Why you need more sleep and how to add it to your self-care plan
If you are sleep deprived then getting more and better sleep should be an integral part of your self-care plan.
We desperately need to celebrate sleep, expose its benefits, and seek solutions for sleep deprivation.
That's because in the U.S. alone, 50-70 million people don’t get enough sleep. It’s a disheartening statistic, particularly when you consider how important sleep is to our physical and psychological well-being.
I’ve had many personal struggles with my own sleep hygiene — the biggest being my mindset. For years I thought sleep was an enemy to my productivity … a human limitation I needed to hack so I could get more done.
But I had a frightening experience that changed my perspective. In my senior year of undergrad I went over 48 hours without sleep to prepare for a final exam. In one of my study sessions I became delusional and thought I heard someone say something (that they did not say).
Years later, when I finally realized I couldn’t fight sleep (and that it was dangerous to do so), I ultimately decided to embrace it and incorporate it into my self-care plan.
Only then did I realize how powerful it can be if it’s accepted as a critical (and enjoyable) element of our overall wellness regimen instead of treated as a necessary evil.
Take the self-care challenge
The Self-Care Challenge is a minimalist but robust health and wellness program designed with busy individuals in mind. The program focuses on making small lifestyle changes that yield significant improvements in your sense of well-being.
Here’s a summary of what I’ve learned from research and experience:
Sleep deprivation is an American (and increasingly global) epidemic and one of the contributors is the general consensus that it is a physiological limitation.
Culturally, we look down on sleep, wear our lack of sleep like a badge of honor, and go through great strain to stay awake.
The best way to get more sleep is to change your thinking about it. Accept it as both an essential — and pleasurable — element of living well.
If you want to get a good night's rest then you should create and prioritize your sleep schedule.
Everyone has a circadian rhythm — or body clock — that regulates levels of energy and alertness as well as physiological processes.
To avoid erratic sleep/wake cycles, stick to a regular sleep schedule to keep your circadian rhythm stable.
Be enthusiastic about sleep by developing an enjoyable bedtime routine: a series of short activities that help you wind down and prep for slumber.
This could be taking a shower, drinking a cup of tea, or reading a good book. Whatever calms your body and mind, and can be scheduled at least one hour before bedtime, is fair game.
Certain substances such as caffeine and alcohol can interfere with sleep, especially if consumed in excess and/or too close to bedtime.
There are also less obvious culprits — such as spicy and acidic foods — that can upset your digestive process and make it hard to fall asleep.
Additionally, if you are overweight you are more apt to struggle with sleep disorders such as Sleep Apnea.
It's worth monitoring what and how you eat to identify any foods or habits that may be sabotaging your ability to rest well.
Just a moderate amount of physical activity, on a regular basis, can significantly improve sleep quality and duration.
The caveat is that the effect is gradual not immediate.
If you aren't exercising regularly right now you'll have to start and commit to a workout routine for a period of time before you can reap the benefits.
Nevertheless you don't have to run a marathon to see results — even 10 minute daily walks (if done consistently) will eventually help you sleep longer and better.
Stress and anxiety can wreck havoc on your sleep hygiene and lead to a perpetual cycle of sleepiness and agitation.
Under stress the brain is overactive and unable to function properly because of excessive worrying.
Carrying issues from the day into the night keeps you tossing and turning and the lack of sleep impairs your mood during the day — potentially causing even more stress.
Having a method for resolving or shelving problems before bedtime — be it through meditation, journaling, or venting to a loved one — can help protect the quality of your sleep.
Get More Sleep
As a result of my own enlightenment around sleep, and in response to the growing epidemic, I’ve created integrated a sleep course in the self-care challenge to contribute to the sleep conversation.
If you — like me — have had your ups and downs with sleep then I’m sure you’ve thoroughly searched for tips to improve your situation. You’ve probably noticed that there’s a lot of information out there — but it is all over the place, sometimes hard to understand, and often difficult to gauge credibility.
With the sleep course I do the work for you by vetting, aggregating, and synthesizing all of that information into a clear and concise collection of resources. The sleep course is a free bonus that comes with the self-care challenge.