“Each night, when I go to sleep, I die. And the next morning, when I wake up, I am reborn.” Mahatma Gandhi
About a year ago, a man driving his teenage son to school crashed head-on into a school bus out in front of our house. He’d fallen asleep at the wheel. The man died at the scene as a bus full of traumatized children looked on. It was quite a tragedy in our small, rural town.
The Center of Disease Control calls insufficient sleep a public epidemic. They estimate over 90% of Americans suffer from too little sleep. The effect of poor sleep on overall health is scary. Everything is touched, from maintaining a healthy weight to fighting off chronic illness, to staying awake at the wheel.
Just to be your best self, getting good sleep needs to be a priority. Women need on average 6-7 hours and men 7-8. (In our house it’s opposite: I do better on 8 and my husband needs 6-7.) Each individual is unique, and tuning in with your own needs trumps any random statistic. It’s not cumulative. You don’t get to bank extra weekend hours to dole out during weekdays where you come up short.
There are a bazillion tests out there to see if you are getting enough sleep. These tests employ common sense. If you need caffeine to fuel you…if you are falling asleep while watching television on the couch…if you are fading off in the afternoon at work…if you are yawning…you get the idea. You know when you’re tired, and when you’re tired, you’re not at your optimum.
I love sleeping. Much of the material I get during my dreams helps me with things I deal with during the waking hours. Ms. Bay (our four-legged friend in this shot) loves sleeping, too. She’s really good at it. It’s one of her special skills.
Here are some tricks I use to mimic the sleep rooms of yesteryear, where royal family members were prepped for sleep. The sleep preparation rooms were actually separate than the sleeping rooms and their sole purpose was preparation. Unless you have a few extra rooms you don’t know what to do with, though, one will suffice. Just borrow the concepts.
1. Clean your room of electronics (I know, I know) and mirrors. The mirrors are a Feng Shui thing. The electronics because they introduce an energy not conducive to sleep.
2. Create the ability to make dim lighting. As your bed time approaches, keep the lights dim, signaling your body sleep time is near.
3. Do not store things under your bed. (Another Feng Shui thing.) In fact, the less clutter in general, the better.
4. Keep reading by your bed that is inspirational, upbeat, and not too gripping. You don’t want that nail-biter novel that keeps you reading until 2 a.m. (Use that one on the Stairmaster!) If you like to read before bed, make it short, positive, neutral.
5. Give yourself the right amount of time you know you need. If you have to get up at 6:00 and you know you need 8 hours sleep, don’t go to bed at 10:30. You put too much pressure on yourself which compounds the problem.
6. Create a ritual just like you teach your kids. I brush my teeth and my hair, read my daily inspirational magazine, put out my dream journal in case something comes I need to jot down in the morning, and go to sleep. Make one that works for you.
7. Turn off your stuff and put it in the other room. Having phones vibrate all night is NOT conducive to good sleep, nor is the flashing light on your laptop as it hibernates.
8. Pay attention to how you feel. Tune in to how you feel during the day. Do you need caffeine just to get going? Do you wake up in a good mood, reborn and ready for the day, or do you feel like crap? Investigate further and don’t give up until you’ve found a routine that works for you. (This probably should have been #1.)
9. Alcohol and caffeine. Some people are more sensitive to the effect of these than others, but in general, both substances do not make for the right kind of sleep. If you find yourself in the 90%, consider a personal study trying not to use these substances for a week and seeing how that makes you feel and how your sleep is affected. I love red wine, but I know when I drink that, I am trading off REM sleep that will not be as good as without it.
10. Be patient with yourself. Making the time for good sleep takes conscious thought and experimenting. People have health conditions that can make it feel nearly impossible. Try and arm yourself with habits that will help you, and make it a priority. And if you have any other brilliant ideas, please comment and add them, so we can change that 90% statistic as soon as possible!