This post will be a real snore.
Sleep is something that I love, but that I do not get enough of.
I fear my lack of sleep will hamper any attempts at implementing a simple health plan as I move forward.
Nutrition, cardio or consistent movement (like getting 10,000 steps a day), and strength training need the restorative power of sleep to make the efforts as fruitful as they can be.
Sleep helps repair brain tissue and cells.
Sleep helps regulate appetite.
Sleep allows for your body to repair itself after strength training.
Sleep makes a cranky seven year old not so cranky.
Sleep helps you not endanger other people out on the roads.
The Importance of Sleep
There’s really only one proof you need for the importance of getting plenty of sleep.
Think about your favorite person in the world.
Now think about that person when he or she hasn’t gotten enough sleep.
If all you knew of your favorite person was what he or she was like when sleep deprived, would that person be your favorite person in the world?
You might still love the rascal, but you probably wouldn’t like him very much. At best you’d be worried sick that he would keel over from stress and exhaustion. At worst, he’d turn into a big jerk.
Where Sleep Deprivation Comes From
If you’re not getting enough sleep, it might be because you’re addicted to power watching Netflix or have some other bad evening habit (normally around eating and drinking). But it could also mean you have too much stress or some other health issue.
I personally have had sinus issues that give way to apnea at times. They also give way to snoring which produces an elbow to the midsection from my wife to get me to turn over on my side. Apparently, my snoring doesn’t hurt my sleep, so I’m not sure why I care. 🙂
Too much caffeine, eating too late, too much screen time, or a racing, over-stimulated and stressed out mind all contribute to hampering quality sleep.
Sleep deprivation or difficulty in falling asleep can come from any number of things.
The main thing is that if you struggle with getting to bed and falling asleep, you should take the problem seriously. Of course, if you’re reading this before you go to bed, I might have just jinxed you and put too much pressure on you to fall asleep. Sorry about that.
How to Find Your Happy Sleepy Place
Just like with nutrition, cardio, and strength training, developing better sleep habits can be a matter of experimentation and intuition.
The following are suggestions assuming you have no major medical – either physical or mental – issues that need to be addressed by a pro. Most of us don’t fall asleep easily because we’re fretting, eating ice cream, and eye guzzling Breaking Bad or something of the sort.
Check Your Current Routine
The first step is to start analyzing your typical evening routine. What do you watch, eat, drink, or read before you go to bed? Are you adding stimuli or taking it away gradually as you head toward hitting the sack?
Experiment with Editing Your Current Routine
The second step is to start taking things away from your evening routine. Stop drinking sodas or having a late night sugary snack. Stop TV at 9:00pm instead of 10:30pm. Experiment for a week without one element of your evening routine to see if you can fall asleep more quickly.
Make Your Bedroom a Sanctuary
The third step is to make your bedroom more of a sanctuary. Start preparing it as a place for sleep alone. Does it look more like your third auxiliary office or a place of rest? What can you do to make your room like a spa retreat hotel room vs. a place that causes you anxiety? Start removing a bunch of stuff. Keep light out at night. Maybe even put your phone in another room when you go to bed and use an old fashioned alarm clock.
Try those three steps to see if they help you gain control of your evening.
For more practical suggestions around sleep with some popular research to back it up, just google ‘Shawn Stevenson sleep‘ and check out his podcasts and other resources around the topic. Good, practical tips.
You can also check out his book: Sleep Smarter: 21 Essential Strategies to Sleep Your Way to A Better Body, Better Health, and Bigger Success.
A Final Word – The Simple Truth
The main thing is that all the good eating, exercise, and strength training in the world will be rendered much less effective if you’re burning the candle at both ends.
The simple truth about sleep is that with the right amount of sleep, you optimize your potential performance and all the other good stuff you do for your body works that much better. Without adequate sleep, you put yourself at risk for health issues, emotional issues, and poor decision-making.
I might be suggesting a number that’s too low, but get at least 6 hours a night. Shoot for 7. If you can sneak 8, by all means do so!
Listen to your body. Check your mood. If you feel like you need more sleep – and it’s not because you’re depressed – figure out how to get more.
Sleep is the glue that ties the rest of a Simple Health Plan together. Make it a priority.