Sleep. We all know we need it, but it be one of the first things to go during busier or more stressful times. Times when we need a good night’s rest all the more!
Why is sleep important?
Good sleep is important for a number of reasons, a couple of which are…
It helps our brains work
- Sleep helps us to learn and remember information, be creative, make decisions and modulate our emotions.
It keeps us physically healthy
- Sleep is associated with prevention of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke.
(adapted from this article)
Given that sleep is so important, how do we make sure we are getting the amount we need?
Realistically, we cannot expect to work a hectic day, come home, watch TV or spend time on our phones, plop into bed and then magically drift off into dreamland. While that may work for some, it does not work for most. According to Shannon McClain, in an interview with Jennifer Christian on Self-Compassion Houston, getting a good night’s rest starts with some intentional preparation hours before bedtime.
Tips to a good night’s rest
1. Simulate dusk with de-illumination
We are used to having bright lights on long after the sun has gone down. We can begin to simulate dusk and get our bodies ready for sleep by closing the curtains, dimming the lights and putting screens and phones away at least an hour before bed time.
2. Begin a nighttime ritual
Having a consistent nighttime ritual can be helpful for preparing for sleep. For example, taking a bath, going through a spiritual practice, journaling or taking time to reflect on the day.
3. Remember that waking up at night is okay
We can wake up at night for many reasons – to go to the bathroom, hearing loud noises, having stressful thoughts, etc. Wakefulness in the night does not always mean insomnia and does not need
to be a cause for alarm. We can remind ourselves that it is okay to wake up in the middle of the night. If we find our mind running with many thoughts, keeping a bedside journal to write down some of those thoughts can be helpful.
4. Prepare your environment
Ensuring the environment you sleep in is cool, dark, quiet and clean (tidy, clean bedding) are also essentials for preparing for sleep.
While it may be challenging to teach ourselves to slow down and prioritize something as seemingly unproductive as sleep, it is essential for a good night’s rest and a happier, healthier life as a result!
For more information on how to prepare for sleep, check out Jennifer Christian Counseling’s podcast
Additionally, this video by Matthew Walker emphasizes the importance of sleep and the negative impacts of sleep deprivation
Supervised by Amy Fuller, PhD, LMFT-S