On really long days, I wish I had the time and the ability to nap like my youngest. I also wish I realized how wonderful naps were before I had kids. Naps help you to refocus your day, improve your mood, and they even help with creativity. Like I said, they’re wonderful. Sadly, I didn’t always believe that.
I have known, in theory, that naps are quite beneficial for many years prior to my children being born, but I had a very stubborn anti-nap, and excessive work mentality. This mentality actually went much further than my distaste for naps. I am ashamed to say that sleep itself started taking a backseat to my other priorities, and I was proud of working too much and not sleeping enough.
Now, don’t get me wrong; I like to sleep. I liked to sleep back then too, but I just didn’t think that it was as important as everything else on my to do list. This is pretty embarrassing coming from a counselor, but the truth is that I was caught in the culture which values working and achievement over everything else.
For awhile, I found it easy to ignore this discrepancy in my thinking. After all, I was eating a healthy diet and exercising. I was successful at my job, and I had lots of other interests and healthy activities. However, as much as I tried to ignore it, my body was tired.
I wish I could say that it was just me, but this kind of thinking affects a huge portion of the US population. Most of us have heard the standard sleep recommendations, but I’ll restate them here just in case:
The real risks of not getting enough sleep
When we’re lacking sleep, our brain processes actually slow down as our neural pathways struggle to make connections. We have a harder time functioning in our day to day lives, and our memory suffers.
We tend to be grumpier, we eat more, and we experience a variety of long-term physical and mental health consequences if we continue to lack sleep. Some of these consequences include heart issues, diabetes, anxiety, depression, and cancer.
The real benefits of restful sleep
Since much of what we learn and practice during the day is reinforced during our sleep cycles, an adequate amount of sleep improves our memory, learning, creativity, and performance. Our brains are working hard while we sleep, breaking and creating new neural connections.
Sleep is an extremely active and busy time for our brains, and it’s absolutely essential to our well-being. Along with the physical benefits, having enough sleep puts us at a lower risk for depression and anxiety. It also enhances our mood and alertness.
If you haven’t been sleeping enough, there is hope.
Our bodies have a great ability to restore and recover, especially if we make healthy changes early on. Even if you are noticing some observable consequences already, adding an adequate amount of sleep to your schedule will yield healthy changes.
Now, I realize that sometimes it’s not possible to get enough sleep, especially with small kids. Trust me, our schedule gets out of control sometimes. However, sticking to a regular, healthy bed time for the kids, has helped Mr. AJ and I keep our own bedtime mostly consistent. Related to scheduling, it does mean that we miss some activities, but we feel better, and we are more present in our lives when we have enough sleep.
If you are still having a hard time prioritizing sleep in your life, now is probably a good time to start making some changes. Scheduling your sleep is the first step to make sure that you actually get enough sleep every night. If you struggle with falling asleep, making some minor changes, like cutting out screen time before bed, exercising during the day, and making sure that your bedroom is completely dark, might help.
In the next few weeks, I hope to include some additional steps to help you fall asleep and have a better night’s rest.
In case you missed it, here is a link to my article on How Scheduling Saved Our Family.