Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Startling Side Effects of Insomnia & Simple Ways to Ensure a Good Night’s Sleep

healthy sleeping routine
A solid sleep feels awesome.  And it's great for our health, too!  
Eighteen years ago I was having burgers with a group of friends.  The conversation turned to productivity and sleep.  One zealous guy quipped, “If Mother Teresa and Bill Clinton can get by on four hours a night, why shouldn’t we?” 

Recalling his comment feels like discovering Atari games in a storage closet.

Gone are the days when people name-drop and boast about how little sleep they can function on.  (Although I did just come across this anachronistic headline stating that Angela Merkel gets by on four hours.)

Debunking The Myth

Books like Ariana Huffington’s Sleep Revolution have debunked the idea that functioning with little sleep is a sign of productivity—in fact the opposite is true.
Basically every day, literally, we have new scientific evidence about the connection between sleep and every aspect of our health.  From obesity and diabetes to hypertension, heart disease, cancer, every aspect of our emotional intelligence and mood -- you know, how we feel about our lives.  How depressed or anxious or fearful we are.  And then our actually -- our actual cognitive functions.  Ariana Huffington
Sleep and health go hand in hand.  We're more vulnerable to colds when sleep deprived.  

Plus, it affects our performance and cognitive functions.  Andre Iguodola demonstrated that his basketball game improved dramatically when he slept better. 

But It's Complicated

Acknowledging that sleep is healthy and actually having a good night's sleep are two entirely separate beasts, however.

At various time over the years, I've fallen into a pattern of  chronically waking up at night for several hours and then being exhausted the next day.  This past autumn was one such time.  

After closely examining my sleeping and daily routines, I discovered simple changes that improved the quality of my sleep.

Here's what I found. 

How to Ensure a Good Night's Sleep

Keep a Sleep Journal
It's helpful to write down my activities for the day, mood, and diet alongside the time I go to bed and wake up. 

A journal makes it easy to discern patterns—for example a correlation between eating sweets right before bed and sleeping poorly, or sleeping solidly on the same day I’ve worked out.

Set the Stage for Good Night’s Sleep
A lot can wake us up at night, including thirst, noise, and light.  Simple things like closing the curtains, keeping a water bottle alongside the bed, and wearing earplugs help to reduce restless sleeping patterns. 

Or, if you get cold during the night like I do, wear warm long-johns to bed, as well as socks.

Are You Really Tired?
Oftentimes I sleep poorly if I go to sleep before I'm really tired--after only having been awake for 12-14 hours. 

I sleep much better if I've been awake 16-17 hours.  Sometimes this means staying up later than I’d prefer (to 1 or 2 am), but it’s worth it.

Quieting Bedtime Routine
It’s so easy to fall asleep to a series on your laptop.  But that’s not good! 

Huffington talks about creating a demarcation between day and night.  This can be as simple as taking some moments right before bed to journal or read fiction--as well as wearing clothing designated specifically for sleep. 

A routine gives your mind cues that it's time to rest and sleep.  

Similarly, using the bed exclusively for sleep (no working on the bed during the day!) lulls your mind into a restful place once you've lain down.  

When I can only swing a short amount sleep at night, I'll make time for a nap in the afternoon.  Even a twenty-minute power-nap feels awesome.

So many workspaces designate places for napping nowadays--there’s no shame in napping at work!

Your Suggestions

Do you ever struggle with sleep?  What helps for you?

1 comment

  1. I struggle with sleep and I haven’t found anything that truly helps me that isn’t medication . I’m going to try some of these things!


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