There is one thing that can determine how I feel throughout the day.
It’s not how my hair looks, or whether or not I have a fun group fitness class to look forward to, it’s sleep.
Sleep is one of those super-important aspects of a healthy lifestyle that is not discussed as much as it should be.
You have to condition yourself to get the right amount of sleep, just like you have to condition yourself to consistently exercise or eat well.
As a disclaimer: There are times in people’s lives when they can’t conquer improving their sleep habits because of things outside of their control. For instance, when you have a new baby in the house, when you have to work the night-shift, or when you have events that run late followed by early morning appointments. But even with life’s commitments, I’m sure everyone can make a little more effort in the sleep department.
Stress = sleepless nights
Back when I was planning my wedding in 2012, I would wake up in the middle of the night in spastic thoughts about wedding details and couldn’t go back to sleep. When my mind started running, there was nowhere to go. So I would eventually get up and keep myself busy going over my checklist until it was time to work out or get ready for work, sometimes going through the day with just three-to-four hours of sleep under my belt.
It never made for a fabulous day. I’d feel foggy, with a bit of a headache and a side of grumpiness. Perhaps if I had stayed in bed I would have fallen back asleep?
Today, I consider sleep just as important as my healthy diet and workout routine, but I still struggle with it and am most alive and kicking on days when I’ve slept great.
Make it part of your routine
I usually get in bed between 10 p.m. and 10:15 p.m. on weeknights and around 11 p.m. on weekends. I get up between 6 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. on weekdays (except for Wednesday, when I get up at 5:45 a.m. to teach an early morning group fitness class, for which I have a few tips on how to get up early for a workout here) and the same on weekends. That gives me just around seven-to-eight hours most nights. While I would love to sleep in on weekends, I know I don’t, so I still try to keep a consistent bedtime.
Studies show that not everyone needs to get eight full hours, because our bodies are different. But nobody should be getting less than six consistently.
And it’s serious.
According to the head of the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School quoted in a recent story on The Boston Globe, there should be a public-awareness campaign alerting people to the dangers of short-changing sleep, much like there are public-awareness campaigns about the dangers of smoking.
While I won’t list all the benefits of a good night’s sleep (which include improving athletic performance and increasing ability to learn and retain information), I will tell you that I know personally I feel light year’s better when I wake up rested.
I’ve been trying to stay off my iPhone at night in bed, because the light can keep me up. I also pull myself away from the TV right around 10 p.m. most nights, even though part of me wants to continue laying on the couch and see which house they end up choosing on House Hunters.
As a note: The TV issue is a joint effort in our household. On nights when Dave is home, it usually means we can only fit in one episode of Breaking Bad on Netflix before we have to switch to regular TV, usually HGTV, so we don’t get sucked into a second episode. We are in the final season and are both dying to know how it will end.
How to get a good night’s sleep
The Huffington Post recently published a great list of “37 Scientifically-Backed Tips for Better Sleep Tonight.” The ones that stood out to me include:
- Resist the urge to snooze. Post-alarm sleep is not quality and makes you feel groggier.
- Keep your bedroom dark.
- Avoid caffeine in the afternoon.
- Slip on some socks to keep your extremities warm.
- Work through your thoughts about the day before getting into bed.
- Power down electronics an hour before bed.
- Keep a consistent sleep/wake schedule, even on the weekends.
- Avoid drinking too many liquids close to bedtime.
There you have it. A few tips to help you get your ZZZZs, not only because they are oh-so-important, but also because nobody likes a grump.
I slept great last night and am off to teach a lunchtime BODYATTACK class.
Questions of the day
Are you rested? What’s one little change you could make to sleep better at night?