by Annie Schlecht | Submitted Photos
As women, we have a lot of titles—wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend, employee, volunteer, etc.—and each one of those titles comes with a to-do list. We are becoming busier and busier, constantly giving, doing, running, especially around the holiday season. As much as we enjoy giving to others, I want to take some time to make sure you are taking care of yourself in the most basic way possible: your sleep.
Did you know that 30 percent of Americans are sleep deprived? On average, women are getting six hours and 41 minutes of sleep per night, when the recommended number is seven to eight hours. Why are we shorting ourselves, ladies?
Everything about our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual being is impacted when we are sleep deprived. I remember trying to function on a nightly average of six hours of sleep. Let me tell you, it was not pretty. I would roll my eyes at the thought of going to the gym. Take-out always sounded tastier than whipping up a healthy meal for my fam. I was snappy with my husband, and our sex life was nonexistent. I didn’t have the energy to play with my children and was constantly turning on Mickey Mouse, so I could lay on the couch. I was making numerous mistakes at work and almost fell asleep at the wheel on my way home from a late night at the office.
I was miserable and felt like I was drowning. I knew I needed to change my life, but I was overwhelmed with where to start. Once I started breaking down all of the problem areas, it all boiled down to the fact that I was exhausted and had no energy. The good news is that there is a way out of this vicious cycle. Here are a few tips to help get you started:
- Aim for seven to eight hours of sleep a night. Figure out what time you need to be awake in the morning and count backwards by seven or eight hours. If you need to be up at 6 a.m., your butt needs to be in bed and ASLEEP by 10 p.m. Make sure you factor in the time (hopefully no more than 20 minutes) it takes for you to fall asleep.
- Save the bed for sleep and intimacy. Nothing should take place in your bed but sleep and sex. If you read, work on your laptop, or watch TV in bed your brain is going to have a hard time breaking those associations and shutting down to relax once you hit the sheets. Create a sanctuary, and don’t allow the other distractions to come in. I also recommend removing any décor or photos from your bedroom that don’t make you feel Zen, sexual, or sleepy. (Put that old photo of your grandmother in a different room, please!)
- No screen time one hour before bed. I get it. We love technology. But this is what is suppressing our natural melatonin levels. The blue light that is emitted from screens is so alerting to our central nervous systems that it makes it hard for us to fall asleep and maintain sleep. Before you rush out and buy some melatonin, STOP! Our bodies are capable of producing it, we just need to make sure that the environments are conducive. If you have to be on your computer or you just can’t give up the TV before bed, then get yourself some blue light blocking glasses. This will decrease the amount of blue light that is entering the optic nerve.
- Read a fiction book before bed. We are using the logical/analytical side of our brain all day long. And just like any muscle, it gets tired. Give the left side of your brain a break, and tune into the right/creative half to help you relax and shut down before bed.
- Make sure your room is cool. Our bodies naturally decrease in body temperature when we sleep, so if it’s too warm you will find that your sleep quality will be impacted. Most sleep experts recommend between 65-69 degrees for sleep. Use some kind of fan to circulate the air and wear loose fitting pjs. If you are a colder person, try wearing socks to bed. This will increase your circulation and naturally keep your body warmer without a pile of blankets.
This is just a handful of tips that you can implement and can help you and sleep become BFFs. Ladies, take time to prioritize your sleep, your health, and yourself!
Learn more sleep tips from Annie on her website ZenSleepConsutling.com
Annie Schlecht is an occupational therapist, certified sleep consultant, Reiki practitioner, and infant massage instructor. She lives in Wimbledon, North Dakota with her husband and two daughters.