The Importance of that Beauty Sleep
Who has not found themselves fully awake, late at night, thoughts running through their heads and not letting them fall asleep? As life gets more complex and exciting, it is common to find it difficult to turn off the switch and get good rest. Some of the common, avoidable justifications for keeping the mind going are:
– My creativity is flowing and I cannot afford to waste time sleeping (happens to me all the time).
– I have a problem that I must solve and I gotta find a way to do it soon.
– I have an important event tomorrow (interviews, tests) and I cannot fall asleep or I should pull an all-nighter to study for a test.
– I found this interesting article and I want to read some more.
– There’s this show on Netflix and I’m binge-watching it.
– I need to meet a deadline.
– I am online shopping.
And the list goes on and on. I think most of us have experienced all the above. Obviously, there are those situations where the sleep deprivation is unavoidable, such as having a newborn baby, a family event, working shifts, date night (non-negotiable), etc.
Adequate sleep for an adult has been determined to be between 7 to 9 hours in a 24-hour period. The truth is that sleep deprivation has a lot of potential problems. Many clinical studies have shown that less than 6 hours of sleep a day is associated with increased risk of multiple problems that include high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes, weakened immune system, weight gain, cognitive dysfunction, higher risk of getting into an accident, among many others.
I think by now we have established that insufficient sleep will almost always be counterproductive. And if the lack of rest becomes repetitive, it will be even more difficult to deal with.
In my clinical practice, I have observed that a high percentage of my patients, across a wide range of ages come to me with complaints of insomnia. In fact, it has been reported that about 30 to 35% of adults in the United States have had difficulty sleeping in the past year, with 10% having chronic and/or severe insomnia.
So, what to do?
From a preventive point of view, we have to get into the habit of keeping a good sleep hygiene. By incorporating appropriate sleep habits, we will train our brains to rest when they are supposed to.
So first, the most basic concept: what is the bed for? For sleeping and for sex. Plain and simple.
Which elements to avoid around bedtime?
– Caffeine or alcohol
– Environmental noise
– Inappropriate room temperature
– Watching TV in bed
– Using your smartphone in bed
– Daytime napping
Which elements to incorporate?
– Relaxation techniques (such as meditation)
– Go to bed only when sleepy
– If you don’t fall asleep within 15-20 minutes, get out of bed and do something relaxing until you feel sleepy
Rip off the benefits!
Getting sufficient rest will provide with a great variety of benefits such as (but not limited to):
– Consolidation of memory and new skills
– Increased performance (cognitive and physical)
– Better mood
– Better attention
– Adequate weight
– Less stress
– Less potential for accidents
Sleeping seems to be underrated. Yet it is vital to the adequate physical, emotional and cognitive functioning of human beings and as such, we have to make it a priority.
Since the beginning of Balance is Bliss, I have had to dedicate time to writing, editing, website design, social media engagement, photography, among other things. And as exciting and fulfilling as it has been, it has also started to take a toll on my ability to adequately rest. Between tons of ideas flowing plus the responsibility of keeping up a posting rate, I have encountered for the first time in my life multiple nights of insomnia. This is something outrageous to me, since up until now, I was able to sleep anywhere, at any time, in any position, in any weather, with any given amount of noise or light… I guess that is what happens when you have spent about half of your life working shifts. But now it is different. I actually find it hard to fall asleep. It almost feels like the more I make myself stay up a little longer to finish a task, the harder it is to fall asleep when I’m already in bed.
So I hit a breaking point a few nights ago, when I felt overly exhausted and with a total creative block. And I decided to stop what I was doing, turn off the computer and go to bed. It was not easy to fall asleep. But I did get an extra hour of sleep last night compared to the previous 3 weeks. And it made the world of a difference.
So now, I have decided to put our own advice to good use and have decided to test out the following nighttime routine:
1. Relaxing beverage: After the babies are already tucked in, I go ahead and prepare a nice, hot, unsweetened chamomile tea and start blogging for a little while. This happens at around 9:30 pm, which is probably my most productive time. Chamomile tea, unlike green and black tea, has no caffeine. It is an herbal tea known for many medicinal properties, among which we find relaxation and sleepiness.
2. Couple’s time: At around 10:30, I stop what I’m doing and spend some time with my husband. We do anything but talk about work. Whether it is talking, watching a TV show, going for a swim in the pool, we make some time for each other.
3. Bedtime preparations: At around 11:30, time to put on PJ’s and wash my face, while listening to my “Save Tonight” Pandora radio station (my favorite!)
4. Meditation time: About 10 minutes before midnight, all lights are off, smartphone playing one of the many Dan Gibson’s Solitude albums (you can purchase through amazon prime) and I proceed to close my eyes (yes, lying down), express my gratitude for the events of the day and start taking deep breaths slowly. As Jules describes in her post about starting a meditation practice, as thoughts run in, you acknowledge them and let them pass, refocusing on your breath. For me, this is more effective than any potent sedative. Within minutes (right before I turn into a pumpkin), I’m fast asleep.
For some people, midnight is a little too late. To me, 7 hours of sleep is what I really need. I’m a night owl and I wake up at 7, so midnight is just perfect. Nothing more, nothing less. But you have to find that nighttime routine that accommodates to your needs. There are many natural ways to try (aromatherapy, melatonin among others) and I am sure, many of them successful.
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