Tips for better sleep, Part 2

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In Tips for better sleep, Part 1, we talked about several ways we can make sleep happen. In the interim, I’ve been depriving myself of sleep to get some essential work stuff done. Go figure.

Let’s continuing counting sleep:

8. Make your sleep space cool, comfy and calm. Some would tell you that your bed is for only two things: sleep and (that other thing, if you’re married). They’ll tell you not to watch TV in the bedroom, not to do work while you’re in bed … and lots of other no-no’s. I love to read in bed until I get sleepy, but I don’t think that counts as activity; it actually helps me fall asleep. I’ve stopped reading on my blue-screened devices, though (see next tip). Some would argue that watching TV helps them fall asleep. If that’s you and it works, more power to ya. Just be sure the volume doesn’t wake you up later (better yet, set a timer to turn it off if your TV has that function).

Keep the thermostat in the 60s when you’re under the covers; you may have to experiment with the temp that’s best for you.

If you’re a light sleeper (as I am), you need a dark, quiet room. I wear a sleep mask, and I keep two fans blowing; one of them is really loud. The fans are strictly for white noise; I have them pointed away from my body.

For travel, I used to take a small fan with me, but I broke my favorite little fan a couple of years ago and haven’t found a replacement that’s loud enough; that was before I discovered the White Noise app for my phone. Ahhhhh.

9. Turn off (or dim) your screens at least an hour before bedtime. That “blue light” emanating from your devices disrupts your circadian rhythm and hampers sleep. Warm that blue glow to a golden one. On my computer, I use an app called f.lux, which changes the screen color depending on the time of day (toward bedtime, it also pops up a message that says, “You’re waking up in [x] hours”; an hour later, it updates me again). On my phone and tablet, I have the settings adjusted. If you don’t want to use apps, get some goggles (two of my sources in this post provide links to the same pair on Amazon – and, no, I am not an Amazon affiliate). This article goes in depth about the disruptive effects of artificial blue light.

Image courtesy of Hyperbole and a Half, http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com
Image courtesy of Hyperbole and a Half, http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com

10. Use essential oils. Try lavender, vetiver or chamomile, or consider a blend of several oils. I get mine from Rocky Mountain Oils* (after doing research on quality and other considerations). I use the Tranquility blend from RMO; I rub it on my chest and the soles of my feet at bedtime. You can also diffuse these blends in your bedroom (I haven’t tried that yet) or sprinkle a few drops on your pillow.

*FYI, I’m not an affiliate of Rocky Mountain Oils; I just believe in the quality of oils and the customer service from this company, and they’re less pricey than those of the multilevel-marketing brands.

11. Take a nap when you need it. I take a nap as a routine. As I said last time, the conventional wisdom is that a short nap (what they used to call a “power nap”) is better than a long one. I maintain that it depends on the person and the circumstances. My blogger friend Jim helpfully emailed me a link to an article on the benefits of naps. It, too, recommends shorter naps but allows that longer ones can be beneficial:

“The longest naps – lasting about 90 minutes – are recommended for those people who just don’t get enough sleep at night. Since it’s a complete sleep cycle, it can improve emotional memory and creativity.”

I fall into that “people who just don’t get enough sleep at night” category. Hence my Sunday nap, in which the goal is two hours. #ilovenaps

Also, advice from Becca at my church: When you’re getting ready for a nap, treat it like you’re getting ready for bed. Get under the covers; just lying on top of the bed will not give you the maximum level of comfort you need for restorative rest. I told Becca she was “preachin’ to the choir.” I change into my nightgown, crawl under the covers, put my sleep mask on, turn both fans on and make sure my bladder is empty (sorry if that’s TMI).

12. Have a small, healthful snack an few minutes before bedtime. You heard that right; it’s OK to eat just before you go to bed IF you follow this guideline: Make it small, and include a good fat (organic nut butter, a small handful of walnuts) and a healthy carb (small piece of fruit or veggie). Skip the protein, as this can interfere with sleep.

Image courtesy of Hyperbole and a Half, http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com

13. Avoid caffeine and other stimulants. You knew that one, though, right?

14. Consider natural supplements, and make sure they’re high quality. I take 400 mg of magnesium at bedtime. Here’s the one I took until recently, before I went back to this less-pricey one that I’m equally pleased with – it doesn’t contain fillers or other unnecessary ingredients. Another alternative is Epsom salt, which is magnesium sulfate. Please consult your doctor if you have a health condition such as diabetes or heart disease. Also, start with a lower dose until you know the outcome, if you know what I mean (magnesium is a natural muscle relaxer and can be used as a laxative).

