“I’ll sleep when I’m dead” Lady Gaga reassured the Swedish concert crowd last May putting to bed (pardon the pun) any concerns she might slow down given reports of exhaustion and fainting.
I often hear this same statement from many of my colleagues, clients, neighbors and friends as they reach for another caffeine-laced concoction to get through the daily grind of their endless to-do list. The irony is, they just may get their wish.
Without listing a bunch of research you’ve probably read before and done nothing about, suffice it to say that it’s been shown that getting enough zzz’s can prolong your life, boost immunities, help you lose weight, improve memory, and stop you from becoming a nightmare to those you claim to love the most. This reminds me of another excuse I often hear from parents, “I’ll sleep when the kids are older.” Yes, let’s hold out until the kids are grown before we gift them with a happy, sane parent.
Even companies are getting into the act and taking a cue from cultures who respect the siesta. According to a recent WSJ post, the latest office perk is a napping room to catch a quick 15 to 20 minute nod.
I bet all of us buy into the fact that sleep is vital, but why do so many of us continue to rob ourselves of this necessary pleasure? Here’s why: We try to fit too much into one day, can’t live up to our unrealistic expectations and then can’t sleep because we’re too stressed we didn’t accomplish everything! Sound familiar?
Here’s what I found works for me.
1. Stop sooner. Just like a late person always does, “one more thing” before leaving, too many of us fall into this pattern before bed. Have a cut off time and honor it. This especially applies to all perfectionists and control freaks (I’m still in recovery) who need things to look or be a certain way. Get therapy and get over it. If you need an incentive, take into account how much you’re annoying those who share your space.
2. Cut back on TV. In my opinion, having the ability to skip through commercials only encourages us to record more programming. Why not program our brains for success and happiness rather than be Mad Men or Unreal Housewives from our own backyard? And zippo news before bed. C’mon, think about it. It’s nothing but negativity and only adds to your anxiety.
3. Don’t take your Blackberry to bed. If you use it as an alarm, all sounds off BUT the alarm. Exception: Your teens are still out with the car.
4. Turn on soft music. Research shows that people who play calm, soft music for 45 minutes drift off sooner and sleep longer than those who go to bed in silence.
5. Write in a gratitude journal. I jot down 5 simple things and when I don’t feel like writing I simply run through the list in my brain. Example: “I’m grateful we all sat down to dinner together tonight.” It’s a great way to end the day.
Still can’t sleep even though you’re too tired because you’re wired? James W. Pennebaker, Ph.D., professor of Psychology at the University of Texas in Austin recommends setting aside time each day for four days in a row to vent your feelings out on paper which will make you feel better and snooze more easily.
Just want someone to listen? In 1997, a San Francisco Web designed bought Tired.com which simply asks on the site: “Are you tired? Tell us why.” If you click on the question, you send site designer Mike Kuniavsky a personal email which he collects for reasons unknown. Perhaps it helps him sleep.
Are you sleeping enough for your success? Tell me your bedtime story.