No surprise that getting quality sleep is important for healthy life balance. In addition to a direct link between sleep and quality of life, studies show that people who get seven or eight hours of shuteye per night actually live longer than those who get more or less.
There's nothing worse than being tired all the time. In some cases, depression may be the cause. Difficulty sleeping and/or general fatigue can also be related to a number of other health problems. As some of you know, I'm in the midst of trying to figure out why my own little body thinks it has chronic mono. Those areas are slightly beyond the scope of this post so I'll move on. (No open can; no worms everywhere.)
From what I've observed, there are two primary problems in the world of slumber:
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Difficulty staying asleep
The frequency of these issues may be why I get so much whining from people who say they don't have time to exercise when I suggest that they simply wake up earlier.
But I get it. If you're not falling asleep until 2:30am, the idea of getting up at 5:30am to do Yoga Booty Ballet is about as appealing as a Brazilian bikini wax. (Though I have done it. Yes, that.)
And then there's that joke, "I slept like a baby. Woke up crying every two hours!" *bahdoom-pha*
Personally, I struggle with occasional but severe "midnight anxiety." Usually it's when there's a lot of external craziness in combination with not taking care of myself. That practice what you preach thing can be a real biotch. If I go a couple of stressful weeks in a row without watching what I eat and drink plus not meditating or working out, sleep drama is almost guaranteed.
I guess it's common sense that if you're not taking care of yourself during the day, you're going to have some repercussions at night.
That said, I definitely notice that I sleep better when I exercise regularly. However, sometimes if I work out too late at night, I'm "revved" and can't sleep. So it's a bit of a catch 22 but that's why working out in the morning is the best solution for me, even if it means waking at 5:30am. And, as long as I get to sleep by 10:30pm, I'm still getting the requisite seven hours.
Also, instead of having the TV on or trying to fall asleep in complete silence, I recommend listening to a sleep CD or downloading some meditations onto your MP3 player. (Once when I did fall asleep watching TV, I had dreams all night about making money by putting little tiny ads in magazines. ACKK!)
My favorite meditations are by Shakti Gawain. She also has a great book, Creative Visualization which I've mentioned before and have read about 100 times in the past 20 years. The meditations (which can be purchased alone) aren't specified for sleeping but they still do the trick for me.
I also love the Meditation Station podcasts which I download free from iTunes. They are short though, so really best when I'm seriously tired and just need my brain to shut off long enough for sleep to set in.
My husband is not much of a "meditator" but he likes the music which is designed to get the brain into sleep mode. Even on a good night, he keeps his iPod next to the bed in case he wakes up in the middle of the night and can't fall back asleep.
If you have additional suggestions, do share!
The other tip I'll leave you with regarding falling asleep and staying asleep is to buy ear plugs and keep them next to the bed.
Sometimes noise (like somebody snoring) keeps me awake. Sometimes normal nighttime and/or household sounds wake me up. Ear plugs provide perfect quiet comfort.
If you know someone in construction, they can probably get you a huge pack for free.
Sometimes at home I only wear one. I know it sounds weird but this way I can still hear if one of the kids wakes up barfing or something.
When traveling, I consider my ear plugs a sacred accessory. If I ever was a contestant on the show Survivor, ear plugs would be my "luxury item."
So... I might get eaten by a lion someday, but at least I'll be well rested.