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On the long list of strategies to boost your wellbeing, which one reaches the frequency of Every. Damn. Day? Eating healthy foods? While important, a few unhealthy meals won’t interfere with for your health. Exercise? Again, important, but 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 days/week meets health guidelines. Need a hint? The #2 daily habit that improves your wellbeing is drinking 64 ounces or more of water. So, if it’s not these practices, what is the #1 way to boost your wellbeing Every. Damn. Day?
Sleep. Nothing exciting or sexy. But wait maybe it is. It’s pretty exciting that you don’t have to start a new habit to boost your wellbeing (you already know how to sleep). It’s exciting that more sleep will enhance every element of your wellbeing from mindset to performance. It’s even sexy that more time under the covers can lead to more activity between the sheets.
Doing anything with abandon–or energy or power or focus–starts with sleep. Arianna Huffington
How Sleep Effects the Body
Your body suffers on days following sleepless nights. For example:
- Stomach: you feel hungrier than usual and will crave high-fat, high-calorie foods.
- Nose: your immune system goes downhill fast when you’re tired, meaning you’re likelier to catch a cold.
- Eyes: being tired can cause you to feel more emotional, meaning tears are closer to the surface than normal.
- Brain: your memory struggles and you might suffer from slower reaction times and feel less focused. And, loss of sleep can worsen, if not cause, depression.
- Heart: your risk for high blood pressure and heart disease increases after a period where you aren’t sleeping well.
- Skin: sleep helps regulate body temperature so not getting enough can make you feel cold all over.
How Much Sleep Do You Need?
No one-size-fits-all number exists. Factors such as your genes, health, and activity level determine your optimum length of shut eye. That said, for most adults, “getting between seven and nine hours a night is the sweet spot to ward off daytime sleepiness and feel healthy.” [https://www.sleep.org/articles/how-much-sleep-adults/]
Watch this two-minute video from the Sleep.org website to see how much sleep is needed from birth to old age. [https://www.sleep.org/articles/how-much-sleep-adults/]
How Sleep Effects the Brain
No doubt as a working mom with a heavy mental, physical, and emotional load, you need your brain to work as well as it can! Seven to nine hours of sleep benefits your brain by:
- Helping solidify memory (so you can remember sweet moments from your kid’s early years and important requests from your boss)
- Clearing toxins, including those associated with Alzheimer’s disease
- Facilitating cognition (so you can respond quickly and access your deep knowledge stored away)
- Generating creativity
As I read the list of benefits, I’m struck how a time investment in sleep is an investment in performance and productivity.
How to Get More Sleep
Often, we think we can forgo sleep in the name of performance or productivity when it’s not an equitable trade. More, and more, time spent working (at home or at work) doesn’t boost performance or productivity. It’s a myth our society has embraced with open arms.
If you’re trying to be at the top of your game at work and at home, are you making the needed investment in sleep? If not, what would it take to increase the number of hours your sleep? These strategies might help:
- Consume caffeine before 3 p.m.
- Limit alcohol
- Avoid spicy foods 3 hours before bedtime to prevent heartburn
- Exercise for 30 minutes, 5 days a week, however not too close to bedtime. After exercise, your brain is very active and your body temperature increases—both of which can make it difficult to fall asleep.
- Manage technology so that there is a 30-minute buffer between screen time and bedtime
- Rethink your window treatments so that the bedroom remains cool and dark, both of which helps you sleep more soundly and fall asleep faster.
- Create a nighttime routine that helps calm you and prepare you for sleeping
Your season of life, especially if you have infants and toddlers, can make getting seven to nine hours of sleep per night impossible. You grab whatever sleep is available in shifts of a few hours. If this is your season, I understand. For several years, we played musical beds to eke out as many minutes of shut-eye as possible. What would it take to ask your partner or another family member to help you rest/sleep on the weekends?
Getting enough sleep is the foundation of your wellbeing. While it seems like minutes spent sleeping could be better spent on getting something done, the fact is that your body goes through critical processes while sleeping. There is no substitute! Any micro change that you can make to improve the quality and quantity of your sleep increases your investment in your wellbeing.