Sleep, the struggle is real
I ask myself all the time, why do I suck at going to bed? I'm educated on the many reasons we need 7-9 hours of sleep a night — especially as you get older — but I still have trouble sticking to a healthy routine. Sometimes, I just refuse to settle in. Even now, it's 10:40 PM and I'm writing this damn article. What the hell is wrong with me?! I've got a few ideas to share with you on this topic that you might be able to relate to.
First, I'm very excitable. Any stimulus is hard to ignore. Winding down is the real struggle. Second, if I have issues with anxiety during the day, I'll stay up stewing about it. You know that annoying little voice that is omnipresent after a bad day — Oh god, when will it shut up? And this leads me to the third issue, laying in bed exacerbates the anxiety, so I keep busy to avoid it. I get lost in chores, and this leads me down a long path to complete whatever mundane task I've started.
Once I understood how important sleep was to my well being I made it my mission to place more importance on getting quality rest at least 80% of the time — we can't control all situations.
It's important to be aware that lack of sleep can translate into:
- Weight gain/Insulin resistance
- Crappy mood
- Poor skin quality/elasticity
- Brain fog
- Lack of libido
- Compromised immune system
- Long-term health issues - for example, Alzheimer's (fascinating TED talk below)
As I ease into the next chapter of life, I've realized how essential sleep is to achieving your optimal self. I can go exactly ONE night without getting sick. As soon I slip into the second night of little/no sleep I'll start to feel ill — you know the ominous shivering and flu-like symptoms I'm talking about. Knowing I had to stop making excuses and take action, I created a few rituals that work for me most of the time.
1. bedding and Mattress
It's not about being a fancy b*tch or creating a luxurious space. Soft bedding can help us relax and disconnect from our busy lives. Consider how long it's been since replacing your mattress, pillows, and bedding. It's worth the investment to upgrade. I'm personally in love with the All-Around Australian Wool Pillow from Bed Bath and Beyond and the PB sheets from Potter Barn. A simple change like soft sheets can make a big difference — the PB sheets helped to make my mattress even comfier and they didn't cost a fortune.
I take supplements most nights to ensure a good rest. However, I don't always take the same one. It's important to be in check with your anxiety level and assess your needs. I can often get away with taking some magnesium (bis-glycinate is the most bioavailable form) — most of us have magnesium deficiencies due to stress and other factors so supplementing is a necessary step. When I do need something that will ensure a deeper rest, I reach for Super Sleep from Webber Naturals. It's got an impressive combination of relaxing herbs paired with 5mg of melatonin. I can usually fall into a deep sleep within twenty to thirty minutes with one dose. One important note, make sure to cycle this supplement or any melatonin based supplement. Since we produce melatonin naturally, you don't want to become reliant long-term.
This is the most boring podcast you've ever heard! Drew Ackerman, the host, drones on and on about absolutely nothing! It's genius :) Try it out, it could work for you. If this isn't your type of thing, you could try a TED talk or Freakonomics. Either way, I suggest you invest in some wireless headphones so you can place the phone in a drawer and let yourself tune out without the distraction of the light from the screen.
4. Aromatherapy and lighting
Nightlights, not just for children anymore! We now know that colors influence your mood, it's a proven fact. You can choose a basic plugin that emits a variety of colors or upgrade to one that projects patterns and colors on your ceiling.
If a scent is more your thing, try a diffuser with essential oils. Make sure to invest in one that cleans up easily since they do collect dust and other allergens if they aren't tended to regularly.
5. bathing Ritutal
Taking a bath or shower before bed allows us to disconnect from the TV or other media. Making a routine with your favorite products (think masks) and candles can help to further the experience. It's not about jumping in and out; it's about taking your time and letting yourself wind down from the day. This ritual also helps to takes the pressure off getting up early enough to take a shower in the AM.
Don't have time for a shower? Follow rule number 4 here instead.
6. Help with anxiety
Tuning into Insight Timer (this one is totally FREE) or any other meditation app can help a lot. It's about exploring and finding a guided meditation that works for you. If you feel this is way beyond what you can do, I suggest seeking help from a pro that can direct you professionally. Watch out for non-pro advice from friends and family.
If all else fails, remember that when you get less than seven hours of sleep, you are operating as if you are legally dunk! Don't fool yourself, more is more in this case.