If you’re reading this, let me set the scene for you. I’m cranky and overtired, I’m anxious and stressed and I’ve got an attitude that makes you not want to be around me. It’s bad, friends. . .real bad! What do all these symptoms have to do with? The fact that I’m not getting enough sleep.
I used to have a good night time routine that allowed me to have amazing sleep, but something changed. Actually, a lot of things changed. My dogs starting getting up at night, my work got more stressful and I haven’t had a true vacation in over a year (thanks COVID). I want to get back to where I was and I feel the need to share with you some info on sleep. It’s so incredibly important and many of us just don’t get enough.
So how much sleep should you get?
This is a super controversial topic but there is an answer – seven or more hours per night. This number comes from the experts and the sleep gurus, not from me and my experience, so it’s real. My mom is someone who can survive on three or four hours per night and in the past, I’ve been able to survive on about five hours per night. They key word here is survive. Although you can survive on less sleep, it’s not necessarily the healthiest way. Getting seven or more hours per night is crucial because during that time your body is resting, rejuvenating and healing itself, naturally.
You’re probably thinking that getting this much sleep is impossible. I challenge you to think about that because it is possible. How? Reverse engineer your bedtime. What time do you get up every morning? From that time, count back by seven hours. For example, I wake up at 6:45 AM every weekday. That being said, I need to be asleep by 11:00 PM every night in order to achieve seven hours of sleep per night. Do the calculation for yourself, I bet you’ll be surprised at what you find.
What affects the quality of your sleep?
There are several factors that affect how good your sleep is, but I want you to know about four of them – temperature, stress and anxiety, blue light and fabric.
The temperature of your body and your room should be somewhat cool. If the room is hot, you will ultimately run hot. If you run hot, you won’t be able to get totally comfortable. Yes, you may be able to fall asleep when you’re in warmer temperatures, but the quality just won’t be as good.
Does your mind work like a ticker tape? I know mine does. When it’s like that, it’s because I have way too much on my plate and I’m pretty close to (if not in) burnout. I literally woke up one night (or morning) at 1:35 AM last week because I remembered something I needed to talk to my boss about. Then, of course, I couldn’t fall back asleep.
I consider blue light to be the arch enemy to a good night’s sleep. It’s tricky in that it is in so many places – your cell phone, the alarm clock and even the television. The best way to counteract it is to keep it out of your sleeping quarters. Yes, I know it will be hard, but it will also be worth it.
Lastly the fabrics that touch your body can impact your sleep. Anything from your pajamas to your bedsheets and blankets to your pillows. Have you ever tried to sleep in jeans? They’re stiff and uncomfortable and you just want to unbuckle them to give yourself more room. Make sure you pjs are soft and your sheets are a high thread count.
What about the sleeping quarters?
Well, for starters they should be cool and calming. When your room is between 60 and 67 degrees, your body naturally sleeps better. During the summer, keep your air conditioner somewhere in between this range. During the winter, open a window if you have to.
When it comes to having a calming space, the paint color you choose is just the start. Neutrals and pastel shades are the best to create the calming experience. Colors like blue, light yellow, green, gray or silver, light orange, light pink and lilac purple are great options.
If your mind is like mine, the chronic play of thoughts in your brain, then having a journal on your nightstand is necessary. When you wake up in the middle of the night because you remember something you have to tell your boss (like I did), then you’ll have a place to jot it down and get it out of your head. Then you can go back to sleep.
What about the smell of your sleeping quarters? If it smells like a wet dog, you’ll be so grossed out you simply won’t be able to sleep. Instead, make it smell nice. Use a diffuser with essential oils like lavender, Cedarwood or chamomile. You can even add eucalyptus to help open the nasal passages.
Create a night time routine that works.
The last thing you need to do to have a great night’s sleep is to have an efficient night time routine. Here’s how:
- Stop using electronics one (1) hour before bedtime – All electronics have some blue light, especially your cell phone, your laptop and your tablet. If you stop using these at least an hour before bed, you give yourself a fighting chance at being rested and relaxed and ready for some shut eye.
- Stop eating two (2) hours before bedtime – When you have food in your system, your body is working to digest and process it. If you continue to eat it right up until bedtime, your body is continuously working. Avoid the night time snacks and if you get some hunger pangs, have a small amount of water to satisfy you.
- Leave your electronics outside of the bedroom – Having the electronics inside your bedroom opens yourself up for the opportunity to answer a text or respond to that notification. Hear me when I say this, THE WORLD WILL NOT END BECAUSE YOU DIDN’T RESPOND RIGHT AWAY! If it’s an emergency, they’ll know how to reach you.
- Read a book – Maybe not a book that has an amazing storyline that transports you to another world, but something that at least peaks your interest. Reading is an activity that forces you to focus and use your brain, but also helps you start to relax.
- Lay down only when you’re ready for sleep – Don’t go horizontal on me until you’re absolutely ready to shut those baby blues (or browns). If you’re reading or journaling, sit up in a chair or in your bed. Only lay flat when you’re ready to fall asleep. Your body will know when it’s ready.
I’ll be starting to focus on my sleep again and I hope you will too. If you need more info on sleep, read How are you sleepIng? – a post I wrote years ago after reading an amazing and resourceful book all about gaining better sleep.