Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Oh To Be Well-Rested!



Some nights I wear an eye-mask as my way of shutting the world out so I can get some shut-eye.

I haven’t slept well on a regular basis in years, maybe not since I was a young adult and that’s been awhile. I didn’t appreciate a good night’s sleep back then because I hadn’t really gone without, at least not on a long term basis. But after years of attending to little ones at night and then years of staying up late waiting for teenagers to come home, and given some of the sleepless nights I’ve experienced due to stress, and the fact that I was thrown into menopause at a very young age because of cancer, I just don’t know what it’s like to get a good night’s sleep night after night. 

Exercise helps me sleep better than I otherwise would. And meditation too, but getting enough sleep is still a struggle overall. I got only four hours of sleep Sunday night and they weren’t quality hours, so Monday was a rough beginning to the week. The thing that kept me from cratering completely is that I am eating healthier these days. I would have been a completely non-functioning mess if I hadn’t been eating food that gives me energy – lentils, salads, and whole grains.

As far as sleep goes, Monday night was better. So tired from the previous night’s sleep deprivation, I fell asleep easily and slept for nearly eight hours, and Tuesday I woke feeling like a whole new person, someone who has a reserve of energy and no fatigue headaches, someone who is well rested. And that’s how I would like to feel more often – well-rested.

So, as I continue to eat healthier than I have in a long time, I’m ready to start getting more sleep on a regular basis. Here are a few things I think I can do to make it easier –

Limit screen time in the evening. After I fall into bed at night, I pick up my smart phone to set my wake-up alarm and then end up doing one last check-in on social media, emails, and the news, and inevitably, I stay at it longer than I intended and the bright glow of the screen gives me a second wind, which makes it hard to fall asleep anytime soon. So, going forward, I will set my cell phone wake-up alarm earlier in the day and cut the computer off at least an hour before I call it a night. 

Wind down before bedtime. Overall, I need to be more conscious of winding down earlier in the evening whenever possible. Often, I go through the day full-throttle and then dive into bed as if I should be able to fall directly asleep, which is impossible because I never took the time to unwind ahead of climbing into bed. I will make a conscious effort to wind down earlier in the evening, so I will be able to fall asleep earlier.  

Establish a regular bedtime. I have read again and again over the years how much having a set bed time and wake-up time can do for the quality of our sleep. According to Lawrence Epstein, M.D., a professor at Harvard Medical School and an expert in sleep disorders, “Keeping a regular sleep schedule – even on weekends - maintains the timing of the body’s internal clock and can help you fall asleep and wake up more easily.” I’m ready to give it a try.

I do not think for a moment that my busy lifestyle is suddenly going to let me get enough sleep every night forever more. After all, there are nights when I am up late out of necessity or by enthusiastic choice, but if I make a few basic changes, I’m confident I will get more sleep overall. And I’m more than ready to live my life well-rested. I’m ready.  

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