Sleep: The Final Frontier
Sleep. Nighttime. Is it something that you look forward to after the end of your day? Does the place where you lay your head down for the night connote peace and comfort? As I previously mentioned, the quality of your nights largely dictates the quality of the next day and days. We all tend to carry with us the stresses of the day into our nights. The day’s events seem to come into clarity, not as we deal with them in real time, rather when we finally lay down. As a single mother of 3 children that range in age between 18 and 6 I am constantly struck by the never ending stress of the days. While no two days are ever the same, the challenge is to just get through them with some of my sanity still intact.
So we all read and watch the news reports that say just how important sleep is to overall health. Yet the reality is that we don’t often get enough sleep, or we medicate ourselves to ensure that we get enough sleep or worse we struggle with insomnia. We find ourselves eating at night or simply worrying ourselves all to much. Sleep has often eluded me. I have needed (or thought that I did) medication to make sure I have slept. Ladies let me tell you something, there is no solution out of a box that is going to work. It’s going to come down to change. Seriously, if you can pick up some small wins in the Restful Quadrant, wins will be more plentiful in each of the other Quadrants.
I remind you that I am no expert. I myself will not “fix you”. I can’t. Only you can. But the mistakes I have made in the past have informed my present and will certainly improve my future. Readers please know that I am here for you and I will always try to dispense advice that I have taken for myself and to heart.
If you have raised or are raising children you understand the importance of a ritual. Children thrive when there is a ritual. This starts at the earliest days of our children’s lives. While there is often resistance at first, once established, a ritual equals comfort. This is my time to rest. As children, especially young children, we don’t have the worry of the world on our shoulders and constant thoughts coursing through the synapses of our brains. Children lay down, and in a fairly ritualistic way, they fall asleep, and with time often will wake up at or around the same time each next morning. The rituals around the nighttime are important factors in how a child approaches sleep as they get older. The more harmonious and consistent the bedtime ritual is the more likely sleep patterns will continue on in a consistent manner.
So why do so many of us fear the night as we get older? Why? I have looked into the mirror on many occasions and thought about this. WTF is so challenging about getting 7–8 hours of sleep or better getting that sleep without the aid of anything medicinal. Granted, much of this is also based on the reality of your situation. If you are married or live with a partner, you may be in the bedroom at night with your spouse/partner. The quality of their sleep is certainly going to dictate to an extent how you might sleep. If you have older kids (I do!) than doors may be opening and closing or worse being slammed during what should be sleep time. There is no dictum. We always live in reality. No choice. But, and this is the but, we HAVE to take care of ourselves, regardless of the noise (both literal and figurative) around us. Put up needed boundaries to ensure that we reach minimal levels of acceptable restful sleep. The lack of respect for this Quadrant will have detrimental effects on your ability to pick up wins in the other Quadrants.
My recipe is not complicated at all. It’s really a return to our own infancy. How do we do that? By creating safe rituals around the night. Building the barriers that separate us from rest. A topic for another day is social media. I truly believe that social media has become the death blow to restful sleep. Why, because IMO (in my opinion) social media causes us stress.
Step One: Pick a Time To Go To Bed-Not to Sleep. This is the start. Let’s use 10:30 as an example. If we decide to go to be bed at 10:30 then this is the time. Obviously weekends, travel, etc. may require deviation. But let’s use this time. Also, as an aside, these are just ideas and broad guidance, not rule based. So if 10:30 is the time that we are going to start to head to bed (not sleep) then we have to step backwards and plan a path to bed. This involves the next step.
Step Two: Time to Get the F*ck Out of the Kitchen! OK I had to say it! This one is pretty easy. The days of having a “snack” before bed need to end right now. Late dinners. No more (exceptions are obviously weekends and travel). In order to find the path to a more Playful Life, sacrifice and change will be required. Have you ever wondered why older people flock to early bird dinners? Sure they want to save money, but seriously, as we age our minds and bodies start to crave ritual. Rituals as we age WILL add life to our days and days to our lives. All I am suggesting is that we start our rituals now before our minds and bodies begin to dictate otherwise. My minimal advice. No more eating or drinking anything other than water within three hours of bedtime. I also suggest that we stop drinking even water as we get to 90 minutes prior to bedtime. Why? It may end up leading to an overnight pee break and that is something that we all want to avoid. Interruptions to our restful sleep may lead the brain to automatically start to race (our brains are often on auto pilot and it can rev up very quickly-more so at night). What time to do I have to get my son to the doctor or did I forget to return that call to my mother, sister, friend or other?
Step Three: Step Away From the Social Media (Get The F*ck Off of Facebook)! Well I sort of hinted at that above. Personally I’d prefer to have the cell phone off for a period leading up to bedtime. However, that is likely not possible. Thus, my compromise is to stop social media in the two hours prior to our bedtime. If you need to check Facebook and email do so. But stop within two hours of bedtime. Email can wait for the morning as well as Facebook. Why do I feel so strongly about social media and its interfering with our restful sleep? Because it may allow self-doubt to creep into our consciousness. That’s what I am trying to avoid. You want to create a safe zone to protect your new bedtime ritual. Phase One of this is to go to bed feeling as good about ourselves as possible [As an aside, over the course of the next few blogs, we will start to see how each one of the Quadrants work together, all with the goal of creating a better view of yourself for yourself-OK done with the internal monologue.]
Step 4: Protect Your New Ritual. Personally, I am not a fan of watching television or sitting on my laptop at night. If possible, I would recommend that television viewing be done in another room. That the laptop be powered down right around when you are done with social media (see above). The bedroom should be a place for peace, love and quiet. Television and the internet are anything but peaceful, loving, and quiet. They are stimulating and sometimes negative. One glance at the news is sure to create doubt in our minds about just the sort of world that we are raising (if we are) our children in. Thus, if possible, let’s limit television in the two hour period leading up to sleep. Instead, read a book. As we approach the night and our appointed time to go to bed we need to slowly decrease the stimulation around us. If your spouse or partner wishes to go to sleep later than you, all good, just ask that they try to allow you to get restful sleep on YOUR terms. Trust me — -they will benefit from you having gotten an extra 15 minutes of restful sleep night after night. Dinners will be more enjoyable and passion more likely and intense. It all starts with the quality of your sleep. Your kids, especially if older, need to understand that you are making changes that are going to make you a stronger and more consistent parent. Thus, you are going to need to, at a minimum, sit them down and explain to them why you are adopting this new bedtime ritual and how it is going to ultimately benefit them. In fact, I’d be willing to wager that if you consistently apply this prescribed ritual, they will respect you more and potentially adopt some of these practices as they get older. Consistency is the key to growth.
Mpowr.me is all about small wins. Putting yourself on a path that will lead to a happier you. Sounds daunting. However, there is strength in numbers. I know so many women that have struggled with sleep, finding themselves addicted to sleep meds, binging overnight and generally waking up first thing in the morning more tired than the day before. Seriously nothing is going to get better until we put our sleep patterns and lack of rituals under a microscope. I promise I will share with you my flaws and failings in the weeks and months and years ahead. I will be there for you on your worst nights and on your most triumphant days. But it all starts with you. That why I started mpowr.me and now I want to empower you.
My next blog will go to eating and how to make our time in the kitchen, at the supermarket and out to lunch and/or dinner more thoughtful.
Until next time. This is all about a slow and steady set of wins. This isn’t a race. I take 1% gains as being wins. Soon you will too. Email me anytime at email@example.com. Or if you live on Long Island I would love to meet you!