Welcome to Strategy #3 of 12 Strategies to a CalmHealthySexy 2013. Yes, I know that some of you are laughing derisively at the idea of sleeping 7 or 8 luxurious hours every night. You may dream of getting that much sleep (lol!), but believe it’s an unattainable goal. Or you may think you only need a few hours of sleep a night, and believe it’s an unnecessary goal. Either way, let’s talk about it a bit, and then you can decide.
Why get 7 to 8 hours of sleep? Sleep affects our bodies and health more than most of us even imagine. We all know that good sleep in sufficient quantities makes us feel great, and that poor and inadequate sleep makes us feel terrible. But did you know that sleep also plays significant roles in memory, metabolism, immune health, mental health, weight gain or loss, even libido? Some research even suggests that sleep plays a role in diabetes, heart disease and other chronic health conditions. People who are sleep-deprived often perform as poorly on complex tasks (including driving), as people who are under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.
So, if we want to feel great, stay healthy, enjoy sex, and maybe even lose weight, we need adequate sleep. For most adults, that means 7 to 8 hours per night. Yes, a small percentage of people need less and a small percentage need more. But, if you think you need less, you may just be – sleep deprived! Some people think they function well on little sleep, but memory and motor control tests show they don’t. So for most people, 7 to 8 hours is a healthy goal. (See additional information on sleep below.)
How to get get 7 to 8 hours of sleep. Most women don’t need to be convinced that they need more sleep – their sleep-deprived brains and low energy levels tell them so every day! The trick is how to manage it. Here are a few ideas:
- Be kind to yourself and sleep when you can. Sleeping 7 to 8 hours each night is probably most difficult for women with babies and toddlers. It takes time to get young children on a good sleep schedule and, even when you do, illness, teething, and other problems can mess it up. During this phase, be kind to yourself. When your baby or toddler sleeps, you sleep – even during the middle of the day. Let go of less important things (a spotless house, elaborate meals, commitments outside your family, etc.) and focus on the really important things – your baby, your other children, your health, your marriage.
- Evaluate your sleep pattern. If you’re only sleeping 5 or 6 hours a night, figure out why. Are you reading or watching television late into the evening? Are you out of the house at meetings or activities 4 or 5 nights a week? Are you working from sunup until midnight trying to do all the things you need to do? If so, why? Are you working all of that time, or are time wasters creeping in and sucking up some of your valuable time? We all waste some time on dumb stuff (raises hand and nods head!), but if you aren’t sleeping enough you may need to cut out some time wasters.
- Allow you and your health to be a priority. As women, we often act as if our own needs are not important. We sometimes let our health, our mental health, our dreams and our interests fall by the wayside in the name of caring for others. Obviously, our children’s health and needs are top priority for most women, and rightfully so. And, most of us want to take good care of our husbands. But, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t also take care of ourselves. And it doesn’t mean that the “wants” (as opposed to true needs) of everyone in the family should always take priority. Alison at Experimental Wifery is talking this month about self-care for women and the fact that the needs of the wife and mother are, in fact, legitimate needs. And few needs are more legitimate than the need to get adequate sleep!
- Make a plan and clear the decks. If you’ve decided to make getting more sleep a priority, plan how you’re going to do it. You may need to “clear the decks” of activities that are less essential than sleeping well. That could mean anything from saying “no” to a request from your children’s school to resigning from a church committee to limiting your children’s activities to cutting some time wasters from your life. Enlist help from your husband and from children who are old enough to understand. Determine that you are going to care for yourself by sleeping well, and make a plan that ensures that it happens.
Is lack of sleep a problem for you? What strategies have you used to make sure you get enough sleep? Please share your thoughts in the Comments – I would love to hear from you.
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