We are constantly told to make the most of our time. Technology has made us more accessible to employers and friends, even when we are off the clock or on vacation. We are scheduled to the max, especially children — from school to play dates to sports and social activities. Something has to give. Unfortunately, we cut our sleep time to make up for time lost during the day. We rise early and stay up late. That is okay every once in a while, but as a regular routine it is asking for an early grave. Sleep is nature’s way of recharging our body’s battery. You would never leave the house without charging your cell or tablet. Yet, we consistently neglect to recharge our most important instrument — our body. If it breaks down, we will have no use for tech gadgets while sick or hospitalized.
Five Reasons You Need Sleep*
1. Sleep deprivation “dumbs” you down. Your cognitive abilities like problem solving, critical thinking, and concentration are compromised.
2. Sleep deprivation lowers your sex drive. Guess who’s not bringing sexy back — sleep deprived you!
3. Sleep loss ages you. You don’t need a nightly de-aging cream, you need a good 8-10 hours of rest to face life’s daily challenges.
4. Sleep loss contributes to weight gain. You’ve been dieting and still can’t shed those pounds. Try sleeping more than 6 hours. Sleep deprivation can trigger an increase in hunger and appetite.
5. Extreme sleep deprivation increases your risk of death. Good bye youth, hello grim reaper!
I grew up old school when bed time was strictly observed (except holidays and weekends — only if you were good). There were no phone calls after 10pm because unless it was an emergency (hospital or death), no one in their right mind would disturb a household winding down at night. The Midwest in me is used to short winter days and long nights of slumber induced by the cold (Baby it’s cold outside). We hibernate like the bears to catch up on sleep lost to long summer nights and fall’s twilight. I miss weekends filled with long naps and no one asking what’s wrong when you proclaim all you plan to do is sleep, eat, and sleep some more.
How do you unwind at night to enjoy a peaceful rest? Here’s an analogy every adult can appreciate. Think of bed time as foreplay. The mood, setting, and ambiance must be conducive to induce slumber. Everything from lighting, noise level, and people will kill the mood or seduce you.
Five Steps to Seduce You to Slumber
1. Turn off all distractions, especially electronics (cell, tablet). All electronics even the television must be shut off. You cannot unwind when the news is depressing you, the cell is vibrating like a tick on crack, or the backlight from the tablet is on. Remember when your parents would say “no toys during bed time?” Same principle applies here. If you use your cell as an alarm clock, put your cell on vibrate and sit it on top of a cloth or cushion so that you will not hear it vibrate every time you get a text or email.
2. Don’t bring work in the bedroom. Make your boudoir a “work-free” zone. Before going to bed, sit at the table or sofa and make your “to-do” lists. Jot down any notes or text/email yourself things that you need to handle in the morning. Like Spongebob Square Pants, empty your brain before going to bed so that you are not getting up running to the laptop or checking the tablet. Don’t bring that tablet in your bedroom! In Anne of Green Gables, Miranda tells Anne that the sun will continue to rise whether or not she gets an “A” in geometry. We tend to forget that regardless of what we do or failed to do — life goes on. In order to get a good night’s rest, take off your Superwoman or Superman cape. You cannot do it all. Some things will not get done by the end of the day, but it is not the end of the world. To err is human, perfection is a lie. Unload your burden of perfection so you can unwind.
3. Never underestimate the power of a hot shower or bath. It is an old trick parents use, but it is tried and true. A nice hot shower and the smell of baby powder, or Johnson’s baby lotion lures me to bed. Put on your comfy pajamas and favorite slippers (Snoopy for me) and get ready to doze off. Some lavender on your pillow never hurts either.
4. Unwind with some decaffeinated tea or music. I find classical or smooth jazz relaxes me so that my mind wanders to sleepy town central. Better yet, try some Gregorian Chant music. It will either freak you out or lull you to rest.
5. Your bed should seduce you to slumber. Appearances matter. A well made bed is the perfect appetizer for a good night’s rest. You can tell you are in a nice hotel when the bed calls you morning or midday to just lay down for a minute. Likewise, your bed and boudoir should be a sanctuary away from the stress of the day. If your lover/spouse invited you to a romantic evening and the boudoir was dirty and the bed unkempt that would surely kill the mood. Make up your bed in the morning and replace your sheets on a regular basis. After that hot shower or bath, when you lay head to pillow all you smell is fresh and clean and all you think is “goodnight moon, goodnight stars.”
* From the NIH, NHS, and WebMd.