Blog, Mindfulness

How are You Sleeping Lately?

I’ve always been one to toss and turn. Like, constantly throughout the night. I thought it was normal and most people slept like this too. Turns out, I was right. But at the same time, I didn’t realize sleep shouldn’t be a constant battle of trying to get comfortable throughout the night. Sleep should be the time when our bodies rest and rejuvenate.

I decided to read this book Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stevenson and although I’m only 7 chapters in, it’s already transformed my sleep habits. Shawn, who is the Sleep Guru, talks about how we need to value our sleep and make small changes to make the quality better. The studies he quotes in this book will blow your mind. But let me stop there. This is not a book review, but rather a post about how small changes have made my sleep better.

I used to say “I’ll sleep when I’m dead”. Well trust me, I was getting closer to that day by not sleeping. I’d stay up late, play on my cell phone until all hours of the night and even sometimes have soda right before bed. All these things equaled bad news. So far I’ve made 4 small changes in my life to help me get the better quality sleep my body needs:

  1. Getting more sunlight during the day
  2. Avoiding screen time before bed
  3. Stop drinking caffeine earlier in the day
  4. Setting a bedtime

While these don’t sound like monumental changes, I can already tell they’ve helped. Since it’s the Summer, getting more sunlight during the day has been easier. I try to spend as much time outside as possible. Right now, I’m typing this from my deck and loving the sounds of the birds chirping and the sun on my skin. Granted, it’s easier on the weekends to get more outdoor time but because it’s the Summer, the sun stays out longer so even after work I’m taking a walk with my pup.

Avoiding the screen time has always been tough. We’re addicted to phones in this day of easy access and constant connectivity and can’t seem to put them down. At bedtime, I’d “wind down” by playing games on my phone with the lights off. I thought this was a way of turning my brain down to zero, but it turns out I was completely wrong. The blue light put off by electronics keeps our brains active and makes us think that we’re still supposed to be awake. That light can come from any electronic too, not just cell phones. Think of the late night TV, work on the computer after the kids go to bed or, like I did, playing on your cell phone in bed. So I tried something rash. I put my cell phone on the opposite side of the bed for 2 days as a test. I wanted to compare my sleep quality from it being on my nightstand to it being across the room. And guess what? I got the best night’s sleep in those 2 days. To continue the test, I moved it back to my nightstand and the next 2 days’ sleep was awful. Now I’m a believer. I stop my cell phone use about 8 – 8:30 PM and it gets plugged in across the room or in the bathroom, just outside my bedroom. Crazy how something so small can affect how you get your Zzzzs.

If you follow me on Instagram, you know I’m a coffee lover. Bold, iced, lattes…you name it, I’m a fan. And in the past, I used to stop drinking coffee around 4 PM but I thought it was ok to have soda (usually mixed with something stronger) with dinner once in a while. Little did I know that soda was impacting my sleep. What I didn’t realize was the time it takes for caffeine to leave our bodies. It literally takes what seems like forever. So even if you stop drinking caffeinated drinks early in the day, the caffeine is still in your system when you hit the pillow. Recently I’ve stopped drinking anything with caffeine in it around lunch time and I haven’t felt like my brain is still moving like a ticker tape. After lunch, it’s water, water and more water.

Setting a bedtime might sound like something you do for your children, but it helps adults too. I’ve always tried to make sure I’m in bed before 11 PM, but lately I’ve changed that. To help me wind down for bed, I plug in my phone around 8 – 8:30 PM and go upstairs around 9 PM to read for an hour before bed. This small change has not only allowed me to read more books, it gets me ready and has told my brain that at 10 PM it’s time to say lights out. Now, if I could only get my husband to do the same…

With these small changes, I feel like my sleep has been transformed. The funny part is, I’m not even close to being done with Shawn’s book. I’m determined to finish it by the end of this month and I’ll be sharing more tips on my Instagram stories so be sure to follow me and check them out. If you want to make small changes, try the things I did. I can guarantee they’ll work for you and your sleep quality will forever be changed.

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