15. Experiment with pillows; get a new mattress. I have a 20-year old neck injury, and over the years the pain and stiffness have had an increasing impact on my sleep. I can’t tell you what type of pillow is best for you, because I’m still figuring that out for myself. But consider that part of your problem may be your pillow. And if your mattress is old and saggy or lumpy – or full of dust mites, mold or other toxins – consider replacing it.

16. Deal with your allergies. Sinus pressure hinders my sleep much of the time. This is another area I haven’t quite got a handle on, so do as I say and not as I do.

17. Don’t let your pets sleep with you. This is another area where you should do as I say and not as I do. We’re way past training Pepper to sleep elsewhere. She’s old, blind and tiny, and she needs help getting onto and off the bed. She used to be able to climb the stairs to the bed, but since she fell off a few months ago, she’s afraid. And I’m not going to force her to sleep elsewhere and listen to her bark all night. (She already barks way too much during the night.) My dog is a head case. So … do as I say, not as I do.

Up next: As my #lifedeclutter continues, I have a new thing to tell you about. Heck, I’ll probably announce it on the Facebook page this weekend, so head on over there and Like the page, scroll through the posts and get to know how we roll there. While you’re visiting, share something about yourself.

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Tips for better sleep, Part 1

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Image courtesy of Hyperbole and a Half, http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com

When we last met up here, I tried to express, without making the post a statistical snoozefest, that sleep is important. (I wanted you to get to the end of the post before you zzzzzz…..)

As we all know, lack of adequate rest can cause all sorts of problems, from brain fog to accidents to dumb decisions to chronic stress and disease.

Yucko.

Today it’s time to talk about how we can make sleep happen. I asked for a few ideas in the comments here and on the Facebook page, and I think most of you must have been taking a siesta, because I didn’t get a lot of response. Or … you’re like me and have so freaking much going on in your life and on your computerized devices that you didn’t notice I was asking. 🙂  Actually, I posted the question twice and got a little feedback on the other one, but no actual tips. So the feedback comes from my personal experience and that of a couple of people I talked to.

We could learn a lot about rest from dogs. When they’re tired, they sleep. Pepper really knows how to get her zzzzz’s.

As for my own advice, with all the talking I do about my love of naps, you might think I consider that the No. 1 way to get rest.

Nope.

Naps are a stopgap. They’re secondary to getting a good night’s rest in the first place. So how do we do that?

Let’s count the ways:

1. Take it seriously. The first step to fixing the problem is to admit you have one. Admit that it’s not cool to burn the candle at both ends. Talking about how busy you are and how little sleep you “need” – and thinking it makes you more important than those who try to get the recommended seven to eight hours a night – is crazy talk. It’s popular in our culture, but it’s still crazy.

2. Maintain overall good health. This one’s tricky. You become healthy by getting adequate rest by eating healthy foods, exercising and keeping bad stress to a minimum by getting adequate rest. Yep, I said that. It’s circular.

3. Have an evening routine. I told my hairdresser, Natalie, that I was looking for sleep tips, and she shared hers:

She starts getting ready for bed at 8:30 p.m. It’s nonnegotiable (just like my Sunday nap). She takes a relaxing bath with a “lavender scented bath soak,” dims the lights to “create a complete relaxation zone,” then she “lubes up” with a soothing lotion. And she goes to bed right after, so as not to re-stimulate her brain and body with other concerns. Natalie understands the importance of good sleep, so she makes her nightly ritual a priority. Smart woman. (I may have to remind her of this nighttime routine after the baby arrives in a few months! Yep, she’s expecting her first.)

4. Do a few minutes of yoga or deep breathing. A while back, I found a gentle, 26-minute evening relaxation sequence from Yoga Journal that makes me feel soooo relaxed at bedtime. Try it! If you don’t want to do yoga, sit in your chair (sit up straight, like your mom told you to) and spend 10 minutes breathing deeply while clearing your mind of its stressors – heck, clear it of everything except the reminder to breathe in … and out … deeply. And you don’t have to wait until bedtime to lower stress with deep breathing; practice it throughout the day. Here’s how:

Sit up straight and tall. Breathe in through your nose for about 4 seconds. Then breathe out through your mouth for about 8 seconds (a 1:2 ratio). Do this half a dozen times, and try to incorporate the practice into your day as you recognize that you’re tense. You can even do it at your desk or in your car (parked, please).

Image courtesy of Hyperbole and a Half, http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com

5. Count sheep. Or 5’s. Candy, via the Facebook page, said she uses various mantras but recently has seen “counting by 5’s” to be effective. Count backward from 1,000 and see how far you get. Count your blessings (that could be a post in itself!). Count anything that will help you relax. Just don’t count your worries.

6. Practice biofeedback. My hubby isn’t really the person to ask for sleep tips … except this one. I asked him to share:

“I learned the essentials from a theater-type who taught it to acting classes to help students marshal energy for diving into their roles.

