- One particular night, the dogs got sick. Guess who stayed up with them? In the morning, I was so tired I felt, well, like doggy doo doo. With about four hours of sleep, my body said, You want me to do what when my IPod music alarm sounded. I took a nap later for about an hour to get over feeling so crummy. (I nap rarely, but my body demanded it.) That picture to the left looks like how I felt before I took my nap.
- During a different night, my eyes were shut for about 8.5 hours without a break. My sleep was blessedly undisturbed. I practically leaped out of bed the next morning, eager to start my day. I had a feeling of complete personal power and overwhelming optimism. This feeling lasted until about 11 PM that night and I went to bed happy and satisfied after a fantastic?day. The image you see to your right?looks more like how I felt.
Which night is more familiar to you?
If you can relate to difficulty sleeping, read on. I’ve?got news for you.
Sleep is essential for you to perform and feel well during the day. There are no heroics in only getting a few hours of sleep. I knew someone who had a sign on his desk: I can sleep when I die. He got very sick with a disease called sarcoidosis which almost took him out. (Later he regained his health and became a huge fan of sleep.) Another acquaintance prided himself on needing only about four hours per night. He was as grouchy as a hungry bear and later developed cancer. (True stories.)
It’s more than the number of hours you sleep.
It is the experience of being well-rested or exhausted that matters.
When you sleep well, you feel terrific. This is practically a palpable sensation. It’s a something (not a nothing) to be well rested. Your confidence, outlook on life, ability to take on challenges, serve your clients, get along well with family and co-workers all depend on your body having slept. Sleep provides restoration to every cell. You refill your tank when you sleep. You balance your hormones, including the ones that regulate appetite, hunger, and satiety. When you sleep well, your body is releasing stress that built up during the day.
When you don’t sleep, you don’t feel so hot. You may not have connected the dots. But if you paid attention, you might notice lethargy, increased appetite, low energy, more susceptibility to stress and irritation, lack of ability to concentrate, headaches, lack of confidence, poorer outlook, increased muscle tension, low libido, and more are all associated with your being tired.
The health risks to chronic sleep deprivation include weight gain, increased inflammation, greater susceptibility to all forms of chronic disease, just to name a few. (See below for an image of what happens when your body is deprived of precious sleep.)
What to do? Where to start?
Here are five keys to helping your body rest, restore, and recover from the normal demands of your day, so that you are ready for the next one.
- Have a routine. Being in bed every night at 10 PM, for example, works wonders. The earlier you go to bed, the more time you have to let slumber perform its magic. A regular bed time actually teaches your body to wind down like a habit. Cool your room a bit, get ready for bed (floss and brush) before you are exhausted, and tuck yourself in having mentally prepared yourself to
- Breathe, relax, quiet your mind. If your thoughts seem to have a mind of their own, gently turn your attention to your breath. Spend more time drawing?the air in, and more time releasing it. Release physical tension anywhere in your body. And find the quiet spaces between the thoughts. With practice you will get much better at this. Whatever you used to stress over goes by the wayside when you bring your focus to these sensations. You can call this relaxation?or?meditation. Either way, it works.
- Remember the 3 S?s. Bed is for sleep, sex, and being sick. Not watching TV, not looking at the stimulating screen of your IPad, not crunching numbers on a spread sheet. The fourth S would be for soothing yourself in bed.
- No lights, no camera, no action. Dimming electronic lights and wearing a sleep mask are wonderful for creating a sensory-deprivation experience in your body. Eliminate anything that gets you hyperactive before you get into bed. Exercising during the day will help you sleep at night because your body is more physically tired. When you exercise, you also release stress, which means having less stress for your body to undo while you are sleeping. But before bed, begin to relax and unwind.
- Manage?food, caffeine and alcohol. The food in your body should already have had a chance to be digested. If you ask your body to digest food in the middle of the night, then your body will be busy instead of resting. Three hours is a reasonable amount of time between eating your supper and hitting the sack. Caffeine is a no-no even if you think it doesn’t matter. If you are reading this, know that it does. Alcohol makes you uninhibited, but it can keep you awake.
These strategies are designed to help you feel way more fabulous, move way more mountains at?work and at home, have the people with whom you live and work like you a whole lot more, help you stay healthy, make it easier to keep your ideal weight, reduce boatloads of stress, avoid disease,?and love yourself so much more that you can’t wait to get in bed at night to sleep with you!
With love and encouragement,
Board Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach
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