Enough sleep to get more out of life

Living on too little sleep is like looking at life through dirty glasses:  it makes it difficult and draining.  I did it for years: as a single mom, the only time for myself I had available was when everyone was asleep.  But living on too little sleep made each day a constant hardship: everything became difficult and draining; even fun things became a chore.  I felt stressed yet tired. I became overwhelmed and discouraged; I gained weight and felt exhausted all the time.  I’ve been there.

What’s enough sleep?  7-8 hours a night.  Obviously, sleep needs vary, but most people feel better when they get 7-8 hours a night – with very, very few people functioning well on less than 7 hours, and even fewer with 6 hours.  Yet it seems more practical, given how busy we are, to sleep less and think we can get away with it.  Occasionally, it might work.  Regularly?  It’s exhausting.  Living life exhausted feels like living life drunk: you live in a fog. Read more in the link below, showing how living drunk or sleep-starved are compared.http://blogs.hbr.org/hbr/hbreditors/2013/05/change_the_world_and_get_to_be.html

What’s the cost of living with chronic sleep deprivation?  You feel overly stressed for no real reason: frazzled, scattered and tired.  You feel overwhelmed.  You crave sweet, fatty foods, and you gain weight, mostly belly fat.  You fly off the handle for no real reason; you feel exhausted most of the time.  No fun.

Of course, there are always excellent reasons NOT to get enough sleep:  you are wired, not tired, you say; or so exhausted you can’t get off the couch into bed (seriously); there is so much to do it fills evenings and nights… But living on too little sleep doesn’t makes you more functional, effective or bright. It makes you slow, unfocused, frazzled and scattered.

Are you getting enough sleep?   You are not getting enough if…

  • You feel tired and stressed, most of the time.
  • You have gained weight recently, and mostly around your middle
  • Your appetite has changed and you crave junk food: the sweet, salty and fatty
  • You feel easily overwhelmed
  • You feel blue, or powerless
  • You feel unable to focus, like brain fog creeping in… You feel scattered, frazzled.
  • You can’t maintain boundaries that work for your life – you can’t push back and you cave in, because it takes less energy to say yes

Getting more and better sleep is feasible and it works:

  • Make sleeping 7-8 hours a priority: schedule your evening routine to give you 45-60 minutes to unwind and get ready for bed – this means no ‘excitement’ such as watching the late news on TV or checking your work emails at night
  • Eat earlier; eat more during the day and less in the evening: heavy, rich meals and alcohol might make you sleepy at first, but will wake you up and keep you up a few hours later as your body temperature rises to digest all of that.  Pare down your dinner.
  • Take a slow, quiet walk if you can: it helps you calm down and relax
  • Avoid caffeine after 2pm: no coffee, regular tea, ‘energy’ drinks, cola – switch to decaf, and taking a break is as effective as caffeine to refuel energy – try it

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