“To begin, stretch out on your back on the floor or comfortable surface, close your eyes and be still for perhaps 30 seconds. Quiet room, perhaps gentle background music. … Then consider the outer reaches – think of each toe in turn for a few seconds, imagine a wave of tension flowing out of it or, inversely, a wave of rest/comfort flowing in. Tension being released, jitters being damped down, calm settling in; if you can feel the pulse in a toe, think of slowing it. After toes, fingers. Ankles, wrists – work your way to the middle.

“The middle is your heart rate and your breathing; as the outer reaches settle, you’ll be needing less work from heart and lungs and you can send them the same soothing wave signal and should be able to slow the rates. … Let go and sleep easy.”

7. Keep the same bedtime. Try to hit the pillow at approximately the same time each night (or morning, if you work the night shift), even on your weekend. Resist the temptation to stay up late when you don’t have to work the next day.

Homework assignment: 1) If you have a great sleep tip, share it in the comments or on the Facebook page. I already have 10 more tips written and waiting for the next post, but I can always add more. 2) In the coming week, try one of the seven tips mentioned above, then return here next report back here. 3) Share this post.

Up next: More sleep tips.

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Are you getting enough sleep?

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We’ve all heard plenty of statistics about the devastating effects of sleep deprivation.

This post won’t be heavy on statistics, partly because stats can vary widely and I’m confident that what I’m presenting here supports my argument for more rest.

And also because statistics can be boring and might put you to sleep.

Oh, wait

(If you’re reading this close to bedtime, feel free to stop and go to bed. No, seriously. Your sleep is more important than finishing this post right now.)

If you think I’m referring only to extreme sleep deprivation (pulling all-nighters) as “devastating,” understand that chronic sleep deprivation (even just a little too little on a routine basis) hampers proper functioning.

Over the years, studies have presented evidence of:

  • Impaired physical performance. Athletes who sleep adequately have been shown to perform better than those who don’t, and the same holds true for all sorts of activities. Some studies have compared sleep deprivation to drunkenness above the legal limit for alcohol. Do you want to be on the same highway as a driver who’s had too much to drink … or too little sleep? Or, worse, do you want to be that driver?
  • Impaired judgment (see previous item). Maybe you’re an accountant and mistype a number, and the IRS goes after your client, who sues you. Or maybe you’re a medical student and you ruin someone’s life – and your career. Maybe you make the wrong decision in a social setting and end up pregnant by a stranger – or with a sexually transmitted disease. (Extreme examples? You be the judge – but first get a good night’s sleep!)
  • Crankiness (not that I would know anything about this 🙂 ). Relationships suffer: family, social, spiritual, workplace. A bad mood and impaired judgment can lead not only to lawsuits and diseases but an unhappy, dysfunctional household and other relationship problems.
  • Overeating and weight gain. This can be the result of hormone imbalance and cravings – and I’m not talking carrots and celery sticks. Under-sleeping can lead to a rushed schedule and food on the run, and emotional factors that lead to overindulging or unhealthful eating; It can be from impaired judgment, the need for comfort and a host of other physiological factors.
  • Immune system impairment and chronic illness. Even an excess of caffeine (coffee addiction, anyone?) can have unfavorable effects on your health. A friend’s loved one – a young man in his 20s – died because of prolonged excessive consumption of energy drinks, which included megadoses of caffeine. I know of a coffee variety called Jet Fuel; if you’re jet-lagged, choose sleep over caffeine.
  • Depression. Before I came out on the other side of my depression – in the mid-1990s – I was working a 4-to-midnight shift; I’m a morning person, and I never felt rested in those years. Besides depressed, I was cranky, angry and critical about everything around me. Do you think I was a fun person to be around? (NOTE: When I worked through the depression, I still had the crazy work schedule, so I’m not blaming it solely on sleep deprivation, but it played a role.) Fortunately for Bruce, I had worked through my depression before we started dating. He knew me in those years, though, and he worried about me.

If you are depressed, reach out to me (or someone else you can trust) and we’ll talk about ways you can get help. I’m not a clinician, but I can point you to some resources. (My pastor’s wife and a good, in-depth book and companion workbook were my lifeline; for you it may involve medication and/or another type of solution.)

IF YOU ARE SUICIDAL, seek IMMEDIATE help from your physician, your pastor or someone else you can trust, visit the confidential National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or call the Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 (toll-free numbers are also available for Spanish speakers, hearing impaired, veterans and people in emotional distress related to “natural or human-caused disasters”).

http://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/talk-to-someone-now

SO … HERE’S WHERE THE RUBBER MEETS THE ROAD.

About 10 years ago, I started requiring a Sunday nap to get through the week. It was not long after I started The Worst Job I’ve Ever Had (I still have nightmares about it). I was stuck in that 60-hour-a-week job for 11 months, and I’m convinced it would have killed me if I hadn’t broken free.

