The other day, I told a friend of mine that I wish I could quit my job, quit school, and just stay at home like women used to do in the 50s. She promptly told me to shut up and go take a nap. “You’re tired,” she said, “everything feels impossible when you’re tired.” I followed her orders and it is amazing how much better I felt the next morning. Y’all, we need to stop sleeping on the value of sleep (get it? I made a funny).
The average American gets somewhere between 4-6 hours of sleep a night (I totally got that off the top of my head, but then I Google’d it, and Google says I’m right). That may sound good to some of you, but it is an atrociously low amount. Everyone’s body is different and has different needs, but seriously who could survive off of 4 hours of sleep? Uh…not me!
In my house, the boys are hibernators and the girls are busy bees. My husband and my son could take a 3-hour nap, wake up to have dinner, and then go right back to bed. My daughter and I? We are non-stop from the second we open our eyes; no time for naps. Once we are in bed, we’ll sleep until morning, but you have to get us in the bed first. Personally, I feel like there is too much to do to go to bed. I have this mental list and until I’ve checked everything off, I just have to keep going (and of course, things come up at the last minute). If I walk past the kitchen at 10 pm to check that the doors are locked and see dishes in the sink, I now feel like I have to do them before I can go to sleep.
No, Laura. Go to sleep! The dishes, the clothes, whatever it is, will be there in the morning. Your sleep (and sanity) is more important. Nobody is in a good mood when they’re sleepy and you can’t possibly make good decisions or stay focused when you’re tired. Plus, research (and by research, I mean Google) shows that continuous sleep deprivation can lead to things like increased blood pressure, a sluggish immune system, and weight gain. You need to rest, or your body will make you do it. Your eyes will eventually close and force you to sleep (ex: falling asleep on the couch, with the lights, TV, and everything else on…I once fell asleep and was awakened only by my son informing me that it was time for him to go to bed.)
But HOW? What if you’re not tired? What if your eyes pop wide open the second you lay down? Well, there are things that can be done to help you get your snooze on:
1 – Go to bed at the same time everyday – and yes, there’s an app for that. My iPhone now has a “bedtime” alarm, reminding me that it’s time to go night-night. Going to sleep and waking up at the same time everyday helps your body create a natural clock, so you should eventually start getting sleepy at the same time, even without an alarm.
2 – Limit your caffeine after 4pm – I’m a huge coffee addict, but I know better than to have some late in the afternoon, because even if I’m tired, I won’t be able to fall asleep.
3 – Limit your exposure to light – an hour or so before bed, shut the screens off (your phone, the TV, your laptop). Staring at bright lights before bed can also keep your mind wired. When you’re ready to go to sleep, make sure the room is dark. Invest in some black-out curtains, or a sleep mask if you’re feeling fancy.
4 – Make time to unwind – don’t just jump from cleaning your kitchen (or grading papers for my teacher friends out there) to trying to go to sleep. Your mind will keep working, even if you’re body is lying down. Try something relaxing like taking a bath, or reading a book; whatever will let your brain know it’s time to power down.
5 – Be active during the day – in order to feel tired enough for sleep, you have to be up and about when you’re awake. If you’ve spent the day on the couch, chances are that when the sun goes down, you’re suddenly going to feel a bolt of energy. Exercise, run some errands, chase your kids around; do things that get you up and moving so that you’ll be able to sleep more soundly.