Here’s our five-minute podcast about Sleep:
Sleep is the easiest, least expensive, and most helpful self-care activity we can do. Sleep transforms us. In just seven or eight hours, we go from being tired and stressed out to being relaxed and energized.
Yet many of us are chronically sleep-deprived. Lack of sleep depletes the immune system, negatively affects mood and mental acuity, and slows down all of the essential self-repair that the body needs to keep us healthy.
It is best to get about seven or eight hours of good sleep each night, with a few exceptions for special events. As with every suggestion in Middleway Method, the important thing is to figure out what works for you. We suggest seven or eight hours, but you may know from experience that you need more, or that you feel great with less. In any case, do what makes you feel great.
The important point is that if you are sacrificing your sleep for other things, or if stress, sugar, caffeine, and screen time are decreasing the quality of your sleep, then you have an opportunity to make some easy changes that will feel great.
Getting quality, uninterrupted sleep can be easier said than done. Some of us have schedules and obligations that make it seem impossible to ever get enough sleep. Many people look at the suggestion to get great sleep every night, and shake their heads, saying, “Wouldn’t that be nice?” because it just seems impossible. If that’s the case for you, then it may take a significant change of circumstances to create a life for yourself that includes great sleep. Hold the suggestion to get great sleep as a goal to work toward with patience and dedication. It is most certainly worth the effort, even if it takes years to achieve.
If you already get great sleep most of the time, then learning about what affects the quality of sleep will help you understand what many people around you are going through, as they experience some degree of sleep deprivation. Learning about the benefits of a great night’s sleep helps us to appreciate all of the factors that come to bear in that. Witness the very real challenges that many people have to face, and ask yourself, “How can I help?”
If you’re a single parent who has to work two jobs just to make ends meet, how are you going to build a life for yourself that includes regular, great sleep? You’re not going to do it alone. When your circumstances are overwhelming, you need help. And yet, these days, we almost always have to pay for help. Child care and house maintenance are two things that we can do for free, if we help each other. That’s why we’ve created a model for childcare co-ops and work-parties.
Middleway Method is a social service, not a wellness fad. We are here to build a society that takes care of itself. This is no small project. When we take it upon ourselves to increase our capacity to care for others, life begins to have real purpose and meaning.
Even when our lives are crazy and we are overburdened with responsibilities, there are often simple things we can do to increase the quality of our sleep. All of the Preliminary Practices help. When we are eating well, exercising, drinking enough water, nourishing our minds and emotions, and caring for others, we tend to sleep better. As you work with all of the Preliminaries, your sleep will improve. But it’s also just a matter of time and stimulation. Here are some recommendations:
- Write down your schedule. See if you realistically have 8 hours each day for sleeping. Most people who are chronically sleep deprived actually have plenty of time for sleeping. Often, it is just a matter of choosing to go to bed at a reasonable time. But if you truly don’t have time in your schedule for regular sleep, begin to imagine what changes will need to happen in your life. Children grow up. Jobs change. Begin to create your future now.
- Don’t drink caffeine after noon. Before noon, drink at most one caffeinated beverage per day. If you believe that you cannot live without coffee, tea, or caffeinated soda, you are wrong. You will live better without them. Overcoming addiction is one of the most empowering, enjoyable things we can do for ourselves. Withdraw feels terrible, and then inside that discomfort, we find our strength. After some time, we feel much better. Overcoming a small addiction like caffeine helps us to build the inner fortitude we will need to change more significant things about our lives and our minds.
- Don’t drink alcohol for at least two hours before you plan to go to bed. Alcohol turns into sugar when we digest it. While a drink may make us feel relaxed and sleepy at first, our sleep is often interrupted several hours later, as the alcohol becomes sugar, which wakes us up with a burst of energy right when we don’t need it.
- Turn off the screen at least a half an hour before bed. Read a book. Interact with people. Not only does the light of the screen affect our sleep cycles, but also the stimulation of the content is perpetual. We can sit and watch our screens for hours after we are very tired, kept awake by the stimulation even though we definitely tired enough to easily fall asleep.
- Get sick before you get sick. Because sleep is one of our most important immune system building activities, we can save ourselves a lot of time and discomfort by going straight to bed the moment that we feel the beginning of a sickness coming on, but before it has us in its grips entirely. By taking one day off to sleep before we get sick, we can often avoid having to take many days off when we’re suffering from a full blown cold or flu.
This is part of the Middleway Preliminary Practices free online wellness program. Learn more here.