Welcome to Self-Care Saturdays, a series of bonus blog posts that will be released on the last Saturday of each month. In a world where we are constantly faced with demands on our time and energy, it can feel impossible to slow down enough to pay attention to our own needs and take steps to care for them. These articles are meant to get you thinking about one small step you can take today to practice kindness and care for yourself.
In a world where technology is supposed to create easier and faster ways for us to finish our tasks in the workplace and at home, it is an unfortunate truth that we find more ways to fill our days as a result. When we find ourselves busy, sleep is often one of the first things to go.
The average adult needs 7-8 hours of sleep a night, but 30% of adults report getting less than 6 hours of sleep a night. The CDC has called sleep deprivation a public health problem.
And this lack of sleep is causing us to struggle in other areas of our lives. Without a full night’s sleep, it is difficult to focus the next day. It can impair your ability to drive to a level that’s similar to drunk driving. In terms of mental health, sleep deprivation can lead to depression, anxiety, and in extreme cases, more severe mental health problems. Sleep is one major area therapists focus on in order to alleviate some of the common symptoms of depression and anxiety. Even if you don’t struggle with mental health issues, sleep is still an important part of self-care.
Here are some tools and strategies to improve your sleep.
Give yourself a bedtime.
Yes, I know you aren’t a child anymore, when your parents likely gave you a strict boundaries around when you would go to bed. And all the fun stuff happens late! Some good primetime TV shows don’t even air until after 10pm. But the best way to make a habit in your life is to make a plan and then stick to it. The first night might be tough – if you’ve been going to sleep late, it’ll take some adjustment to fall asleep earlier. But if you’re consistent, your body will begin to adapt to the change. Before you know it, you’ll be falling asleep more consistently and easily.
Oftentimes difficulty sleeping is due to a racing mind full of thoughts that haven’t been categorized from the day previous. However, the brain needs sleep in order to categorize and process that information. One way to do this is to keep a journal before bed. This can be a list of worries that are on your mind, a gratitude journal, or just a record of the day. Make it your own.
Get an actual alarm clock.
…and leave your phone downstairs. Scrolling through your Facebook news feed or reading articles on Pinterest late at night is a common way to let time get away from you, and before you know it you’re getting to bed an hour later than you normally would. The light from the screen also interferes with your brain’s ability to shut off and fall asleep. Leave your phone in its charger in another room, and set your old-school alarm clock to wake you up in the morning.
Or use the Sleep Cycle app.
For those of you who can’t leave your phone elsewhere during the night, I recommend that you purchase the Sleep Cycle app. For a low cost, you get a great app that allows you to track your sleep quality with fun charts that show you when you are in both heavy and light sleep. You can also track different behaviors (such as exercising and drinking coffee) to see how they affect your sleep quality. One of the best features is the alarm clock, which has a feature that will gradually wake you up at the time when you are in your lightest stage of sleep during the half hour before you set your alarm to wake you, to make you more refreshed in the morning.
Read before bed.
You’ve likely heard that it’s important to shut off any screens and put yourself in a more dimly lit room about an hour before bed in order to wind down and prepare your body and mind for sleep. I’m going to take that a step further and encourage you to read a book or magazine before bed. Reading can provide a mental break from the stressors of your everyday life, you can learn something new – or honestly, it could be what puts you to sleep itself. My only recommendation is that you not read a compelling novel – or you may find yourself staying up later than you had planned!
While these may not be novel ideas, I hope that you can take one of these concepts and make it a part of your nightly routine. I believe that taking steps to care for yourself by getting a sufficient amount of sleep can be a game-changer for your mental health and quality of life.
You may have noticed that sleep deprivation feels all too common for you, brought on by stress or feelings of overwhelm in your life. You also may experience sleeplessness as a symptom of anxiety or depression. Or maybe you'd just love to see your personal self-care improve. Restored Hope is an Ann Arbor based therapy office seeking to support you in your goals for breaking free of anxiety, depression, stress, and trauma to help you live a more full and rich life. Give me a call today at 734.656.8191 or fill out the form here to talk with me and hear about how I can help.