This past month has been one of the busiest months of my life. I’ve moved, traveled by plane, train, bus, and car across the country, and increased my work commute. I attended a three day conference in Portland, Oregon and spent hours each week attending birthing classes. And to top it off, this month marks my transition from second trimester to third trimester in my pregnancy. So, needless to say, I’m pretty tired! For these reasons and so many more, I believe it is time for me to make sleep a priority. And hopefully by the end of this article, you and I will both have some ideas on how to make sleep a priority.
My Struggles with Sleep
When there’s so much to do and not enough time to get it all done, sleep is often the first thing to go. To be honest, for a while blogging was the first thing to go (thanks, first trimester)! As some of you may know, I’m a bit of a perfectionist. Thus, when I set my mind to something, I will do whatever it takes to get it done right. And if it isn’t right by bedtime, I will stay up until it is.
My apparent disdain for a good night’s sleep really made it’s mark in college, where I first developed the habit of staying up till 3 or 4 am studying for tests. I started this habit partly out of necessity (Purdue had a notoriously difficult dietetics program). However, it really began taking its toll on me in my senior year. I was not only finishing up classes and applying for my internship, I was also preparing for my wedding. By midway through my last semester of school, I had developed a pretty bad case of bronchitis and then a repeat case of recurring bronchitis. I had worked myself sick trying to stay on top of everything. It took me weeks after graduation to fully recover from that semester.
However, my troubles with sleep didn’t end there. As the years went by, I continued to neglect sleep whenever things got busy.
And things always seem to get busy.
Whether it was a big move (we have lived in 4 states in the past 7 years) or changing jobs or starting a new project, there was always something to do. Or so it seemed. Even when I didn’t have much to do, I would put off sleep. Even when I was tired, my mind would often turn onto hyperdrive just before bed and I would lie awake running through all the things I had to do or forgot to do. Many nights I would toss and turn, unable to calm my mind down.
Have you ever stayed up just a little too late? You know, just past the point of being really tired? At that point, even though you’re tired, you just can’t seem to get to sleep. Which is frustrating because you then start thinking about how tired you are AND how tired you will be in the morning if you don’t just fall asleep!
Thankfully, I was able to move beyond that feeling. And for the past year or so, by the time I hit the bed, I fall asleep without any issues! Yet, I still have my struggles with sleep.
How I’m Doing Now
Nowadays most of my sleep woes have more to do with creating long to do lists that I feel must be done. I continue to struggle with the tendency to do just one more thing. However, this is something I’ve been actively working to change.
I’m happy to say I have made positive strides in my sleep life. After years of struggling to get a good night’s sleep, I have learned to make sleep a priority in my life. Even when life gets busy and I get off track, I know now how to get back on. Here are some tools and strategies I have used over the years to make sleep a priority. The first few ideas on my list are more about getting your mindset right, with environmental modifications being more secondary.
How to Make Sleep a Priority
1. Make it a goal
Being the goal directed person I am, this one change put a whole new perspective on how I valued sleep. I often assume, rightly or wrongly, that for something to be important, it must have a goal attached to it. Making a goal to get a certain number of hours of sleep each night (or week) can help you compare the relative value of sleep compared with other important areas of your life.
2. Set a bedtime
Pick a bedtime that will allow you to get 7-9 hours of sleep every day. Set a time that is reasonable and consider how much sleep it takes for you to feel your best.
3. Stick with it, every day of the week
This part can be hard. And for many people, the struggle of sticking with a set bedtime is on the weekends. However, for me it’s the weeknights. I actually can easily get into the habit of going to bed earlier on weekends because I’m so exhausted from staying up too late during the week. So, figure out when you struggle with your bedtime the most, and make it a priority to still get in bed at this time.
4. Schedule down time before bed
Develop a bedtime routine and make some down time a part of that routine. Make it screen free time such as reading a good book, reflecting, or spending some time praying, meditating, or even chatting with your partner.
5. Eat a good dinner
Yep, this makes the list. A fulfilling and satisfying dinner or even healthy evening snack helps me to feel satiated when I head to bed and makes me less likely to wake up hungry!
6. Limit screen time before bed
Most of use have trouble limiting screen time in some fashion, and mine is with time on the computer. Usually I’m checking email or finishing up things for the day but it’s rarely necessary. Try to make it a habit to avoid these types of activities before bed. First, research has shown the blue light from screens can make it more difficult to get to sleep, but I also find that checking email isn’t exactly relaxing and leaves my brain humming a bit too late. This is why I’m making it a point to avoid these types of activities and instead have more down time.
7. Use an air cleaner or other white noise
I love to listen to some soothing noise before bed, and it definitely helps me drift off quicker! It helps cover up other random house noises (or in my current situation, road noises) and lets my brain find peace a bit quicker!
8. Keep your phone in another room
I used to check my phone several times as I was trying to fall asleep. I didn’t even keep it directly beside my bed, but if I got up to go to the bathroom or get a drink of water I would look at it perhaps just to check the time. However, it was no doubt that I had a text message waiting for me that I would then take the time to read and think about (again, waking up my brain) even if I didn’t take the time to respond. Now that I don’t keep it in my bedroom, I never check it during the night.
Why You Should Make Sleep A Priority
Sleep is a huge facet of health. One that we (or at least I) can easily overlook in favor of other aspects of my life. However, when I make it a priority I know that I feel my best and am able to better live my life. Studies have definitely proven the benefits of sleep. So, today I’m making it a priority to do what I can to get more sleep. I would love to hear your favorite tips on how you make sleep a priority!