It’s not every day that you get an hour of sleep free. Turning the clock back one hour, as much as we dread it, is very much a gift!
This Sunday we met a bunch of friends around 9, and everyone was in pretty good spirits, laughing over coffee and looking forward to a nice day! I asked some of them what they did with the extra hour and they all said: ”Oh, I slept!” – like they had eaten some heavenly dessert!
I decided to ask you what you did with your extra hour? Did you stay up late watching a movie, get up extra early and go for a jog or did you sleep in? I hope you chose sleep. It’s estimated that the average American is sleeping 20% less than in the 60’s. This is just quantity of sleep, not even mentioning quality, which has also suffered for many people. You may not realize that lack of sleep is making your weight creep up, your mood unstable, your hormones weird and your family life worse.
Most of us stay up catching up with work, housework, emails, news, or even a hobby. The sad truth is that waking up without an alarm, a pot of coffee, an energy drink or orange juice is hard for many! If you woke up this Sunday after an extra hour of sleep and you felt good maybe this is a natural reminder to do something about the duration of your sleep.
Here are some things Roland and I have found useful in incorporating more sleep hours:
1. Get a reality check. Find out how much you are sleeping on average. This can be done by having a journal, setting your FitBit, or using a tracking program like dansplan.com.
2. Once you find out how much you are sleeping, aim to go to bed 30 min to 1 hour earlier than the usual time, so that you can add that to your average sleep duration. If impossible, add naps and extend sleeping time during the weekend.
3. Make sleepy time a special time. At least an hour before bed turn off all electronic devices, turn down the lights, light some candles, play some soft music, go to bed with a book. If it’s a part of your practice, meditate, breathe, or pray.
Feel free to read a book in bed, but no bright screens – ipads, phones, etc.
4. Once you wake up, get to a window or balcony and get some bright light exposure. With the time change now, it’s easy to get bright light in the morning. That will set your brain to work well with the change in seasons and the active part of your day and to have you ready for bed when it’s time in the evening.
I have really enjoyed using Dan’s plan as a way to measure the quantity of my sleep. I started using the program after hearing an interview with Dan where he was explaining how sleep was an overlooked part of how we take care of ourselves and how many people claim they get 8 hours when they only get 7 or less. By logging the time I went to bed, I quickly realized that I was sleeping an average of 7:40 hours instead of the 8:30 I was thinking. I also found out I went to bed after 11 many nights of the week. I set up a couple of simple goals: be in bed by 11:30 and sleep an average of 8:30 hours. It has taken me almost a month to get there, but the program has really kept me accountable and honest. It also allows you to track weight and activity and to set different goals relating to sleep, weight and movement. I greatly recommend it if you don’t have an account yet. It’s free to use, and you will learn a lot – from the blog posts, the goals, the daily emails and your own progress.
I know when I am going to bed tonight, make sure you do too!