Sleep as a Discipline

When it comes to health and wellness I think sleep is highly underrated. Not just for physical wellness but almost even more so for mental health. When I hear people say things like, "Oh, I can totally function on only four hours of sleep" I roll my eyes exactly the same as the idiots who say, "Oh, no I totally drive better when I am drunk."

Why is sleep important? Well, I am not a medical expert but the clinical studies exist that demonstrate that sleep is important for memory and productivity, fitness and athletic recovery, managing appetite, improving social and emotional intelligence, reducing diseases associated with inflammation, improving mental health and decreasing the risk of depression - and the list could go on.

My mission here is not to convince you that sleep is important because hopefully you already recognize that it is. I am here to share some tips on becoming a disciplined sleeper so that you can reap the benefits of a healthy sleep routine.

The main thing is essentially having a routine. I sleep at the same time everyday regardless of the day of the week. I don't get fooled into thinking I "must stay up and finish this" because I know I can always finish tomorrow. On Friday and Saturday nights I still aim to go to bed close to my normal bedtime as it keeps my body in rhythm. This takes some discipline but it is well worth it if you want your body clock to stay in sync. I never need an alarm to wake up because I naturally wake up at 5am every morning.

Another thing that has helped me significantly over the last ten years is removing food and television from the bedroom. There is never for any reason any food permitted in my bedroom. I believe that keeping the bedroom and the bed itself associated to sleeping (and one could argue for sex here for the same reasons, just saying!), helps the mind and body adjust itself to what you are doing when you lay down to sleep. There are no delays or distractions. You get into bed, lay down and go to sleep. Truthfully, I don't even read in my bed. I read in the living room in the evening and then when I am ready I go to bed.

People make fun of me because I eat my dinner very early. Usually, I am done eating dinner by 6pm. However, because my preferred bedtime is 10pm, this gives my body 4 hours to digest and settle back down so I am not plagued with discomfort both in my sleep and when I wake up the next day. I have found this to make a huge difference as well.

I know it is not for everyone, but I found sleeping with my Fitbit on and monitoring the data output everyday really helped me to recognize patterns that were issues to me getting a better sleep. When I first got my Fitbit I believe I was averaging close to 30 minutes to fall asleep. Now, it is literally less than 3 minutes. It has gotten to where even if I want to lay down to "think something over" I cannot. My body is so disciplined now to sleep when I lay down that I have no time for horizontal reflections. If I need to think, I had better be sitting up! My Fitbit also gives me reminders like, "You exercised within two hours of bedtime last night, which may have affected your sleep quality."

I have also started some new things this year that have tremendously helped my ability to sleep soundly all through the night:

CBD - I began taking oral CBD (THC free) supplements back in February and my Fitbit data shows an improvement in my sleep score as a result. Even when my hours of sleep are low or average, the quality of my sleep is high and I wake up more rested. This excellent quality of sleep then allows me to be more focused during the day, recover better from my workouts and I am also just a lot more mellow in general.

Weighted Blanket - I recently started sleeping under a 15 pound weighted blanket. I had heard such good things, even from my sisters, and even though I didn't fully understand it I got one. I sleep SO well under this thing! It really is amazing. It's like being smothered with comfort. I find I move less in my sleep, and my Fitbit data shows far less restless moments since I started sleeping underneath it. Also, even in Texas, I have not found the blanket to be overly hot yet.

Once you get into a good sleep routine you realize how important it is for your well being. When I have a few bad nights in a row I can see it in my skin, my eyes, my workouts suffer, my resting heart rate shoots up, I find I cannot control my hunger, I find I get super anxious about things that normally don't bother me, and the list goes on and on.

Sleep well! Not in excess and not out of laziness, but sleep purposefully to allow your mind and body to recover properly each day. It is probably some of the best self care you can possibly do for yourself!