I’ll be writing a series of posts about why sleep tends to get put to the bottom of the list of health-enhancing lifestyle changes. With chronic health conditions on the rise and sleep being an important piece of the puzzle, I felt it was really important to address a few common pitfalls when it comes to sleep. In my health journey, I forgot about the importance of sleep. Actually, I didn’t forget about the importance of it, I just secretly hoped I could get healthier without prioritizing it. After all, I had learned to live off of less sleep for so many years, why start now? I also I just let other things become a bigger priority….like having to catch the next episode of Nashville online, surfing Facebook for “just a few more minutes,” or perusing Youtube for the next addicting set of videos to watch. I could literally spend hours online, wasting my time to research just about anything. Sometimes I would be researching things worthy of my time, but the net result at the end of the night was not enough hours of sleep to let my body rest and recover.
My nights were very similar: surf the web/watch a few shows -> all of a sudden it’s 11:30pm -> wash up and get ready for bed -> toss and turn for at least 1.5 hours -> snooze alarm at 6:50am x3 -> feel exhausted at work with specific times of feeling extra tired-> come home -> do the same thing all over again.
At the peak of my low-point in health, I knew that getting more sleep was something that I should do, but I just couldn’t get myself to do it. Besides the fact that I had gotten insomnia at this point, after a long day at work, sleep wasn’t on the top of my list of things to do….no where even close. If I went to bed at 10pm like all the health articles said, then I wouldn’t have much time to do anything besides make dinner, clean up and watch one TV show. That was it. “But I’m so young,” I told myself. “I should be staying up late and enjoying my life!” That was the wrong way to look at that situation– I should have felt content to go to bed early so I could get up earlier, start my day off with right with a rested body and inch my way back to good health. This little change in mindset makes all the difference–instead of seeing sleep (or another healthy lifestyle modification) as a sacrifice, find ways to see it as a benefit.
I look back now and see all the excuses I told myself that actually thwarted my body’s ability to heal and get better. I didn’t really want to sleep earlier because I didn’t think the gain would outweigh the cost. I had also thought that changing my diet and adding supplements would fix me, without making any adjustments to any other aspect of life, but that’s not how it works. Unfortunately, you have to address all aspects of your life to get better (sleep, diet, exercise, stress management, healthy relationships, etc). It’s tough pill to swallow because it means that getting healthier is going to take a lot more effort on your part. The good news is that this means YOU are in control and there is hope! For me, personally, on top of all the other areas in my life that I’ve addressed, prioritizing sleep has yielded me my greatest gains in my health journey. Lifestyle changes are some of the hardest habits to make, but once you make them, the gains are very noticeable. My first step in making this change was to change my mindset: sleep is important and I must do whatever it takes to get myself to bed no later than 10:15pm. For the first week, I had to tell myself that thing “I have to finish up tonight,” can actually wait for tomorrow. And if you wake up earlier by going to bed earlier, you can now fit “that thing you had to finish the night before” in the morning. Mornings used to be the bane of my existence, but now, we’re quite good friends. I love that I’m not struggling with myself to get out of bed and that I can wake up early to do productive things in the morning. Doubtful? Try it for yourself for one week and write down any changes you see and feel. My husband is still shocked at who I’ve become with just this one additional change-and that’s the beauty of it all; throughout our whole lives, we get to constantly change and grow into whoever we want to be. It’s never too late to start a new habit or change to make your life better.