We all know that we need 8 hours of sleep. But who really has time for that? Who really gets 8 hours (or in the case of parents 8 consecutive hours) and feels rested? I know I do my best to get the sleep I need but honestly it is rare that this happens.
This became very evident the other day. I was sitting in a meeting and was looking at the wall thinking about what we were talking about. As I stared at the wall the phrase painted on the wall stood out to me, “Rust in the Lord”. What?? “Rust”? What in the world is this talking about? I got completely distracted thinking about how they had misspelled the word knowing it should read “Rest in the Lord”. I was completely thrown off. I had no idea why they would just leave that on the wall and not fix it, until later that night.
At dinner that night I was telling some friends about what I had seen and still trying to figure out. They laughed immediately and said, “You mean ‘Trust in the Lord’?”, I laughed too and said wow I must really be tired.
That got me thinking about how in the midst of all the chaos can I possibly keep my mind off of how tired I am. So I am offering the following 5 suggestions for those of us that need a little help in this area.
1. Cut out the unnecessary stuff. This isn’t just about not wasting time. This is about putting things in place that energize you. Whether it is exercise vs sitting on the couch or playing chess vs Call of Duty. The difference is in whether you think you have spent your time well. You may feel tired after any of these things but one will help you mentally and the other will drain you mentally.
2. Create a routine. I was able to hear a great speaker talk about setting up a nightly routine. Ideas for this are out there everywhere. Since you are reading this blog though here are two suggestions from the speech I heard.
- Make a rule to only sleep in your bed. No reading, emailing, texting, whatever. You can train your body and mind to realize that once your head hits the pillow it is time to sleep. Do all other activities on the couch or even the floor. Once you climb into bed, let it be to go to sleep.
- Use breathing exercises. The simplest one I have heard is to interlock your fingers, place them on your abdomen, and breath slowly until you fall asleep. The key to this is slowly. You want to have a pause between the end of an exhale and the beginning of an inhale and vice versa.
These two things combined with a regularly scheduled bed time will help your body realize you are on your way to a restful night.
3. Drink more water, really drink less sugar and caffeine. I know, I know blah blah blah. Well, seriously. If you are taking in things that contribute to your bodies health you will feel less tired. The mind trick here is that because you are trying to be more healthy you will feel that way even if you mess up once in a while.
4. Read. There are lots of studies out there you can Google on this. Reading forces your brain to function in ways that no other activity does. This kind of stimulation before bed helps you clear out distractions, use what is left of your brain functioning from the day, and move your thoughts toward shutting down for the night. Even if you’re not a big reader, which I’m not, what else can put you to sleep faster then trying to force your eyes to stay open to read another page of a book?
5. Plan. This looks very different for each of us. My proposal is that simply knowing that in a week or a month you will get a break and some time to relax can help you feel less tired. It could be that you plan to take a nap twice a week (better yet every day) or that you plan for the 10 minutes before you walk in the door every day you will clear your mind. Planning it is the key here. This worked well for me recently. I had a crazy 2 weeks but I knew that at the end of that time I was planning to go to a conference for my personal training and renewal. I planned as part of this to take a nap before I did anything else once I arrived. Just remembering this worked on my mind to help me make it through several long days at work and two long weekends.
I don’t expect these to fix it all. But remember the point is to help you feel less tired, not be less tired. Each of us gets to decide a lot about our lives and this can be one of those things. I hope it helps you and I would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions too. What would you add to this list, or disagree with? Any conversation can help both of us move toward a life lived better.