Good morning, everyone! I’ve been meaning to talk to you all about ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT topics ever besides food and sex, but I kept sitting down to do so at incriminating times -like, midnight or four a.m.ish.
Yeah, I oughta be asleep then.
Now that I’ve pushed hypocrisy under the rug by typing at my local time of 8 a.m., let’s get into it!
Sleep is important.
Duh, right? Well, so is eating the right food, but I still picked up a full container of chocolate almonds at Costco yesterday. So is positive self-talk and such with CBT, but I forgot all that when my kids had a meltdown this whole summer. So is talking to my counselor and doing what she says and -no, wait! I did go back on my medication because the kids have been having a meltdown all summer.
Point is: we know sleep is important. However, if you’re like me, then a good sleep schedule is one of the first things to go right out the window as soon as you have a small sip of it.
Let’s remember why we need sleep:
- Better Mental Health
Isn’t this our goal? My internet reading says that mental illness sufferers almost always do not get enough sleep. I think that’s often because our stupid problems don’t let us sleep; for me, however, I intentionally do not because I’m self-defeating that way.
Sleep is CRUCIAL to better mental health, resetting emotions and releasing the happier hormones into our systems.
Our brains HAVE TO hit all the key sleep stages in order to retain information. You know, all that REM/NREM stuff where dreams can happen. There are a ton of articles out there about this, if you want to do a little side research.
- Physical Health.
After a good night’s rest, our muscles are relaxed and ready for a new day. Skin looks better, especially around the eyes. Joints, ligaments, and nerves have time to repair. Without the stress of maintaining activity, the body as a whole can work on healing.
- Longer Life
No joke: consistently cutting back on sleep affects DNA. This bad practice physically shortens one’s life. Don’t get paranoid; decide to get a better schedule.
Despite your tortured artist soul’s ideas to the contrary, good sleep produces more creativity. I am a regular practicer of late-night muse-calling; I often produce dark poetry detailing horrific, depressive mindsets.
In terms of consistent artistry, though, I am much more productive when I’m regularly rested.
- Lower Stress
Yeah, you should know this one. Well-rested is the opposite of high-strung.
- Other Crap You May Not Have Known About
Like, lower testosterone (meaning you’re not going to feel like sex so much), weight control, disease immunity, and focus.
Like water and breathable air, humans have to have sleep. The next question, then, is how do we go about sleeping?
- Make a sleeping place
Yep, like a bed. Maybe you’re literally more comfortable in a recliner, though. Wherever you do your business, make it only for sleeping and sexing. Make it comfortable, dark, and free from distractions.
- Make a sleeping time
Ideally (in a fiction novel), you’d get to bed around 10 p.m. every night of your life. I find that aiming for a reasonable time gets me close to it, plus trains my body to expect that.
- Have a relaxing routine
Once your time’s set, prepare for it about an hour in advance. We’re talking: showering if you do it before bed, reading a book or your phone on the couch, reconnecting with your loved one(s), getting a drink, bathrooming, etc.
DO NOT EAT an hour before bed. If you are positively famished, I’d recommend light foods at least two hours before, for metabolism and heartburn reasons.
- Stay in bed, but don’t stress yourself
Occasionally when I wake in the middle of the night, I toss about and decide I’d be more productive getting up. Then I’m a zombie all day. Instead, I’ll choose to make myself more comfortable by repeating my relaxing routine and possibly adjusting the house/bed temperature. Then, I’ll go back to bed and just rest.
- Sleep aids and medications
I’m not going to pretend some people don’t need medicine to rest. The elephant’s in the room (and now, in the bed), right? If you’ve tried a bunch of stuff listed above and have serious trouble sleeping, get your doctor on board to prescribe something to help.
- Cut out the crappy stuff like smoking, drinking, recreational drugging and caffeinating
Tricky, of course, but so so so so so so so helpful for your body in so so so so so so many ways -especially sleep.
If you gotta do it, keep booze and coffee to healthy times: alcohol in small amounts after an earlier dinner and caffeine in the morning after food.
The other side of excellent sleep habits is your waking ones. Early to bed and early to rise isn’t just a great poem; it’s a blueprint for most people and a healthy lifestyle.
After a good night’s rest, a consistent, early waking time is equally vital.
In my crash-course study on this topic over the past few days, I learned that waking at the same time each morning trains your body. Our smart little brains start increasing key protein levels (PER) just before the anticipated wakeup. Some people don’t even need an alarm clock because their body has been set.
You, too, can be a living alarm clock.
Resolve today to make sleep a higher priority. Make your bedroom cozy, cut out stimulants of all varieties in the evening, wake early, be consistent, but -most of all- RELAX!
Sleep feels great; get some and you’ll see.
Thank you for joining me on Consider not Depressing. Tune in next time, when I remember what #11 was on my list of cures for depression.