Over the past few weeks I've noticed that the topic of sleep has come up in sessions pretty frequently. Usually, it’s brought up in regards to sleep quantity and quality problems. This makes sense, given that we are in the long stretch of time between President’s Day and Memorial Day when work doesn’t throw us an observed holiday, and when midterms strike for students and all-nighters seem like the only viable option to stay afloat.
Repeated sleepless nights have an impact on emotions, negative thought patterns, impulsive behaviors, and physical health and well-being. Sometimes, I think we overlook the significance of adequate and restful sleep because of how simplistic it may seem – in fact, when I do a brief assessment on sleep, many people say that they’ve completely forgotten how sleep deprivation can affect them physically and mentally! Let’s get back to basics and answer some questions to determine if we can make some changes to move sleep up on our priority list:
- How many hours of sleep on average do I need to feel rested or wake up feeling energized? Over the past week, how many nights did I meet this target?
- Am I getting to bed around the same time every night, including on weekends? If not, how can I make changes to get to bed at a relatively regular time? Similarly, am I getting out of bed around the same time every morning, including on weekends? If not, how can I make some changes to ensure I am staying as consistent as possible?
- What is my nightly routine in preparation for sleep? Can it be enhanced with anything, such as a guided meditation, to relax the mind and body before bedtime?
- What is my screen time on my phone, laptop, and/or TV like before bed? Am I ending my screen time at least 30 minutes before bed?
- Am I drinking caffeinated beverages (coffee, black tea, soda) after 5pm?
- When I can’t fall asleep, what do I do? What are my thoughts like? Can I get up and engage in an activity, like read a book or write my to-do list for tomorrow?
If sleep has been on the back burner, hopefully these questions can help guide you to make some improvements to your routine around sleep. As Marsha Linehan describes it, “when it comes to sleep, ritual is everything.” Today, find a way to honor your mind and body and engage in some serious self-care with sleep.