Updated: May 4
Why rest is productive
How many of us have felt guilty taking a nap in the middle of the day? Or we feel that we need to prioritize work, studies, family, or fill in the blank, before sleeping and getting a good night's rest? However, sleep is a basic need much like food, water, and air. Our bodies and brains needs sleep in order function. We often underestimate its importance and do not prioritize rest as much as we should. Most of us can feel the difference in our mood, concentration, and motivation when we have not had enough sleep. Research indicates a direct correlation between inadequate sleep and an increase in mental distress. In addition, lack of sleep can at times aggravate depression, anxiety, and irritability. Proper sleep supports our physical and mental health while it also helps us to respond, rather than react when we're coping with difficult situations.
Tips to create a healthy sleep routine
Many of us have lives that are hectic with work, family, and personal commitments and we feel like we don't have enough hours in the day the do everything we need to do. Our sleep is often one of the first areas where we chip away at those hours in order to accommodate for our other responsibilities. Here are a few tips to start to create a healthy sleep routine.
1. Set realistic expectations
Evaluating how many hours you are currently sleeping is important to set realistic expectations for fostering change related to your sleep schedule. If you're currently sleeping an average of 5 hours per night, it may not be realistic to aim for sleeping 9 hours a night. Incremental change is often more attainable and ultimately sustainable for us to achieve our goals. When we set goals that are too far beyond our reach, many times we feel overwhelmed and defeated even before starting.
2. Clarify why getting more rest is important
Obviously prioritizing work and personal responsibilities is important, however inadequate sleep also comes with a cost. At times when we're sleep deprived, we may notice that we snap at a loved one, lose focus at work, or even feel physically run down. Understanding why sleep is a priority for you can often help us find motivation to make changes in our habits. A few possible motivating factors may be that you want to be more patient with your kids; or your physical and mental health is important for you; or even that you want to be more present at work to be able to be more efficient. Reframing why sleep is a priority for you can help create momentum and serve as a reminder when we're weighing our options and obligations.
3. Evaluate your physical environment
Cell phones, TV's, and laptops have become ubiquitous not just in our homes, but also in our bedrooms. Taking stock of your physical environment and making necessary changes can support better bedtime habits. We all know that we should reduce screen time before bed, but it is often very difficult to do so since scrolling can be enticing. One strategy maybe to charge your phone outside your bedroom to create that physical boundary. Also creating an ambience that signals to your brain that it's time to wind down can help you transition at night. This can be especially beneficial for those of us who are working from home to indicate a change from day to night in our physical space. .Lighting candles, dimming the lights, or playing soothing music are possible adjustments to your physical environment that can support a healthy sleep schedule.
4. Create a nighttime routine
Many of us had bedtimes routines when we were young or we even maintained one for our own children. Why? Because they work! Thinking like a kid and creating a similar nighttime routine can also be beneficial for adults. Taking a bath or a shower can be an opportunity to practice self care and relax . Journaling or reading a book before bed are non-screen activities that support our mental health as well as protect our sleep hygiene habits. Also setting a specific bedtime can help create consistency so we can build sustainable bedtimes routines.
5. Let your family or partner know your plan
Communicating with your family, partner, or friends about your plan can help create accountability so they can support you in your goals. Changing habits and routines at times can be challenging, however by communicating your intentions, your loved ones can provide you support in this change. Hiring a coach or working with a therapist can also be beneficial in achieving goals and increasing motivation for change related to sleep or other areas of your life.
Know when to ask for help
At times inability to sleep, difficulty falling or staying asleep can be a sign that needs the attention of a professional. If you notice sleep difficulties on a regular basis, reach out to your healthcare provider to evaluate possible health or mental health concerns. Rest is an integral part of well-being. Making sleep a priority and taking steps to create change, can have lasting effects in other areas of your life as well. Contact Kristin to learn more about how to develop health sleep habits to support your emotional and physical well-being.
***The ideas, concepts, and opinions expressed in all Living Openhearted posts are intended to be used for educational purposes only. The author and publisher are not rendering medical advice of any kind, nor are intended to replace medical advice, nor to diagnose, prescribe, or treat any disease, condition, illness, or injury. Authors and publisher claim no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or damage as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material.