Sleep is The Foundation of Health and Well Being
Last time my book club was here, we were all out by the pool. I got up to go inside for something and someone asked where I was going. I replied "I'm headed to bed, y'all have fun." To which someone else laughed and said "I would believe it." (It was 8:30.)
In my circles, I'm notorious for adherence to my early departures and subsequent appointment with my pillow. I often say "JennJenn*'s bedtime... gotta go!" When I travel with my mother we often joke that I'm the "older" one when it comes to hitting the sack. My boyfriend jokes that anything past 8:30 is beyond my bedtime.
Reality is I have always been a sleeper. I can generally fall asleep anytime I go horizontal. But even as a good sleeper, I sometimes struggle. If you saw my Facebook post Friday morning, I shared my sleep score from last night. It was a 75 which earned a FAIR rating from my FitBit. I hate being average.
Why am I so preoccupied with sleep? Well, because I feel like it's the foundation of so many other things that make me feel better.
Stress Levels. When we sleep, our brain and body slow down and engage in processes of recovery, promoting better physical and mental performance the next day and over the long-term. Therefore, it stands to reason that poor quality or not enough sleep can allow stress to seep into our rest time. Do you ever dream about a work project that is weighing on your mind? Or wake up thinking about an un comfortable conversation you had with a coworker last week?
Weight Gain. Sleeping less means eating more according to the Mayo clinic. The article makes note that our hunger hormones (ghrehlin and leptin) are regulated by our sleep. Also, if you're like me when you're sleepy, you're often looking for that 'little pick me up' around mid-morning or mid-afternoon.
Nervous System. Finally, lack of sleep stresses our nervous system which regulates BOTH stress levels and weight. A tired brain is going to react more slowly, which can cause agitation and frustration to show up quicker. Also, tired body doesn't regulate its temperature as well making us hot or cold and holds onto it's water and may bloat causing and weight fluctuations.
How I get to bed earlier:
Set a Reminder. My living room Alexa announces, "Let's get ready for bed" every night at 10 PM. It's a reminder to me that if I'm not already headed to bed, I need to be soon. These days I'm more likely to wash my face around 9:30 and have lights out by 10 PM.
Use Blue Light Filters, Turn off Notifications and Turn Off/Dim Overhead Lights. Blue lights and bright overhead lights (like can lights that are SO popular now) cause our circadian rythms to misunderstand day and night. This can physically inhibit sleep. Most phones and devices can go into "shade or even DND mode" at a designated time. I'll admit, I'm still a work in progress on leaving the devices alone since I read on my Kindle, so I opt for blue screens and turn off my notifications.
Create a Bath or Shower Ritual. I see different research citing hot baths vs. cool/cold showers before bed. I'm a hot bath girl and if I'm having trouble sleeping, I will get out of bed, take a quick bath with my Dr. Tiels Epsom Salt Bath and sure enough -- once I get back into bed, I'm out like a light. So maybe try them both to see which works best for you. And if you don't want to take a full bath or shower, maybe make a ritual out of face washing.
Set an Audio Routine. I don't have any research handy on this, but I can tell you firsthand that listening to the same thing every night will teach your brain that it's time to sleep. For me it's true crime podcasts. I rarely make it past 15 mins so I don't consciously even hear them and no they don't cause bad dreams. If stabby, stabby isn't your jam, try Nothing Much Happens podcast. It's actually what started me on listening to podcasts instead of watching TV.
Create a Calming Environment. I love bed...Like love, love, looooove it... For summer, I have cool crisp Pottery Barn sheets that are the perfect blend of soft and cool without being too slick. For winter, it's cozy UGG flannel sheets. Your bed should be a reflection of you. I also nearly always diffuse doTerra Breathe, Eucalyptus or Serenity. Again, this adds to the routine that teaches my body that it's sleep time.
Ok, So are you ready to try to get some better sleep? Maybe you have a trick not listed here. Let me know, but you know, not after say 8:30 or so.
*JennJenn is my alter-ego. The one that gets to say and do what she wants when Jennifer might be remiss to do what her heart calls her to do. It's also my grandpa's nick name for me as a kid. Several of my friends also use it and it makes my heart swell.