The Good Habit: Get Some Sleep
Being overall happier requires energy, but this does not come unless we recharge sleeping.
I realised how important sleep really is, when my kids were very young, during the first baby months. That is when you get 1-2 hours of uninterrupted sleep at the most and experience first hand the consequences of sleep deprivation. Not a nice experience… My friends and family stopped talking to me for a while, because I was mutating into this ever grumpy and irritable creature. I was barely able to recognise myself some days, so much was it affecting my mood and, usually positive, character.
Sleep is the key ingredient to health. I can function on little food and drink, but not on too little sleep.
Since then, I treasure my sleeping time enormously and try, whenever possible to cultivate good habits that allow me to get enough and good quality sleep regularly. It does not always happen though, as the evening seems to be the only time when I can (finally) stop doing all the things I HAVE to and can start doing all the ones I WANT to, like watching a nice movie or series, reading my book, browsing the web, getting my nails done… the list is endless and the temptations to stay up late are too many.
The trick is to merciless call it a day at a certain time and just go to sleep.
But even then it is often difficult to have the brain disconnect and fall asleep quickly. How many times have you actually made the effort of getting into bed early, just to find yourself tossing and turning, eyes wide open, three hours later?
Sleep disorders are a very common issue in today’s society and there is endless information out there on how to maintain a good sleep hygiene to fall and stay asleep, from meditation practices to sleeping aids, hot baths and aromatherapy. Some of it is a bit too complicated and too time consuming for me. I have found that by following the 3 simple habits detailed below, I stand a pretty good chance of fitting in my 7-ish hours needed to be a fully functioning human being the next day:
1. Leave work outside your bedroom and kiss it goodnight.
If there was only one thing to do before bedtime, I would recommend this: No matter how big your responsibilities and how committed you are to your career, switch off every day at a certain time. This is easier said than done, when you have a demanding job or your own business to run, but it is equally easy to fall into the trap of being available 24/7 and risking overwork and burnout in the long term.To prevent this, you just need a little bit of self-discipline: it starts with switching off technology at a specific hour in the evening. Yes, exceptions are allowed, but they really have to be exceptions. Otherwise, prepare everything for the next day: your schedule, to do list, the agenda, and then leave your phone and computer outside your bedroom until the next day, so there is no temptation to have a peek at work e-mails before bedtime.
2. Have an evening routine which you repeat on autopilot every night before bedtime
Again it is about allowing the brain to disconnect and stop making decisions for a while. Brush your teeth, take off your make up, put on your PJ´s, etc… Repeat all those steps before bedtime every evening in the same order and almost like a personal ritual whilst you allow your brain to rest for a while: don´t be tempted to think about tomorrow´s meeting or the problems you are having with your spouse, just focus on doing the very mundane tasks of getting ready for bed in your own time and way.
3. Have some “me-time” before going to sleep, but call it a day at a certain hour
Now is the moment when you indulge in your book, your online shopping or whatever else makes you happy in your own time. But set yourself some boundaries and stop merciless when the time has come to hit the pillow. If you are on your screen, try to dim the light on it and around you, so your brain finds it easier to wind down. Ideally read off-screen or listen to an audio book. Set yourself an alarm to remind you of bedtime. I use the bedtime screen on the iPhone. This tells you how many hours of sleep you are actually getting, but there are countless fancier Apps that will do the same job.
It is up to you to know how many hours of sleep you need to be at your best the next day, so make a conscious effort to plan your nights. You will be amazed of how easier it gets to develop the good habit of sleeping more.