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It’s another day, and your alarm goes off. The startling sound jolts you awake, and you already don’t feel up for the day ahead. Or perhaps you’ve been lying awake in bed for hours, begging your mind to settle down. It’s possible that you hop out of bed proud of the fact that you “only need four hours of sleep” to function each day. The commonality between these sleepers? A relationship with sleep that continually needs work. Why? Because the importance of sleep is critical for your health, your mind, and your future.
How Much Sleep Do I Need?
According to the National Sleep Foundation, women need more sleep than men and should be aiming for seven to nine hours per night. Downplaying the importance of sleep can lead to more cravings for sweet, salty, and starchy foods, as well as a 50% higher risk for obesity. A lack of sleep can also contribute to less active immunity protectors, three times the risk for type 2 diabetes, increased blood pressure, greater risk for dementia, depression, irritability, anxiety, forgetfulness, and potential safety hazards like driving drowsy. The list goes on and on. Yet, for some reason, our culture continues to confuse sleeplessness with high performance and success.
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WAKE UP! It is time for a sleep awakening!
Finding new patterns for a good night’s sleep begins during the day. Get ready to commit to new practices and priorities in the name of health and safety. Let’s start to focus on the importance of sleep in our lives!
TIP 1: Find Your Chronotype
Not every person is a morning person, nor should everyone be a morning person! You need to follow your chronotype. A chronotype works in conjunction with your circadian rhythm to determine your most energetic times of the day to help you with productivity. There are four types: the lion, the dolphin, the wolf, and the bear.
- The BEAR goes to bed at 11PM. Wakes up at 7AM. Is most focused between 10AM-2PM and represents 55% of the population.
- The WOLF goes to bed around 12AM. Wakes up at 7:30AM. Is most productive between 5PM-12AM and represents 15% of the population.
- The LION goes to bed around 10PM. Wakes up at 6AM. Is most focused between 8AM-12PM and represents 15% of the population.
- The DOLPHIN goes to bed at 11:30PM. Wakes up around 6:30AM. Is most focused between 3PM-9PM and represents 10% of the population.
Knowing your chronotype helps you plan your day better — when to schedule big discussions, when to take breaks and recharge. And since your chronotype is tied to the chemicals in your brain, learn to embrace it! Find out your type at thepowerofwhenquiz.com.
TIP 2: Create an evening routine
Many people worry about a morning routine, but an evening routine is just as important. It helps you wind down and prepare yourself for sleep. Actions in an evening routine could include:
- Ending the consumption of caffeine and/or alcohol late in the day.
- Setting a go to bed alarm on your phone as a signal to shut off the TV, close the laptop, etc.
- Reading a book.
- Meditate and/or reflect on your day.
- Change into your pajamas or comfy clothes.
Whatever allows you to feel calm, add that to your nighttime routine. Just a few intentional actions could produce great benefits in your sleep.
TIP 3: Adjust your sleep environment
If you can maximize your sleep environment by looking at your light, sound, smell and temperature, your sleep hygiene will likely improve.
- Light is critical for your circadian rhythm. If your room receives a lot of exterior light, use blackout curtains. Use bedside lamps with a low color temperature to help you doze off.
- If outside noise is distracting, consider a sound machine or sound app on your phone. Also, consider the noise you use for your alarm. Loud, impactful noises may not be best for your alarm each morning. Consider more soothing alarms or a song that naturally allows you to wake up.
- Cooler is better in terms of temperature. Avoid temperatures over 71 degrees for the best sleep. If you are a hot sleeper, consider using cool technology mattresses, sheets or pillows.
- While odors may not cause people to wake from sleep, certain smells may help you fall asleep. Scents like lavender, chamomile, ylang ylang and valerian can promote relaxation.
- Consider removing other distractions like devices in the bedroom or excess clutter.
- Make sure you have a pillow and mattress that are comfortable and supportive for your sleep style.
Overall, your sleep environment should be as relaxing as possible. Find what allows you to unwind and de-stress. This is your oasis.
TIP 4: Choose sleep
There are simply not enough hours in the day to get everything done. Given the risks of sleep deprivation, it is time to choose sleep.
- Commit to a bedtime and make it part of your routine. This may mean leaving functions early or not finishing that episode of your new binge show.
- Share your plan with others. Just like any other goal, creating a tribe to help you stick to your sleep goals will be helpful.
- Talk to your doctor if sleep continues to be a struggle. Don’t continue to suffer.
With these tips and more, we can begin to focus on the importance of sleep in our daily lives. Sleep can become a part of your health and comfort routine — your mood, heart, and immune system will thank you. And your alarm in the morning will become a little less jarring!
This article originally appeared in our Winter 2021 print publication. Read the full issue here.
Dr. Ashley Waters is a wife, mom, higher education administrator, event planner, community volunteer and an avid organizer. She loves being busy with a purpose and making an impact with her work and within her local Frederick, Maryland community. Ashley aims to help others fit their passions into their lives and continues to work on achieving just the right work-life balance for her many roles. She is the executive director of Woman to Woman Mentoring, a nonprofit organization that cultivates mentoring relationships that provide women with guidance, support and community connections.
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