Starting at the bottom of my journey map, in the middle is the column titled SELF and the biggest box is called ‘SLEEP / REST‘. We all know how much better we feel when we have a great sleep and how terrible it feels when we don’t. Even if you are a star sleeper, you have probably had life circumstances which have thrown you for a loop. Things like having a baby in the house or long haul travel over many time zones. Those were my 2 big call to action problems. It was a shock to my system, to all of a sudden be sleeping so poorly in those circumstances.
As a matter of common sense, I kind of just knew that sleeping was super important. It didn’t take any convincing for me to raise the idea of sleeping to my highest level of priority and self-care. I guess it was that way in my home growing up. But applying a childhood habit to the modern times we live in, is not always so smooth. Not to mention that being a kid was relatively stress free anyhow. Designing an adult life can often be complicated. Particularly if you share your sleeping space with another person.
Adding to the stress of making sure we are sleeping properly, is the research which highlights just how bad not sleeping well is for the body and brain. Healthline.com posted a great article called, ‘The effects of Sleep Deprivation on The Body.’ The byline states that: ‘Sleep deprivation can cause damage to your body in the short-term. Over time, it can lead to chronic health problems and negatively impact your quality of life.‘ The article details everything that can go wrong when sleep deprivation is present. To be sleep deprived there is; ‘a sufficient lack of restorative sleep over a cumulative period so as to cause physical or psychiatric symptoms and affect routine performances of tasks.’ (Farlex Partner Medical Dictionary. (2012). Retrieved February 14 2017)
Suffice to say that not getting a good nights sleep is serious stuff. However, on the plus side, there is a great deal of advice about how to help yourself to a better nights sleep. Kind of a DIY to better sleeping habits. These are the things I have tried.
- Caffeine did not always keep me awake at night. However, my habits in my early twenties are not a good benchmark. The rule of thumb is limit the amount of drip coffee and do not consume after mid morning.
- Alcohol has this strange effect where it puts me to sleep, but if I am brutally honest, I sleep restlessly. I wake often and do not feel as refreshed in the morning. A schedule that works well for me is to limit alcohol to 2 drinks, only 3 times per week. No alcohol at all is extremely effective. Then, I sleep like a baby!
- I share my bedroom with my husband and luckily we both like to keep the room cool. The windows have blackout shades, so the room is always dark. If his snoring bothers me, I wear earplugs.
- The reading lights are not overly bright and there is no TV. I store all my electronic devices outside the bedroom. On occasion I will use my iPad before bed and I can usually do OK with just that amount of exposure to the light it emits.
- Every night, my husband and I take a hot tub together. Nice warm water, time to relax and chit-chat. It probably doesn’t help either one of us to discuss upsetting situations at that time, but sometimes that is the only time we have together in the evening. Then I get into bed and read before falling asleep.
- If I wake up and wonder what time it is, unless I’m certain it is morning, I don’t look at the clock, rather I go back to sleep. This is a tricky one because sometimes I really need to go to the bathroom and I don’t even realize it. It doesn’t help to induce panic by looking at the clock and realizing it is only 2am!
- When it is summer time I am outside so much! The fresh air and outside activity are wonderful for sleep. In the winter, I use a light at my desk that replicates sunlight. It is not the same thing, but it does help.
- I get up around 6:30am. For the years I needed an alarm clock, I used the natural light simulator as an alarm clock. So the light woke me up, rather than a sound. I think that one is very important. The only time I use a sound to wake me up is on the rare occasion where I need to get up for a super early flight.
- I try to be turning out my light by 10:30pm each night. The consistency helps my sleep and in turn, I am tired by that time of night!
- I don’t nap, unless I’m sick or getting over jet lag. (Which feels like a form of sickness).
- I live in a culture where we tend to eat big heavy meals for dinner. Often we are waiting for the whole family to arrive and then we eat late on top of it all. Instead, starting dinner at 4:30pm and getting it on the table by 5:30pm is working well at my house. I try to keep the protein to 1/3 of the plate and 2/3 for vegetables. (Opposite of restaurant meals).
- I have started to pay attention to how much added sugar is sneaking into my diet. We didn’t normally have deserts after dinner, but now we will only have a square or 2 of dark chocolate, 70% cocao.
- I think hydration is important, but I try to get all my water in before 7pm. Otherwise I need to pee in the night!
- I don’t drink anything carbonated as a general rule.
- When I exercise, I do it in the morning. I lose inspiration as the day goes on and I like to shower after a work out anyway.
This list of things did not magically appear one day, it has accumulated over years. Tweaking a little bit here and there. Trying things out, seeing what feels right for me and my family. As much as I try to stick to this, I forgive myself when I don’t. I went on holidays over Christmas and NYE and didn’t follow this list very much. But I had my family with me and we had a great time. So I enjoyed every minute of it, wholeheartedly!
I am always looking for new ways to get a better sleep! As I was writing this there are some things to consider:
- Light stretching, yoga
- Focus on peaceful and relaxing end of day conversations with my husband
- Writing in a journal at the end of the day
- Being grateful for all the good things that happen in a day
- Telling my worries to my worry dolls – I keep forgetting I have these! Check out: The Legend of The Worry Dolls
Arianna Huffington has a TED talk with 3.9 million views on the subject of sleep: How to succeed? Get more sleep – Arianna Huffington.
If you are wishing for a better nights sleep, try a couple small changes in your schedule. Stick with it for about 30 days and then try a few more alterations. Slowly, you may notice an improvement. That has been my experience. Of course, when I had babies, every bit of a normal schedule is thrown out the window until you manage to get a baby to sleep through the night. That first week of everyone in the house getting their full nights rest – amazing!
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