before sleep (paper only not electronic).
- Listen to sleep meditation to drift off to sleep (phone face down no light).
- Track my sleep with a monitor (wrist or phone).
These are the things I do every night. The main ones I recommend are no electronics. The light from the electronics and/or television slows down your body’s ability to know when it is time to sleep. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day if you can. This one may be hard for people with fluctuating schedules but if you can do. Your body will get into a rhythm and sleep better at the same time, leaving you rested for your day.
For more information about sleep and your health, I recommend Gillian Duncan’s book “Sleep, Cure Your Insomnia, Improve Your Health, & Feel Better.” In her book, she talks specifically about how sleep affects our health is so many ways we don’t realize.
As a Habit Change Coach, sleep habits are just one area I help women with. A lot of times poor sleep comes from other habits during the day that need to be changed in order to sleep better. When I was struggling with sleep it also had to do with food I was eating. By looking at daily habits and making adjustments it helped my sleep. If you are ready to talk about making habit changes you can chat with me about it on a free 30 minute call.