I wrote in my e-zine last week that sleep has helped me to survive three weeks of intense caregiving of my elderly mother. When friends ask me “So how are you, really?” I’m surprised that I’m able to answer “I’m fine, I’m really doing OK.” Yes, of course, I’ve had my moments and my meltdowns. But as a whole, I’ve been pretty even keel during the incredible roller coaster of emotions and experiences we’ve had.
I attribute my success in this super stressful situation to my commitment to sleep.
I’m so excited about Arianna Huffington’s new book The Sleep Revolution. I read her bestselling book Thrive last year and while it has all sorts of gems of wisdom in it (recommendations for daily meditation, slowing down, plugging into your intuition, acting on your generosity and more), what I resonated with the most was her focus on the importance of sleep.
She famously said in her 2010 TED talk “Sleep your way to the top” but she wasn’t talking about sex. She was referencing the power of sleep to help you function at your best, be efficient, make clear decisions and decrease stress. Sleep helps us stay focused, be more disciplined, make better choices and access our intuition.
How do you do with your sleep?
For me, it took age and wisdom to realize that sleep is my #1 self care strategy. While exercise, good nutrition, time with family, connecting with friends and developing my spiritual life are also at the top of the list, sleep still ranks as #1 for me to operate at my best. I can skip a day of exercise or talking to my best friend on the phone and it’s OK if I have pizza for dinner once in a while or skip my prayers one evening (my God is an understanding one!).
But if I skimp on sleep, all bets are off for me to have a good day the next day. I get cranky and grumpy (what we call “having the growlies” in our house!) and I tend to snap at my family members, am less focused and productive at work and waste way too much time on social media.
How do you respond when you don’t sleep well?
Here are a few simple tips I’ve found that work well to get a good night’s sleep:
- Have a good bedtime ritual. Ideally, unplug from technology 30-60 minutes before bedtime. Take a bath, stretch, meditate, write in your journal, snuggle with a loved one or read a book. The more you unplug from the activity of the day, the easier it is to transition to night time.
- Use earplugs. Even if your home is quiet, I find that earplugs help to cut out any extraneous noise and help me drift off to sleep with ease.
- Apply lavender oil. I put a drop on my pillow every night when I go to bed. It is relaxing and soothing and helps me transition to sleep. And, if I’m having a particularly busy brain evening, I rub lavender oil on the bottom of my feet before bed to help settle my thoughts. Works like a charm.
- Don’t eat too late or drink caffeine at night. You want to slow the digestive system down in the evening, not ramp it up. If you have to eat late, try to eat light. And if you love your coffee, try switching to herbal tea in the evening and save your cup of joe for breakfast.
- Love your bed. Sleep on sheets that feel good. Make sure you have comforters and blankets that you feel nurtured by. Rotate your mattress regularly and make sure to buy a new bed every 7-10 years. Keep your bedroom as a sacred sanctuary - clean and quiet.
- Don’t have a TV in your room. You’ve heard it before and I know for some, it’s a hard habit to break. But your bedroom should be for only two things. This article is about one. You figure out the other!
- Don’t have other electronic devices in your room either. Recharge your phones, tablets and computers in your office, kitchen or living room away from your sleep zone.
Revitalizing Action: Evaluate your sleep habits. Are you sleeping long enough? What is the quality of your sleep? If you aren’t sleeping well, try some of these tips and see if you can make some changes. If you still aren’t seeing good results, consult with a health professional. Good quality and quantity of sleep is critical for your health and well-being. You deserve to sleep your way to success!