There are three parts of the foundation of good health: adequate sleep, nutrition that works for your body, and movement that you enjoy (and therefore will do regularly!). Sleep is the most important, in my opinion. I bet you know this already though- when you get enough sleep you probably feel like a super hero. You can do anything when you’ve had enough sleep!
In real life, though, that just does not seem to happen for a lot of folks. Which is totally understandable.
Sleep and I have had a difficult relationship for many years. I would do great- go to bed on time and get enough sleep every night- for months. But then, whether it was through some fun night out or just a series of nights I was up late for no good reason, the pattern would break.
And then I would do well for about 3 months, and then it would break again for about 3 months.
I am slowly starting to figure out that it takes me three months to really cement this habit (some are faster, some are slower). And, like any health habit, I have to do it over and over again to finally start moving towards integrating it. Which ends up looking like long stretches of inadequate sleep. Grrr.
The other thing I am really deeply discovering about my relationship with sleep is that I need serious amounts of ‘down time’ any given day to feel like I’m not energetically jazzed up- and therefore don’t want to sleep.
There is a difference between being so jazzed up you can’t sleep and so jazzed up you’d rather not sleep. Two different things. And hormones and peri-menopause can be big influencers in this area. Various hormonal shifts can throw off sleep in a variety of ways- the nights sweats we usually hear of, but also sleep with little or no ‘deep sleep,’ waking up for no apparent reason, suddenly being bothered by how a partner sleeps (or doesn’t!), etc.
Even things such as food can make a difference in quality and quantity of sleep. Some women in peri-menopause have to avoid foods such as chocolate, coffee, or alcohol after a certain point in the day so they can get to sleep at a reasonable hour. And then there’s the Sex Surge, which may reduce your need for sleep, or leave you feeling exhausted- and then you wake up in the morning and it’s like a radio station, WSEX, starts playing in you head!
Sleep is a mofo, sometimes.
There are a lot of factors that can influence sleep, but I’m finding that, for myself, my personality has the biggest influence on what I need and how I’m not really making it work.
What I originally thought was a simple, “Just set your alarm and get to bed on time!” issue is actually an interplay between my need for sleep and my need for introvert down time.
As an introvert, I actually do need that down time- often after the kids are in bed- to be by myself or just with my partner and get the time I need so I can feel like myself again…and then I can get to bed more easily.
In order to get to sleep on time, I’ve begun to experiment with other ways I can get the introvert down time I need during the day so I don’t feel like I need 2 hours of it at night- which keeps me up way too late to get enough sleep! Not surprisingly, this has actually reduced my stress levels a bit, too- because I’m not draining myself through the course of the day until I’m empty at night.
All of this is just to use myself as an example: if you’re struggling with getting enough sleep for you (cuz we’re all different!) then it might be worth looking at what factors are contributing to that.
Is it simply sleep and getting to bed on time? Or is it something in your diet or hormones? Maybe it is something that your body or mind needs so much you’re willing to trade sleep for it- can you get that important thing some other way?
Sleep really is so important- truly my first step in feeling and being healthy. If you need more sleep, be willing to poke around and find what you need to get enough of it. Dare to experiment with different factors to see what works for you. And may you sleep well.