January 22, 2018

Glorious sleep

“For those who are sick and tired of being sick and tired!” – Arianna Huffington

Do you remember the last time you weren’t tired? If you truly want to thrive, sleep is a nonnegotiable. When our babies enter our world, we focus on their sleep, our sleep, and then sleep becomes a continual subject, even battle in some households, with night terrors and bedtime disasters. A new reality of thinking about sleep all too much is born and reborn with each baby.

Once upon a time sleep was revered. Now it seems there is so much pride in how little we sleep, stamping emails at 3 AM to show how vested we are in our work. Netflix and iPhones invaded some of our bedrooms, keeping us up longer than we often realize (hello blue light and active brainwaves). Oftentimes, I stay up later than I should to have my own time to read or to just savor the stillness to decompress. IMG_0105

In my last article, I shared a little about my decade long battle to sleep well. I often wonder if I have created a self fulfilling prophecy, putting sleep up on a pedestal while fearing it at the same time. Perhaps I think about it too much? Maybe if I just stopped worrying about not sleeping, I would, well, sleep. Gosh I love sleep. So how do you love something so much and then fail at it? I have some work to do…

While searching for a few book club titles through the Mecklenburg Library app, I felt like someone from above was trying to get my attention. I have never read a book about sleep, however, I have read more sleep articles than you can imagine. When Arianna Huffington’s book The Sleep Revolution appeared in my queue, I borrowed the book immediately.

Arianna Huffington once was at the epitome of sleep deprivation: she stayed up all night working, answering “life-or-death” emails, slept only about four hours a night, lived off of caffeine, built a business, and devoted herself to motherhood. She says she was so tired that she no longer remembered what it felt like to not be tired. She then collapsed from exhaustion and decided to join the sleep revolution.

Sleeping and dreaming are essential to our decision making, emotional intelligence, cognitive function, and creativity. Lack of sleep feeds into our anxiety, stress, depression, and other health problems – these are serious consequences of sleep deprivation. When we are tired, we don’t have the capacity to parent patiently, presently.

Sleep is a fundamental human need that must be respected. Did you know there are almost 5,000 apps for sleep? Google returns over 800 million links for sleep. However, technology is not helping our sleep despite the apps and sites dedicated to it. We simply don’t turn life off early enough each night.

As a parent and from personal experience, I understand how important it is to teach my children good sleep hygiene. You will never catch me saying, “you can sleep when you are dead” or “if you snooze, you lose.” No. Never. I know all too well how lack of sleep wears our bodies down, decreasing cognitive function and emotional stability.

Sleep is a key element to our wellbeing, making it easier to meditate, exercise, make better decisions, connect to others, as well as ourselves. So one night at a time, I place my head on my pillow, not worrying about tomorrow or the day past. I remain present, vigilantly so, to find that peaceful, floating tranquility that my body and mind were born to yearn and need.

I savor the nights when I remember my dreams. Arianna, through all her research into sleep research, states that our dreams are windows into our inner life, pointing to our personality. I literally dreamt of playing with five unicorns and could fly the other night. Guess I am a dreamer afterall.

As I continue reading The Sleep Revolution, I will makes notes and write another post. Until then, here are some tips for a better night sleep for you and your children:

– Get a minimum of seven hours a night (more for kids depending on their age)
-Don’t underrate sleep: it is just as important as good nutrition
– No phones or TV for at least an hour before bed (I just broke this rule!)
– Keep a gratitude journal
– Analyze how discretionary time is spent (reclaim time, reclaim sleep)
– Meditate or say prayers before bed
– Exercise
– Get exposure to natural light
– No caffeine after noon
– Avoid alcohol
– Avoid heavy meals too close to bedtime
– Establish a relaxing bedtime routine
– Keep bedrooms cool, between 60 and 67 degrees

As a parent of a teen and tween who have access to technology, it is also important to emphasize the absoluteness of no phones or technology in the bedroom. The temptation of a notification may exceed their ability for self-control. Heck, I turned off all notifications on my phone because I found myself picking up my phone all too often throughout the day.
To be continued and sleep well…

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