|Photo Credit: Mary R. Vogt at MorgueFile.com|
Ahhhh…sleep. It’s heavenly when we get enough and can be disastrous (for ourselves and particularly those around us) when we don’t. It shouldn’t be that difficult, right? I mean…sleep requires such little effort, but yet it’s SO HARD to do (actually getting our derrières into the bed, that is). Assuming you are not the mom or dad of a newborn and actually have a choice in the matter of sleep, many of us (myself included) cannot seem to remember how pooped we feel every single morning that we go to bed too late. I consistently milk those last few evening hours of interruption-free, child-free quiet time completely dry.
Last week, we went camping and I was so eager to do some head-on-the-pillow research about sleep. We had some amazing, quality family time while we were there. The only outside communication we had were two flip phones that don’t text or even know what the internet is. I love vacations like that. We met some wonderful new friends and thoroughly enjoyed the distraction-free week.
Oh, don’t get too excited and think that I roughed it in a tent. I didn’t. You know tents aren’t typically air-conditioned and you KNOW that wouldn’t work for me. We rented a cozy little cabin where everything was basically two steps away from any location inside of it.
The living room was the kitchen and dining room all wrapped into one and the bunk beds were in the hallway. You could fall out of the bed right onto the toilet seat – perfect! And the shower – oh mercy – the 24” X 30” shower was a hoot! I scared myself silly thinking that if I fell in there, I would be folded up like a permanent taco and that would be the end of it. Try shaving your legs in a shower that size! Anyhoo.
Because I sincerely appreciate you, my sunshiney readers, I will let you in on our “best-kept-secret-camping-with-kids-spot-in-Texas.” It’s called Lone Star Yogi. Among the fun to be had there is a stocked fishing lake, several swimming pools, mini-golf, hay rides, crafts, outdoor movies, sand volleyball AND a 350-foot Pine Tree Plunge (85 stairs to get to the top of this water slide and so worth it!).
So, about the sleep research – my plan to go to bed early was changed to go to bed early-errr when I remembered about the nightly outdoor movie at 8:30pm. By the time the movie was over and we all had our turn in the straight-jacket shower stall, it wasn’t EARLY… BUT it WAS before midnight. AND, we took ridiculously delicious two-hour family naps every afternoon, so I can vouch for the power of sleep.
Gretchen Rubin has some wonderful insight on sleep. If you haven’t read her book, “The Happiness Project,” you should add it to your list of must-reads. Television, internet, e-mail, books and even laundry (for some, for some – I know you’re out there) are distractions that keep us from hitting the hay on time. There are several tidbits that I want to share about sleep from Gretchen as well as other sleepy stuff I’ve found to be useful:
- Give yourself a bedtime. Work backwards 7 or 8 hours from when you need to get up. Then, if you “stay up past your bedtime,” at least you’ll be aware that you will likely feel crummy the next day.
- Get ready for bed well before your actual bedtime.
- Go to bed before midnight. Some research says that the highest quality of sleep occurs before the clock strikes twelve.
- Exercise. Try to stretch and exercise most days of the week. It can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
- Avoid work that requires alert thinking an hour before your bedtime.
- Turn off that computer by 10:00 pm (gulp!). The light emitted by the screen can sometimes interfere with sleep cycles.
- Make your room very dark. Shut the blinds and block out the lights from your clock, computer or phone.
- Keep your bedroom a little on the chilly side. I knew it! I knew it! I plan to immediately let my hubby know that I am only thinking of his quality of sleep. THAT is why I am persistent in my key role of our ongoing thermostat game! hee hee
- Have a nighttime ritual. We do this for our babies, right? We try to cue them at bedtime with a bath, rubbing them down with lotion, turning on the white noise, etc. Adults aren’t any different. Find something that is naturally sleep-inducing for you. We can be sleep-trained, too.
- Wake at roughly the same time each morning. Our bodies like predictability (Poo! But true.)
- Have a pen and paper handy by your bedside. If something comes to your mind while staring at the ceiling in bed, jot it down and you can take care of it or think about it the next day.
- Tidy up your bedroom. It might not be as restful to be surrounded by stacks, piles, boxes, and laundry.
- Avoid eating too close to bedtime. Your body focuses on digestion instead of sleep.
- Yawn. Try it. You’ll feel sleepier in no time!
- Re-frame your sleeplessness. Gretchen says that if she wakes up at 4:00 am and can’t go back to sleep, she just gets up and starts working. Instead of starting the day feeling annoyed, she has the wonderful feeling of accomplishment of all she did before her usual wake time of 6:00 am.
- Offer it up. If we truly just cannot sleep, it’s not a bad practice to offer it up for someone else who can’t. We can offer our wakefulness to God in the hopes that He will grant some extra zzz’s to someone in need – new parents, someone with chronic pain, or someone suffering with endless worry and anxiety.
High-quality, deeply restful sleep is crucial for regulating much of the body’s mechanisms – our stress response, appetite and hormone regulation, and both cognitive and immune function. Sleep keeps people feeling cheerier. It helps to keep weight off, too. If we’re sleeping, we’re NOT eating! Makes sense.
There was a recent study where twenty-one people got only six hours of shut-eye per day, at odd hours, for three weeks. By the end, their sleep-deprived bodies were functioning with a lower metabolic rate that would translate into a weight gain of almost 13 pounds over the course of one year. However, after a nine-day recovery period, the participants’ metabolism returned to normal. Sleep gets my vote! (Science Translational Medicine, April 11, 2012)
Sleep is just plain heavenly. Then, there is also our heavenly sleep – the moment in time when we will lay our head down on the pillow of eternity. Many of us fear death. A book that I read this past year has given me great hope about death and who will be there to greet me on the other side of the clouds. It’s called “Heaven is for Real” by Todd Burpo. It’s a wonderful true story and to tell you the truth, I was ready to go to Heaven after I read it. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not ready quite YET, but I am anxious to see my loved ones again with outstretched arms at the Pearly Gates.
I’m sure God will be there, too. And, I think He might ask us a few questions: “Did you mend? Did you iron? Did you dust? Did you wash?” And, I’ll say, “You’re kidding me, right? Lord, you know I don’t sew. I hate ironing and the dust didn’t bother me one bit. I did wash my share of clothes and dishes. Is that what it takes to get through these gates? Are you serious? I can’t believe that housework was the key. I would have done more chores, Lord. I missed that little detail somewhere in your Holy Word.”
And then, in His most loving way, He will calm me down and clarify – “Did you MEND friendships and relationships before they were completely broken? Did you IRON out the little wrinkles and problems before they became big ones? Did you DUST off that ole Bible? Did you WASH away anger by practicing forgiveness?”