How did you sleep last night?
How many hours did you get? Do you feel rested today?
The National Sleep Foundation says the average adult needs 7-9 hours of sleep a night. Is that what you got last night?
If not, then you are a part of the 1 in 3 Americans who get less than the optimum amount of sleep.
Why Does That Matter?
Sleep is important for a multitude of reasons. Lack of sleep can cause fatigue, lowered immune system, and hunger pangs, to name a few.
When you’re tired, you’re more likely to make poor decisions, like grabbing that extra donut at work. I find that it’s easier to order out when I don’t have the energy to cook, but I don’t always make the best choices when I do so.
Not resting enough can also cause hunger pangs, and you’ll find yourself grabbing a late night snack when you should be in bed.
Sleep and Weight Loss
Did you know losing sleep can also cause your metabolism to get out of whack? The University of Chicago did a study on sleep, and found that not getting enough can cause your insulin levels to go off the rails.
When your insulin isn’t regulating properly, you end up holding on to fat cells that your body would otherwise let go of. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to hold on to extra fat cells!
Sleep is also important for repairing muscles that you used while working out. And resting throughout the night is when your body works on digesting your food.
Sleep and Motivation
Ever feel super tired and you just don’t want to get that workout in? *Insert cheesy announcer voice* “Sleep can help!”
If you’re well rested, you’ll take the time to take care of your body. I mentioned eating out earlier, but if you have the energy, you’ll be more likely to cook healthy options at home.
Staying on track with your goals is much easier when you have the energy to do so.
So, What’s My One Big Mistake?
You aren’t getting enough sleep!
How to tell if you need more sleep:
Do you wake up feeling groggy and can’t get going throughout the day.
You just HAVE to have that morning coffee, or the lunch and afternoon one too.
Find yourself needing your afternoon nap to function into the evening.
You feel “brain fog” while trying to keep up with your daily routine.
You’re just exhausted and lacking energy.
How Do I Get Good Sleep, and How Can You?
There are a few strategies I like for getting more sleep. They’ve always worked for me, and I believe they’ll help you too.
Beds are for sleeping.
My psychiatrist has always told his patients that “Beds are for sleeping, and “extra-curricular activities” only.” What does that mean?
Only use your bed for sleeping or sex. A lot of people like to wind down with a bit of TV time in the bedroom, but that can confuse your body. We don’t even have a TV in our bedroom!
When my body lays in bed it knows it’s time to sleep. Now this isn’t an option for everyone (some use their bedroom as the hub of the house), but I’ve found it immensely helpful to get the TV out and designate the bed for sleeping.
It’s also a good idea to make sure you enjoy your bed. Get yourself a nice pillow that’s comfortable, a set of good sheets, and darken the room as much as you can.
Put down the electronics.
This is one I still struggle with, but almost everyone will tell you to not use any electronics for the last hour before you sleep.
The blue light is stimulating for your mind. That stimulation makes it hard to shut down after you get wound up. It’s also been show to inhibit melatonin, which is the hormone that helps you sleep.
Some ways around this are to put your phone into a night mode (iPhones call it Night Shift and Androids call it Night Light), or buy blue light blocking glasses. I have a pair that I love, and I do remember to wear them most nights.
Watch your caffeine intake.
This one is not fun, but you have to watch how many of those tasty lattes you’re having. I try to limit myself to one 8 oz cup of coffee a day (I have a weakness for cold brew), but sometimes I need some pep in the afternoon and I’ll have another.
If you decide to have coffee in the afternoon, make sure you cut it off several hours before bed. I go down at 9:30 pm, so I make sure I don’t have caffeine later than 4 pm. Sodas and some teas count for caffeine as well, so be mindful of those.
Limiting your caffeine intake is a great way to drink more water!
Make yourself a sleep schedule.
This is the most important piece of advice I can give: set a schedule and stick to it.
For the past 10 years I have stuck to a fairly strict sleep schedule. Excluding a few variations, my schedule has stayed the same.
I go to bed every night at 9:30 pm. No matter what (within reason). There have been times I’ve peaced out on game nights just to get in bed at the right time. All of our friend’s just expect it now.
Going to bed at the same time each night almost guarantees that I wake up at 6:30 am. That’s a consistent 9 hours of sleep, which is my sweet spot.
I wake up feeling rested and refreshed, usually a couple minutes before my alarm. Some days I might wake up a bit slower than others. After a long day that’s to be expected.
My psychiatrist is the one who suggested a sleep schedule, and it’s a small part of Social Rhythm therapy. This therapy has been proven extremely effective for bipolar patients. The rest of the therapy is centered around taking your medications at the same times (I do) and eating meals at the same times (I can’t quite get that one down).
Even if you’re not bipolar, I can say with certainty that your body can benefit from a schedule. Humans are creatures of habit, and our circadian rhythm works best when it’s actually a rhythm!
I’ve had my kids on strict sleep schedules from almost birth, and they were both consistently sleeping through the night before 6 months old (my daughter at 10 weeks!). Bodies need a schedule, then they naturally know what to do.
You won’t get on a schedule overnight, and it might even take a while to adjust. There are also a few factors that can make a routine difficult (jobs, kids, social engagements), but trying to set one can be very beneficial in your journey.
Setting A Schedule
Pick your times.
It’s easy to know what time you need to wake up, so count back from there and pick a time to go down. You might have to play around with how long you’ll need to sleep, but just feel it out and find out what works.
Start your routine with enough time to stay on schedule.
It takes me about 30 minutes to get ready for bed, so I start it at 9 pm. If you don’t leave yourself enough time for your routine, then you won’t get to sleep on time.
Get in bed and stay in bed.
The first few night of trying to fall asleep (and stay asleep) will probably be difficult. If you wake up in the middle of the night make sure you don’t turn to your phone or a book. You’ll just stimulate your mind further and have trouble falling back to sleep. If you really must do either of those, then make sure you get out of bed to do so. Bed = sleep only
Stay with it ALL the time.
This means no sleeping in on the weekends, I know it’s a bummer. You have to consistently follow the routine if you want your body to adjust. Soon enough you’ll find yourself popping out of bed on Sunday morning with no problem!
Go Forth and Sleep
So, we talked about the importance of sleep, we talked about how it can benefit you, and how to achieve it. I hope this post will help you out, and I hope you’ll feel more rested.