As I’ve stated here before, the kindness we show ourselves is just as important as the kindness we show others. By taking care of yourself you are both charged with positive energy and more motivated to share the wealth of good feelings you enjoy with others. Do you have one of those friends whose positive outlook on life is contagious? Sure, sometimes we just want to wallow in self-pity, but is that really constructive? Isn’t it better when we just let ourselves be carried away by that friend’s uplifting spirit? Why not be that person who brings out the best in others? To get there, you have to start with how you treat yourself. So, with that in mind, we’re covering another be-kind-to-yourself topic today; specifically, sleep.
The value of good sleep is often overlooked by many of us. Some of us avoid it for fear of missing out. Or perhaps we have so many things we want to do that we see sleep as a nuisance and fight it until we simply can’t resist any longer. Others are envious and would like nothing better than a good night of sleep but they simply can’t get it. If you are in the former camp, recognize that sleep isn’t an option, it is a requirement. Allowing yourself the time your body needs to recover will leave you much better equipped to accomplish the things you want to accomplish when you are awake. You’ll also be primed to enjoy those experiences you don’t want to miss as a good night of rest will leave you feeling more engaged, more in the now when the good times are rolling.
Aside from the obvious, healthy sleep should also be a critical element in your skin care and beauty regimen. Failing to get adequate sleep can leave you looking older than your years. By getting enough sleep, you afford your body the opportunity to perform its regularly scheduled maintenance as required. That includes everything from recovering muscles after strenuous workouts to, yes, rebuilding the skin you’re surrounded in which is constantly dying and being replaced. And for those of you who have dealt with shadows and bags under their eyes after too little sleep, you know full well how important good rest is.
For those of you who struggle with sleep for any number of reasons, there are things you can do to help grease the Sandman’s wheels a bit. Follow some of the tips below and see if it doesn’t result in some life changes.
- Go to bed when you are tired. Trying to force yourself to sleep at a certain time every night can lead to a never-ending battle with insomnia. Your body will let you know when it’s time to saw some logs. Listen to what it tells you. If you find yourself wide awake until the wee hours of the morning, that’s ok. We’re going to fix your schedule because, key to accomplishing #1 and getting enough sleep is…
- Get up at the same time, all the time. Every day. Yes, weekends too. Your mind and body can be trained. In the same way you can learn how addition, develop muscle memory or improve your reaction time, you can train your body to adopt a regular schedule. It will be painful until your body adjusts and you may find yourself getting too little sleep the first few days but, no matter what, get up at the same time every single morning. You’ll gradually find yourself ready for bed earlier every night until you are on a good schedule.
- Don’t listen to the experts. They’ve told us 8 hours is ideal for years but, the truth is that we’re all different. For some, 8 hours can mean waking up to a headache or migraine in the morning. Let your body dictate the right amount of sleep. If you wake feeling refreshed after 6 or 7 hours, that’s your target. Stick to it.
- Don’t go back to sleep. If you wake up naturally, get out of bed and stay up. Forcing yourself to go back to sleep can throw off your schedule, leave you feeling incredibly tired, lead to oversleeping or to headaches.
- Don’t take naps. Unless you are already a talented sleeper (and you wouldn’t be reading this if that were the case) naps can completely ruin your attempts at adjusting your body to a sleep schedule. If you have absolutely no choice due to excessive exhaustion, take no more than a 15-20 minute nap. If you dream, you’ve gone too far.
- No caffeine 4-6 hours before you go to bed.
- No exercise 4-6 hours before you go to bed.
- No eating 2-3 hours before you go to bed.
- DON’T think about work or any nagging problems in bed. If thoughts about a troubling issue keep nagging at you, get out of bed and out of your bedroom and write the thoughts down. Read through your list which should include what is bothering you, what you might be able to do to resolve it and, finally, why it really isn’t the end of the world. By making a list and logically addressing the points with some possible solutions and a reality check, you help put it into context as something you really shouldn’t be losing sleep over. You can then resume efforts to sleep. If the thoughts crop up again, get up and review your list. Expand on it. But don’t stay in bed. And remember #2. Regardless how late you stay up reviewing your list, get up at the same time the next morning.
- Let your bedroom be a bedroom. Don’t read in it. Don’t watch TV in it. Don’t dwell on problems in it. Do nothing but sleep (and snuggle with your honey) in your bed. By avoiding activities in bed other than sleeping, you train your body to correlate entering your bedroom and crawling into bed with sleeping.
- Consider a sleep mask. I have a very low tolerance for even the dimmest light when I sleep. I like it as dark as I can get it and have, on many occasions, resorted to a sleep mask to get what I need. Especially useful on vacations in strange places.
- Don’t argue or engage in deep conversations with your spouse in bed. I love a long chat with my wife but it has killed my ability to sleep on numerous occasions. Have your talks in the living room and saw logs in the bedroom.
- Get a new mattress. An innerspring mattress can aggravate pressure points and cause all kinds of restlessness, aches and poor quality sleep. If you and your spouse have compatible sleep preferences, a foam mattress might be the right solution. My wife and I have wildly different ideas of what’s comfortable in a mattress. Our solution was an air mattress bed. Specifically, we purchased the Sleep Number Bed as it allows us to adjust for our individual preferences without having to sleep in different beds. For comfort and quality sleep, a foam mattress works just as well, but air mattress beds like the Sleep Number bed trump foam mattresses in that they allow for individual comfort adjustment while also providing all the benefits of a foam mattress. The links I’ve included will take you to my site specifically devoted to air mattress beds.
- Meditate. Meditation does not deserve the reputation it sometimes caries as a “fringe” philosophy or the domain of shamans and monks. Every one of you has meditated and likely not even known it. What did you think you were doing when you were on that road trip and miles just whisked on by without you even being aware of their passing. Meditation is simply a relaxed, calm state of mind that allows you to live in the now without all the distraction of your conscious thoughts. Learning to do this in my adolescent years was the single greatest teen accomplishment in a vast arsenal of bizarre lessons learned. Learn it and you’ll be thanking me for the rest of your life for having suggested it.
- White noise. Buy yourself a soundscape CD specifically for sleep. If you’ve always zonked right out when sleeping at the beach, get an ocean soundscape CD and play it on repeat. If camping has always had you snoring in seconds, get a CD that has wilderness night sounds such as distant chirping crickets and maybe the sound of a stream.
As I wrote this post and hit 15, I realized I could probably go at this for another hour. Unfortunately, my own sleep schedule requires I be in bed no later than 1AM every morning and that leaves me only 40 minutes to wrap this up, post it, take the pups out one more time and then drift off into blissful slumber. Perhaps I’ll come back and revisit this topic in the future to add to the list. For now, do yourself the kindness of following some of the advice above. It’s just one more way you can care for your skin and it’s my sincere hope that it helps you.