Though it isn’t quite my birthday, I want to share with you one of the lessons I’ve learned this last year. The most critical thing I can do to care for myself is to get adequate sleep. I hate to break it to you kitten, but if you want to feel happier, be more productive, and live a daily life that feels nourishing and supportive, then, darling, you need to commit to getting at a minimum seven hours of sleep a night.

I can already see you rolling your eyes and saying things like “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” and “I have too much to do” and “the only time I have to myself is late at night.” And, I get it. It wasn’t that long ago that I was surviving on four to six hours of sleep a night.

Surviving is a good way to look at it, too. I would tell myself that I needed to work harder so that I could play harder, but I never actually played. I would tell myself that I needed to get more done, but in all honesty, I wasn’t that productive because I wasn’t really able to focus.

I’m a logical person and love to tie the beauties of science to what my body tells me. Though my body has been telling me how critical it is to get enough sleep, the most recent research in sleep is proving to us what our minds want to deny but our bodies show us: we need seven to nine hours of sleep a night for our mental and physical health, our bodies do best when we go to bed and wake-up the same time every day, and shorting ourselves of sleep just one night takes two weeks of adequate sleep to recover.

One of the best things you can do for yourself, my dear, is to make adequate sleep a priority.

I’m not going to lie to you that it will be easy-peasy. It will seem impossible at first. You may have years of bad habits and beliefs about sleep to adjust. I want to share with you some tips that I’ve learned (am learning) about better sleep hygiene.

Optimize Your Environment

You’ll sleep better if your room is cool and dark. If your room is too bright, consider a sleep mask.

Set Yourself Up For Success with Math

Everyone differs on the exact amount of sleep he or she needs, but begin with a guideline of 7 hours to start and do some simple arithmetic.  If your alarm goes off at 6 AM each day, then you need to be in bed no later than 11 PM.  This can be adjusted over time to find your sweet spot of rest.

Listen To Your Body

Your mind will try to convince you that you are a special snowflake that doesn’t require the same amount of sleep as everyone else. It will tell you that you can live on less sleep. Don’t listen to your mind (it will lie). Instead, tune into your body as you begin to relearn it’s signals. Even if it seems early (logically) and you’re tired, just go to bed already.

Adhere to An Electronic Curfew

Electronics need to be turned off at least an hour before bedtime. I know that email and Facebook and text messages are so very tempting, but they will wait. Managing these things keep your mind churning and engaged instead of winding down.

Be Aware of Blue Lights

Bright and bluish lights, such as natural sunlight, inhibit the creation of melatonin in the brain to signal the beginning of the day. All of our nifty electronics emit blue light, which is similar to the under tones of sunlight, which also inhibits melatonin. Using these devices mess with your body’s ability to create melatonin. This means, in addition to giving your electronics a curfew, don’t charge your phone in the bedroom. It’s simply too tempting to check your phone if you wake during the night. And if you use your phone as your signal to wake each day, buy yourself a damned alarm clock. Yes, they still sell those.

Don’t Watch TV in Bed

This was a hard one for me to break, especially right after my divorce. When you regularly use your bedroom for activities other than sleep and sex, your mind (and body) won’t get the signal that being in the bed means it’s time for sleep.

Create a Bedtime Routine and Ritual

It should include some self-care like stretching or a bath, reading a relaxing book or meditation/prayer whatever your thing is. Start it half an hour before bedtime if you can.

Keep a Sleep Journal

It doesn’t have to be super detailed, simply make a quick note on your calendar as to how much sleep you got and how you feel when you wake up. Writing down how you feel after adequate sleep will begin to reassure your mind that you can forgo some of the things on the to-do list for a few extra winks.  It will also help you gauge the right amount of sleep for YOUR body.

You, my darling, deserve to consciously live, not just get by. Begin a new way of thriving by giving your body what it truly needs.  You deserve to give yourself the gift of self-care. When adequate sleep becomes part of your daily life, and not something reserved for weekends and holidays, you will actually be more productive and creative and feel happier and so much sexier!

What about you?  What tips can you share for letting go of the endless to do list so you can get a little extra shut-eye?

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Life coach Debra Smouse helps women feeling overwhelmed by life and/or their schedule recreate their life into one worth falling in love with. A self admitted tarnished southern belle, she now resides in Dayton, OH with the man of her dreams.
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