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I am going back to basics again today for my live happier tip of the week. Get your sleep. We are all busy people, jobs, kids, relationships, hobbies, TV shows, lots of stuff we have to do with our time. Unfortunately in our culture getting your sleep is not something we value. Sleep is the first thing to go. We stay up late reading, watching TV, working, cleaning who knows what.
Getting your sleep is invaluable to living happier. It allows your mind and body to regroup. It gives your body a chance to rejuvenate for the next day. Sleep is not something that just happens we cannot expect our bodies to go go go all day right up to the moment we lay our heads on the pillow and then expect to get a good nights sleep. We need rituals and quiet around sleeping. Most importantly we need to start valuing it. For many of my friends who all have busy lives it almost becomes a competition on who needs the least amount of sleep. Dr. Rubin Naiman has done some studies about the importance of sleep and is a well-known expert on its benefits.
I have a client who is chronically sleep deprived–she has 3 children and a spouse and works full time. She walks into our sessions (no matter what time) with her large coffee and bags under her eyes. We have been talking about self-care and getting sleep for many sessions now. Finally a few weeks ago she said you know what I just don’t value sleep I have too many things I would rather get done. So I challenged her that IF she got more sleep she would accomplish more and her life would be richer. She did not believe me but accepted the challenge.
Ideally, I would have had her take three nights to get as much sleep as she needs. To allow her to go to sleep at the same time each night and wake up naturally, without an alarm. This would enable her body to reset and allow her to figure out how much sleep she needed. However, being the mother of 3 children and working full time she did not have the time for that activity. We agreed she would go to sleep at the same time each night (at least within an hour of the same time) and try to get between 7-8 hours a night for two weeks. When she came back in she was not carrying a coffee and the bags had dissipated. She was smiling from ear to ear and said you were right–I haven’t felt this good in years. I can focus at work and be present with my kids I am not obsessed with thinking about how exhausted I am or how to wake up or drinking coffee. She said she was amazed at the amount of time she uses to think about sleep!
I am pleased to report–she has continued to keep up her sleep habits. She and her husband have established a ritual around going to sleep and once the kids go to bed they dim the lights, fix a hot beverage, and start winding down to get ready for sleep. She said just having the lights dimmed and knowing that it is quiet time has helped her body ease into sleep. In the past, once the kids went to bed she shifted into high gear: working on the computer, cleaning the house, running from activity to activity. Now she might engage in the same activities, but at a slower, less intense pace and she has made a commitment to herself that at 10 pm she is to be preparing for bed.
Sleep is about commitment, it is about rituals, and it will help you live happier.