Why you should not sacrifice your sleep
The effect of regular sleep patterns on health is often underestimated, but sleep is one of the most critical factors in creating overall well-being and has a direct impact on losing weight and keeping it off. Skipping even an hour of sleep decreases your wellbeing, productivity, health, and your ability to think. When you master Habits of Healthy Sleep, the benefits ripple throughout all areas of your health, from weight management to your relationships with friends and loved ones.
Sleep is critical to our health, yet most of us are quick to sacrifice it.
Instead, we should be using our need for sleep as a way to bring structure to our daily lives so that our waking hours are vibrant and full of energy and that our sleeping hours are truly restful and restorative. The basic guidelines for healthy sleep are:
- Get approximately 8 hours of restful sleep a night (no less than 7.5 and no more than 9).
- Maintain a consistent sleeping schedule each day of the week. In other words, even if you don’t have to go to work on the weekend, don’t stay up late and sleep in
- Use your bedtime to establish bright line curfews for your day.
When I say that sleep can provide structure to your day, I mean that we can use a bedtime to pinpoint when we should be making certain choices. If we don’t have this structure, we can flop down onto our beds but struggle to fall asleep. You have probably experienced this many times yourself. You feel physically tired, but your mind won’t stop racing. Soon, you are a few hours away from when you need to get up and start another stressful day, a day that will be even more challenging because you are not well-rested.
Guide your day with sleep
Here is how you can use sleep to guide your day:
- Count back 8 hours from when you need to wake up. This is your bedtime.
- 5 hours before your bedtime, stop all caffeine intake
- 4 hours before your bedtime, finish exercising or any similar high-exertion activities.
- 3 hours before your bedtime, cease alcohol and heavy food intake.
- 2 hours before your bedtime, end all work and serious conversations (turn off your email notifications too).
- 1 hour before your bedtime, institute a digital sunset. Turn off your screens and begin your nightly sleep ritual (perhaps a warm bath, dim lights, and a book).
Remember your bedtime should be based on when you need to wake up in the morning. Your chronotype can play a role in that choice—some people are naturally night owls or morning people, and you will find more restful sleep if you can adjust your schedule accordingly—but we may not always get to decide when we need to be at work or what time we need to have the kids on the school bus.
If you follow this approach each day, you can eliminate many of the most common reasons that people struggle with their sleep. At the same time, this routine means that we are more likely to adopt other healthy behaviors because we feel rested and energized, rather than dragging ourselves through a tiresome, anxiety-filled day.
If you haven’t already, start writing out what your new sleep schedule looks like and start making the changes in your routine so that you can implement it.