I’ll tell you that story some other time (such as: in my last week there, I was diagnosed with a heart condition that eventually led to surgery). But today, I want you to think about YOUR story.

Ask yourself a few questions:

  • Do you feel tired all the time, or much of the time?
  • Do you get cranky, hangry (hungry/angry) or forgetful more than occasionally?
  • Do you feel achy or breaky in your body … or your emotions?
  • Do you drag your butt out of bed – and off to work or school – every day, and the feeling lasts all day, every day?
  • Have you ever stopped to think about the amount of sleep that is optimal for your body and brain? It varies with age and other factors – small children need about 13 hours; teenagers about 9 ½ hours; and adults about 7-9 hours – so you need to figure it out if you don’t already know.

I’ve written about the importance of my nonnegotiable Sunday nap and my designation of Sunday as my Sabbath. For you it might be a different day of the week, but YOU NEED A SABBATH.

If your schedule is too busy for adequate rest, you need to figure out a way to change that. The past couple of weeks here at To Well With You, we’ve talked about margin (which includes saying NO to nonessentials) and decluttering (which includes the admonition to take a break from unproductive habits to clear some space for mental calmness). Today, it’s rest. (Next week: ways to get more and better sleep.)

Homework assignment: Ask yourself what ONE step you can take in the coming week to make a change in your sleep habits and satisfy your body and brain’s need for restorative rest. Post a comment here or on the Facebook page. Your idea just might spark a good habit for someone else.

Next week we’ll consider some ways we all can make changes, so come prepared to share your ideas and let us know how your week went. I’ll share our collection of ideas in the next post.

We’re all in this together, my friends. Now, go have a restful week. Zzzzzzzzzzz.

Resources:

 

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Tips for clearing clutter and being more productive

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How well did you do on your homework assignment last week?

What? You forgot all about it?

OK, refresher: We talked about creating margin. Your assignment was to take 10 minutes (plus a few seconds) to pause, breathe and think about how you could create some space in your schedule … in your head … to cut back on the crazy. And then write it down.

If you didn’t do the assignment, here’s your second chance. Go on; we’ll wait.

The next thing is a bit different but still gets us toward our goal.

Your goal may not be exactly what mine is, but maybe they will align, because my ultimate goal is this:

To help you live to your fullest potential, to figure out your purpose (if you don’t know it already) and to live the life that God intended when He created you. Your life has meaning, and He does have a purpose and a plan for you. And when you figure that out (and live it out), it brings Him glory.

I can’t tell you what your exact purpose is, but I’m here to help you figure it out.

And let me repeat this, in case you skimmed past it:

YOUR LIFE HAS MEANING.

It has meaning, but sometimes we’re too distracted by stuff to remember that.

So we need to do something about it.

Today’s assignment is to establish a time each day – just 10 minutes – that you can do something productive. Ten minutes, people. You can do it.

Maybe your inbox is bursting at the seams. Maybe your desk is piled with crap*. Do you need to make a couple of quick phone calls? Is there moldy food in the fridge? Do you have a gazillion photos on your phone that are gobbling space and slowing things down (and maybe causing you to pay for extra storage)? Is the countertop in the bathroom so cluttered it stresses you out every morning?

So that you won’t think I can’t feel your pain, here’s the right half of my bathroom counter:

declutter
Don’t tell my Mary Kay director I have a L’Oreal lipstick (it’s so hard to find a good red!) And where the heck did that Superball come from?

Yes, it stresses me out, and decrapifying it is on my to-do list.

What do YOU need to decrapify this weekend?

Homework assignment: Spend 10 minutes decluttering, organizing, purging or in some other way tackling something that has been on your to-do list for too long.

Go ahead. Put down the internet and do it now.

After 10 minutes, stop, even if you’re not finished. That’s enough for now. (Besides, I want you to finish reading this post.)

Now pause for a moment: Doesn’t that 10 minutes of productivity feel GOOD?

That’s what I call a baby step. And if you’ll do that every day for the next week, you’ll be well on the road to establishing a habit.

You’re in the habit of checking Facebook, watching TV or playing [insert addictive phone-app game] for well over 10 minutes a day, no?

So consider this Step 1 toward PRODUCTIVITY.

Next: Post a victory comment and/or share a productivity tip or resource of your own (a few of mine are below), then share this post with a friend who needs to decrapify something and spend a few moments being GRATEFUL that you have more than enough to be happy.

*DISCLAIMER: My mother did not teach me to use the word crap or any variation. In fact, she maintains that if I say “crap,” I might as well use the S word. (She has a point, so pardon my French.)

Resources for decrapifying your life:

Now, go have an awesome and productive week!

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