Your boss gives you an assignment due on Monday. Your (soon-to-be-ex) husband says he can’t keep the kids this weekend. So when your daughter asks for help with a huge school project, you snap at her, and feel awful about it.
Life is hectic. It was hectic when you were married, and it’s even more hectic now. It feels like there’s always more to do - more work to finish, more help to give. And while you can usually handle it OK, once in a while that tipping point occurs.
You can spend your time making to-do lists, prioritizing tasks, and seeking help when needed. All of those are worthy in your quest to calm the pace of life. But there’s one thing you might be overlooking that’s practically guaranteed to help you deal with anything better. (No, it’s not vodka.) It’s sleep.
When we’re tired, we’re less equipped to handle all that life throws at us. Getting too little sleep - or not enough quality sleep - can affect our ability to control our emotions and to think a few steps ahead (i.e. problem solve). If left unchecked, lack of sleep can also cause us real harm - like increasing symptoms of depression, anxiety and paranoia.
You might not realize you’re tired until you start doing things you wouldn’t ordinarily do, like snapping at your daughter or crying when the dog
throws up on the carpet.
You’ve probably read plenty of tips for getting a good night’s sleep before. But they’re worth reading again. [Experts say it takes our brain seeing something multiple times for it to become engrained.] So here are a few basics of a good sleep regimen:
· Wake up and go to bed at the same time every day. Yes, even on weekends. If you’re an early riser, like me, this one can be a bit of a challenge. Do I really have to wake up at 5:30 a.m. on Sunday too? You decide if you want to fudge that one a little, but the idea is that your brain likes things to be scheduled. And it does get easier when you make it a daily habit.
· Avoid caffeine. You know the feeling when you’ve had a cup of joe too late in the afternoon, and can’t get to bed that night. Again, everyone’s body is different, but do your best to avoid anything caffeinated past early afternoon. That includes coffee, caffeinated tea, and soda. It takes a solid few hours to get it all out of your system.
· Turn up the intensity of your exercise. Any exercise is good, but the National Sleep Foundation recommends aerobic activities like running, brisk walking, or cycling, as well as strength training and yoga. Even 30 minutes of moderate activity a day can help you sleep better at night.
· Watch the booze. Plain and simple: alcohol interferes with a good night’s sleep. It might feel relaxing, but the chemical effect of alcohol in your body really does disrupt your sleep cycle. Ask anyone who’s had one too many cocktails and found themselves staring at the ceiling at 2 a.m. If you want a restful night, consider swapping out that last glass of wine for a glass of water instead.
If you’re really serious about improving your sleep habits, there are plenty of great books out there. A few favorites: Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stevenson, The Sleep Revolution by Arianna Huffington, and The Book of Sleep by Dr. Nicole Moshfegh.
So tonight, try to sleep like your life - and your sanity - depend on it. They really do.