Simple Sunday: Sleep
by Frank Martin
In addition to diet and exercise, getting enough sleep is one of the most important aspects of maintaining good health, yet culturally we deride it, seeing people who sleep a lot and/or nap as lazy, and people who go without as hard working. Truth is, and I think we all know this from experience, not getting enough sleep leaves you with less energy, makes it harder to concentrate, and hampers your immune system. The good news is its a relatively easy problem to fix:
1 Technology Curfew: I find I sleep a lot better if I stop using anything with a screen at least an hour before bed time. Flashing images can be highly stimulating, and the more the brain is stimulated, the less disposed it is towards sleep.
2 One Thing: Reading in bed before sleep used to be a favorite activity of mine, and for a while, I’d roll out of bed in the morning, and plop down on my meditation cushion to sit in the morning. If it isn’t sleep or sex, don’t do it in the bedroom, and this includes TV (see above).
3 Bookend Your Day: A morning and evening routine can be a great way to give yourself time to wake up and get ready for the day, and time to slow down and transition to bed at night. It doesn’t have to be that complex or involved either. These days, when I wake up in the morning, after hitting the bathroom I sit for a short meditation session, do a bit of inspirational or spiritual reading, and head out to meet my mom for a walk on weekdays. When I get back I sweep the kitchen and entry, have breakfast, write out my to-do list and take a shower. In the evenings I close up the apartment, put anything away thats been left out, write in my journal, read for a while and crawl into bed.
4 Exercise: As Americans we actually live a rather sedentary life compared to some other countries. Because of this many of us, myself included at times, end up misinterpreting mental fatigue as physical. Being active during the day, which can include anything from weight lifting, to gardening, to taking a walk, and anything in between, can help with sleep by wearing you down during the day. As long as it doesn’t happen right before bed-time, exercise can be a great sleep inducer. For some ways to simplify exercise, check out my earlier Simple Sunday post over here.
5 Limit Caffeine, Alcohol, and Sugar: Caffeine and sugar are both stimulants, and alcohol interferes with sleep in all sorts of wonderful ways. I’ve found that not drinking caffeinated anything (coffee, soda, etc), or drinking or eating anything sugary after about 2pm means its a lot easier to fall asleep at night.
BONUS Get outside during the day: The human body’s circadian rhythms are regulated in large part by exposure to natural light during the day. This exposure lets our bodies know when they need to be active and alert, and when they can slow down and start to get ready for rest. Unfortunately, these days we spend so much time inside that this mechanism can easily get thrown off. Leaving blinds open during the day can help, but getting outside while its still light out is still the best option. One of my favorite activities the past couple months has been going for a walk in the local arboretum in the afternoon, finding a nice sunny hill and spending some time reading outside.
MICRO-ACTION: WHAT DO YOU FIND HELPFUL TO MAINTAINING A REGULAR SLEEP SCHEDULE? TAKE A MINUTE TO THINK ABOUT THREE TO FIVE THINGS, LITTLE OR BIG, AND FEEL FREE TO SHARE WITH US DOWN IN COMMENTS.