We are in our 5th week of the Spring Cleaning for your Body, Mind & Soul series, which brings us to our next habit that we need to clean up. This week is going to be all about SLEEP!
Does anyone NOT like to sleep? I don’t think that’s the issue. The issue comes in because our society in general does not value sleep. We value productivity. The harder you work, the better quality person you become. (That’s a load of crap, by the way, BUT many of us buy into it.) “Work harder work harder – don’t go to sleep- you’ve got more to do!”
The interesting thing here is that working harder does not necessarily equal better productivity. In fact, if you skip out on sleep, you will be less productive. It makes more sense, if productivity is your goal, that you take a break and get your sleep and then come back with a sharper and more focused mind. You will get more done in less time. I promise.
But how does lack of sleep affect our health? Many times we just figure that the worst result of not getting enough sleep is feeling terrible. And that if we’re tough enough, we’ll get over it.
It’s not quite like that.
If you repeatedly refuse to give your body the rest that it requires, the least negative response is that you will feel terrible (and who wants to feel terrible, anyway?). But it won’t stop there.
Here are 3 reasons why you need to get more sleep:
1- Sleep is important for your body’s immune system to function properly. No sleep = lowered immune function. And that results in all sorts of ailments. Colds, flus, any air borne virus and everything that knocks out your energy and puts you flat on your back.
2- Lack of sleep can also lead to inflammation. Which is the beginning of every disease you can think of, pretty much. Not the least of which is cancer.
3- Lack of sleep will also throw off your delicate hormonal balance. That’s not just your mood. That’s how your entire endocrine system functions. That’s where the weight gain comes in. Mess with your hormones enough and you can set yourself up for a life of obesity.
In other words, it’s not something to be taken lightly.
So how do you know if you’re sleep deprived? Here are the guidelines from the book “Power Sleep” by Dr. Maas
You are sleep deprived if…
1- it is a struggle for you to get out of bed in the morning
2- weekday mornings you hit the snooze button several times to get more sleep.
3- you feel tired, irritable, and stressed-out during the week
4- you need an alarm clock to wake up at the appropriate time
5- you have trouble concentrating and remembering
6- you feel slow with critical thinking, problem solving, and being creative.
7- you often fall asleep watching tv
8- you often fall asleep in meetings or lectures in warm rooms
9- you often fall asleep after heavy meals or after a low dose of alcohol
10- you often fall asleep while relaxing after dinner
11- you often fall asleep within five minutes of getting into bed.
12- you often feel drowsy while driving
13- you often sleep extra hours on weekend mornings
14- you often need a nap to get through the day
15- you have dark circles around your eyes.
if your answer is yes to any of the above you can consider yourself to be one of the millions of chronically sleep deprived people. You may be vaguely aware of how sleepy and ineffective you are, and ignorant of how dynamic you could be with adequate sleep.
Did you know that you actually possess the capacity to be energetic, wide awake, happy, creative, productive, motivated, and HEALTHY!!?
We just need to get that 8 hours of sleep. And through my own life as example, this is not always the easiest thing with the demands placed on us by ourselves and others. I used to literally not have 8 hours between when I got home from work at night and when I left again in the morning. No bueno. It took me several years to alter my schedule. I definitely upset some clients, and lost money, but I prevented further damage to my self from my sleep deprivation and I got it together. You can, too.
Here are a few suggestions from Dr. Maas’ books. There are so many more, but we’ll start with these and you can grab the book if you’d like more. It’s interesting, reading through these. It’s just basically taking good care of yourself. And then the sleep comes naturally.
1- Exercise to stay fit- “exercise increases heart and lung fitness and reduces stress, anxiety and insomnia. Exercise also raises your endorphin levels. Endorphins are naturally existing mood elevators produced by the brain in response to physical exercise. They reduce pain, relax muscles, suppress appetite, and produce feelings of general well-being. As a result, sleep will be deeper, more efficient, and more restful”. There’s so much more I could add, but we’ll leave it at that for today’s purposes.
2- Eat a proper diet- “eating proteins at dinner, such as fish, chicken, or certain vegetables will prevent hunger pangs at night. Do not eat a large or heavy meal within 4 hours of going to bed. While a substantial intake of food can make you feel drowsy initially, you’ll probably toss and turn during the night. And you’re likely to gain weight by eating too late in the day to burn off the calories before they begin to do damage.”
3- Stop Smoking- “aside from all its carcinogenic properties, nicotine stimulates brain-wave activity and increases blood pressure and heart rate. These factors all disturb your ability to get to sleep and remain asleep. If you have insomnia, stop smoking.” Hey, I took it right from the horse’s mouth.
4- Consider your share– basically he means if you share a bed with a partner who tosses and turns all night- consider getting a larger bed, or perhaps putting two twin beds next to each other.
5- Clear your mind at bedtime- I do crosswords to get the mind chatter to stop. Also I keep a notepad by the bed, so if ideas won’t stop and I’m afraid I will forget them, I write them down to deal with the next day. Breathing exercises help- focusing on breath takes your mind and brings it to the simple gesture of breathing and off your mind chatter.
6- Try Some Bedtime Relaxation Techniques– Dr. Maas’ list is similar to mine and includes progressive muscle relaxation (you can get a guided version- just google it up), yoga, mental imagery and fantasies, deep breathing, mind games, counting sheep. Yes, he suggests counting sheep. Why not? Whatever works.
7- Avoid trying too hard to get to sleep- this sleep stuff takes some work and practice. It’s a habit you have to create, and that takes time. So don’t counteract the benefits by stressing yourself out to hurry up and get to sleep! Just let it be what it is. If you miss some sleep sometimes, it’s not the end of the world. You’re just trying to improve your life little by little. So be nice.
I find that part of the reason it is hard to take care of ourselves is because we feel selfish. AND not only that, but instead of support from our friends and family, they often dish out resistance! Which then supports our idea that we are selfish for wanting to take care of ourselves.
But trust me, you must take care of yourself- it is your biggest job and it is your main job.
You’ve been given this body to take care of. If you take care of it, it’ll take care of you. With that well cared for person (you) you can then go forth and conquer!! Without self care, you can range anywhere between zombie state (or dead, in the extreme but possible) to just simply less efficient. Either way you are not happy. And what do we want? HAPPY!
Enjoy those zzzz’s 🙂
All my BEST,
P.S. I would love to hear where you are with your sleep habits. Share in the comments below.
Below are the links to the previous posts in the Spring Cleaning for your Body, Mind & Soul series:
All quotes are from Dr. Maas’ book “Power Sleep”.