Self-Care Week 2
Self-care strategy #2: SLEEP
All too often we find ourselves going and going and going until we're all tuckered out. When this is the case, only SLEEP can restore you.
Your body and mind needs daily physical stimulation, but you also need restoration.
Self-care is ensuring you are dedicated to true body restoration, only available to us in the form of restful sleep.
Why do we need sleep anyway?
Studies have shown that sleep facilitates the organization of long-term memory and the integration of the new information of the day. Its also when the bulk of repair and renewal of the body's tissues and neural connections occurs, with REM repairing your mind and non-REM repairing your body.
But I understand, getting enough sleep is difficult for many of us given life's circumstances: children who wake in the night, deadlines at work, stress or anxiety, a night on the town that went late, or perhaps debilitating insomnia.
Ultimately we have to find a way to care for our bodies with a consistent sleep pattern.
So how much?
The national sleep foundation recommends 7-9 hours of sleep (with 7 as the sweet spot) for adults 26-64 years old, and 6 hours being appropriate for some individuals.
When should I sleep?
Turns out, we should try to be consistent with the time we wake daily (even weekends), by mimicking the sunrise. Try to wake within the same hour each day. If you need a few extra hours, sneaking a nap is better than disrupting your morning sleep/wake cycle. For my own consistency, I use the iPhone 'Bedtime' feature. Try it. Not only will it help you realize how many hours you are actually getting, it helps you get to bed at a consistent time and get the consistent amount of sleep.
Are you getting good sleep?
Better sleep is always a greater ally than more hours of sleep. Implementing a nightly sleep ritual may help with sound sleep, but make sure you working with your physician if you find yourself tossing and turning even when you dedicate enough time to sleep.
Six tips for restful sleep:
- Exercise regularly - try the 23 1/2 hour rule. At minimum walk 30min per day for best restoration that night.
- Ditch the alcohol and cut caffeine - these vices greatly affect the body's sleep wake cycle and can be detrimental to your REM sleep. If you notice that even that one glass of wine disrupts your normal pattern or that caffeine after noon has you up an extra hour, better to make changes than lose sleep.
- Stop screen time - I recommend the first 45 and last 45 minutes of your day (at minimum) should be screen-free. And make sure you also turn off your notifications nightly as to not disrupt your sleep. This means no TV in the bedroom and no electronics in bed.
- Filter the light - cover the devices in your bedroom or wear a sleep mask. Streep light outside your window? Get blackout blinds. Just like the light from your iPhone screen, these lights make your body think its day.
- Pick a gentle alarm - don't hate the first thing that wakes you! Although I try to wake with the sun, I have to set an alarm like most people (80% of Americans). I choose a comforting chime most days. A gradual waking sound is less triggering to the nervous system and better for transition from sleepy time to a wakeful day.
- Comfort - this can't be overlooked and is never under appreciated when done well. Make sure you have invested in a space your body deserves for restoration time. This means your bed, pillows, sheets, temperature of the house, sounds (consider white noise machine), smells (try diffusing lavender essential oil). Create a bedroom of comfort - and remember only sleep and sex in bed, nothing else.
So now that I've reminded you that you absolutely need renewal and restoration, it's your turn to take action.
I often have to define self-care to my patients to whom this is a new concept. One of the best definitions I've come up with so far: one's awareness of their needs and the actions taken to meet those needs.
You (yes YOU) are likely sleep deprived. You know it, I know it.
I encourage you to take care of yourself first, and this week start with sleep.
Add that to hydrating and avoiding hangry from last week for the bare necessities trifecta of self-care.