The Sleep Dilemma: Getting Serious about the ZZZZs

The sleep dilemma

As you may have gathered from previous posts, I consider myself a pretty healthy person. I eat well the majority of the time and have a regular and varied exercise routine. But one area where I fall short more often than not is in the realm of sleep.

Not getting enough sleep is linked to a whole host of health problems like increased stress, irritability, poorly regulated hunger hormones, and heart disease. Translated into daily life, symptoms can include zoning out at work, getting injured from a workout that would normally be doable, lots of visits to the candy jar in the afternoon, and snapping at a significant other. Or so I’ve heard.

So I’m declaring August a month of recommitting myself to working on my sleep habits, and by putting my goals in writing here I’m hoping I’ll be more likely to stick to them. I’ll provide some short updates through the month and share a recap at the end! If you’re also trying to up your sleep game, join the fun and recommit with me! Here’s my plan…

Go to bed at the same time every night

I don’t think I’m alone in having the occasional night where I’m so wiped, I go to bed really, really early. Instead of feeling better the next morning, I’ll often feel groggy and out of whack.

Consistency is part of a healthy sleep pattern – going to bed around the same time and waking up around the same time lends itself to good energy and body rhythms. I’m aiming to go to bed as close to 10PM as I can, Monday through Thursday. I’m cutting myself a little slack on the weekends, but will still be keeping tabs on my sleep and how I feel.

Set aside technology a half hour before lights out

Like many of us, my cell phone is with me from the beginning of my day when my alarm goes off to the very end of it. Whether it’s emails or social media, the phone is a time-suck at the end of the day when I need to focus on winding down. Plus, pre-bed screen time has been linked to a less restful sleep. My goal is to put down the tech 30 minutes before lights out to give my mind a chance to decompress from the day and get into sleep mode.

Prepare myself for the morning

It’s not uncommon for me to have an early morning workout planned – in fact, more often than not I’m getting up before work to exercise. I lose sleep on either (or both) ends of the night when I don’t prep myself adequately the night before. Ideally, I have my meals and snacks packed for the day, my clothes (both workout and workday) selected and laid out, and my gym bag prepped and ready to go. Too often I fall into a trap of telling myself: “I’m just so tired. I’ll get up earlier and take care of that in the morning,” or “It’s already really late, but I should pack up my stuff.” This month, I’m committing to getting myself squared away before bed, and not in the five minutes before I hit the hay.

Institute a soothing bedtime routine

Taking time to wind down by going through some calming motions is another key to good sleep – and another area for improvement for me. Too often I go from 100 to 0 in the span of about five minutes, whether it’s writing emails, cleaning up, doing laundry, making lunch, or packing my bags for the day (see above). Instituting some nighttime rituals, like reading for a few minutes, having a cup of tea (un-caffeinated), and putting on some soothing lavender lotion will help me ease into sleep instead of crashing into it. Other ideas include lighting a candle with a calming scent, taking a warm shower, or cycling through a few gentle and restorative yoga poses.