I want to talk about one of my FAV things in the world: Sleep. Seriously. I. Love. To. Sleep. Just ask my husband. He used to get annoyed by it… but over the years he’s learned to love all of me. He even supports me on my quest to sleep smarter.
My favorite birthday present is the chance to sleep in. At first Ryan thought I was joking, but I wasn’t. I was dead serious— give me sleep or give me no presents. So every year on my birthday, Ryan takes the kids out of the house in the morning and I stay in dreamland until my body decides it’s time to get up. No alarm clock. No noises. Just me and my bed on this lovely day.
The truth is: Sleep is essential to a healthy, happy YOU!
Yet that doesn’t mean we need to hibernate like a birthday bear. We just need to sleep smarter so we can reap the benefits.
Ya ready? Raise your hand if you…
• Struggle to fall asleep once you lay down at night
• Feel tired no matter how much you sleep you get (or caffeine you drink)
• Wonder if you’re ever getting enough sleep
Last week, I read an article about the importance of quality sleep and how everyone needs a different amount to function at their peak. Wait…what? You mean the standard 8 hours of shut-eye that has been ingrained in us since childhood may not be right for everyone? And there are things we can do on a daily basis to help promote quality sleep? #gamechanger
HOW MUCH SLEEP DO YOU NEED?
We all have different individual sleep needs. There are some lucky ones among us who can get away with 5-6 hours of sleep a night (I am definitely not one of them!), and others who need 10-11 hours to get through the day without feeling fatigued. Most of us though, need somewhere between 7-9 hours a night to function at our peak.
So how do you figure out how much sleep you personally need?
If you can, let yourself sleep naturally for a few days (performing this experiment over a long weekend is great!). Go to bed when you feel tired, and allow yourself to wake up without an alarm. Try to avoid alcohol or caffeine consumption in the afternoon during this trial period, as well (if you can give it up completely, even better!). This will help give you a better idea of your individual sleep needs, and clue you in to how many hours of sleep you should aim to get every night.
For myself, I found that the 7 hours of sleep I was getting each night wasn’t enough for me. My body functions best when I get around 9 hours of sleep. If I get less than that on a consistent basis, I get sleepy during the day, crave more junk food, and (I’ll be honest) turn into a little bit of a grouch.
Knowing I needed more sleep meant that I had to commit to an earlier bedtime. This was tough, considering I used the evening hours after the kids went to sleep to catch up on work and see what my friends were up to on social media. But I was determined to make getting a good night’s sleep a priority. With a little trial and error, I came up with a 4-step calming bedtime routine that I use to prime my body for better sleep.
4 WAYS TO SLEEP SMARTER
1) Power down electronics (yes, all of them!)
Technology stimulates your brain, and the light from some electronic devices (think TVs, smart phones, and computer screens) can interfere with your internal body clock and promote wakefulness instead of sleep.
Also, let’s be real, electronics can be addictive. How many times have you told yourself “I’m just going to do a quick Facebook check” and then an hour later you’re watching some video of a flash mob wedding proposal? #truestory
Finally, checking emails (especially work-related emails) right before bedtime can create worry, stress, and anxiety. Not a good mindset to be in when trying to fall asleep!
Consequently, once 5pm hits, I turn off my computer and put my phone on silent until the next day. I use this time to be present with my family, focus on my needs and start to relax.
2) Acknowledge worries + major to-do’s
An hour before bed is a great time to engage in some relaxing, pre-bedtime activities to wind down and trigger my body to know that it’s time to sleep soon. Honestly, it doesn’t take much in a day to get me triggered and stressed before bed. To combat this, I write down any worries I have and also important to-dos that need to be accomplished the next day. It’s like I’m doing a brain dump until I’m left with nothing but peace and quiet inside my head… and it only takes a few minutes to get there. You can do this at the kitchen table before you head to bed, which I find to be the most productive.
Another exercise is journaling out your thoughts. You could craft a poem, write out a prayer, create a gratitude journal— there’s no right or wrong way to journal. Do what comes easily to you and tweak as you see fit. The point is to release all those thoughts in your head and put them somewhere else for the night.
3) Enjoy some herbal tea or a light snack
Herbal tea is a wonderful, calming treat before bed. I’m currently obsessed with the Yogi Soothing Caramel Bedtime tea. My husband and I drink it every single night in bed together (and have it on an Amazon subscription so we don’t run out). I strongly recommend adding a relaxing herbal tea into your bedtime routine ASAP!
If your body needs some extra nourishment, having a light snack at least an hour before bedtime can also help promote quality sleep. I personally love our Spiced Almond Milk recipe, which combines almond milk and warming digestive spices to balance your blood sugar and stabilize your metabolism. The extra protein boost from the almond butter also helps curb hunger pains throughout the night.
4) Focus on ONE thing
The last thing I do every night is say a prayer of thanks in bed. You can try meditation, yoga, prayer, focused breathing or just a little quiet time. The point is that you’re being fully present on one thing to promote a sense of peace and mental clarity. My husband is the boss at his bedtime meditation + breathing combo. He used to struggle with falling asleep, but ever since he’s added this practice into his bedtime routine, he’s usually knocked out before I am.
SMALL STEPS ⇒ BIG CHANGE
I’ve made a commitment to sleep smarter and definitely feel better because of it. But I’m definitely not perfect. I don’t always get 9 hours of sleep every night, and I don’t always follow my evening routine to a T. That’s just part of life. Sometimes it can be really hard to make time for adequate sleep or space to unwind before bed (like when you’re a new parent, studying for finals or working long hours). I totally get it!
That’s why I always say to focus on progress, not perfection.
For instance, if you recognize that you’re not getting enough sleep right now, try to go to bed fifteen minutes earlier tonight. If you have a habit of scrolling through Facebook right before bedtime, try to swap it for a relaxing bedtime activity (like spiritual practice or journaling). Over time, small steps can add up to big changes.
Now, I'm curious…
What's your bedtime routine like? Do you have any new commitments you want to make? I’d love to know, so post your answers in the comments below. Sometimes just sharing it with someone else is all it takes to make it a success. We got this!