As 2016 began, I wrote a Huffington Post Sleep + Wellness blog post, Promises to Sleep: New Year’s Resolutions You Can Keep. Robert Frost knew that we have promises to keep and miles to go before we sleep. What he may not have known is that sleep deprivation has significant costs and health risks. We all are mega busy, often infringing on a primal necessity- SLEEP. It’s a New Year, a perfect time to commit to improving your sleep.
A recently released Rand Report conveys why sleep matters with data about the causes, consequences, and economic costs of insufficient sleep, offering a cross-country comparative analysis and providing strong evidence that insufficient sleep quality and quantity impacts people of all ages, including children and adolescents.
Remember, no one can sleep for you but you. We need to consistently give sleep the respect, attention, and time it deserves. Our bodies, minds, and spirits require the rejuvenation and recharging that sleep provides. There is no substitute. You can choose to engage in healthy bedtime habits and serve as a role model for your family and colleagues.
Recognizing that sleep continues to elude far too many people of all ages, I reiterate my bedtime tips from last year to help for those interested in optimizing their sleep.
1. Determine how much sleep you need to function at your best. Observe those days that you’re not dragging and don’t need caffeine or a nap to stay alert. Good sleep is key to feeling awake and energetic.
2. Establish a consistent wake time. Then, work back based on #1 to establish your best bedtime. If you have chronic sleep deficit, adjust your sleep time over a period of time (say in 15 minute increments every few days or week) to allow your body clock to adjust. Don’t expect an overnight adjustment after prolonged sleep deprivation.
3. Prepare for bedtime like you prepare for work or workouts. Establish a consistent sleep routine that you find calming and relaxing.
4. Tune out from technology at least an hour before bedtime. Ok, if this is too daunting, start with ½ hour for 2 weeks and then work up to 1 hour. Use your new free time to do some gentle stretches or read quietly, but not on a tech device. For a great bedtime read, Arianna Huffington’s book, The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time, will reinforce the importance of sleep and shed light on the science behind it.
5. Don’t look at the clock if you awaken during the night. Cover it or turn it around. Your brain won't be stimulated, nor will you have sleep anxiety thinking about worries or all you need to do the next day (or night for those who work a night shift). If after about 20 minutes (guestimate) you can’t fall back asleep, read with a dim light until you are sleepy again.
With good sleep, you will awaken to life renewed and refreshed. Here are some sequenced tips to transition from a night’s* sleep and to start your day positive and relaxed. (* or day’s sleep for shift workers)
1. No snooze button! Get out of the habit of snoozing. You are wasting good, sound sleep. Set the alarm for the time you actually need to get up!
2. Express gratitude for having slept and for a new day.
3. Stretch your body. You’ve had limited movement for many hours. Simple movements can be effective, like stretching your legs out straight and your arms overhead. And gently rolling from side to side. Do what is comfortable for you.
4. Meditate or practice a mindfulness technique. This is a calming way to start your day, making you more resilient to stress. This can be as simple as focusing on your breath in and out for a minute or two.
5. Set and affirm up to 3 goals for the day. I do this each morning before getting out of bed, giving me a sense of purpose and focus. They can be as simple as that you will schedule an appointment you need to make or that you’ll make a phone call you’ve been neglecting. Select things that will help you feel accomplished at day’s end.
6. No screen time for 15 minutes so you can transition to your busy day in peace.
7. Make your bed every morning to affirm that a new day has started. By making your bed, you separate sleeping from your waking hours. And it’s nice to return to a neat bed at night.
8. Get daylight and start moving to start your day. Get up in the morning and get exposure to daylight to let your body clock know it’s time to wake up. Start moving or, if possible, get some exercise to get your circulation and metabolism going.
Here’s to 2017, your year of sumptuous slumber and healthy, productive, and energetic living!