Let’s Talk about Sleep

health life balance well-being Jan 09, 2023
Illustration of Charis Santillie sleeping
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🎧 👉 Prefer audio? You can also listen to me share about this in podcast episode #037 here.

Since we officially entered winter, I feel like I’ve taken on the energy of the bear and have felt the need to hibernate...

...which means sleeping more, going to bed earlier, and taking more naps.

I’ve never been a night owl, and I’ve always felt like I needed more sleep than everyone around me. Heck, even in my childhood, I’d be with a group of friends watching a movie, and I’d notoriously fall asleep part-way through—and it didn’t matter how action-packed the movie was—I would konk out.

For most of my adult years, my bedtime was normally 9:30 to 10. My husband and I would even jokingly refer to 10 pm being “Pumpkin Time” for me (as in the Cinderella story when the carriage turned back into a pumpkin at midnight, but for me, the critical hour was 10 pm).

For the past month, I’ve been going to bed around 8:30 to 9 pretty regularly because I finally accepted that I’m really usually tired then, and I feel so much better when I go to bed then.

I tend to wake up really early, no matter what time I go to bed, so going to bed earlier nearly every night has helped me sooo much! I am getting better quality sleep, I feel more rested the next day, and I feel a deeper sense of calm overall.

Instead of trying to push myself to stay up later, I’m really honoring my own rhythm.

I think this is another layer of my old “pusher” way of being that I was ready to let go of. I’m referring to pushing myself to work more than was healthy for my body or mind, pushing myself to achieve things, pushing myself to do things, pushing for results, pushing things around me to feed my need to feel in control, pushing to please everyone—so many ways I’d push and chase things.

In a prior episode, I talked about how I’ve evolved to be more of a "seeker" instead of a "chaser," and I think that applies here to the topic of sleep in caring for myself. In seeking to improve my self-care, I discovered that going to bed earlier really made a difference.

I feel like I’m showing up for myself in a bigger way by making this a new habit. I know I can keep improving how I can take better care of myself. I know there’s room to love myself more. And I also know that these ways can change over time because I’ll continue to change over time. (Although going to bed early is more like a return to taking care of the young child Charis because she was in bed at 8 pm like clockwork!)

A few nights ago, I pushed myself to stay up and finish a movie and got to bed around 10, and I could not get to sleep until after 12:30. It was like I missed the sleep train. The next night I made it a point to be in bed no later than 9, and it only took me a few minutes to fall asleep when I did that.

So what about you? Have you been forcing yourself to stay up later or get up earlier than your body naturally wants?

Do you feel better when you go to bed and get up at a certain time?

I know that you may have certain obligations with children or your job that factor into this, but what if there’s a creative solution that you just haven’t thought of yet that would help you adjust your sleep schedule, even if it was just a few nights a week?

Sleep is sooooo important.

I looked up some stats and learned that Americans average only 6.5 hours of sleep per night.

Yet studies show that 95% of our population needs between 7-8 hours.

“Elite performers” sleep around 8.6 hours a night, and elite athletes sleep even more than that. One study showed that when Stanford swimmers increased their sleep to 10 hours per night, they felt happier and more energetic, and their swimming performance significantly improved. It’s not surprising that we feel better when we sleep more, and we usually do things in less time when we are well-rested.

Are you making sleep a priority?

If you slept a little more each night, how would it benefit you?

How would it benefit others?

Often you may think that your need to stay up late or get up early is actually to benefit others, but what if it was actually better for them if you got more sleep? Wouldn’t they benefit if you were more rested and therefore more present? My husband Don is a night owl, and I used to try to stay up later to spend time with him, but the truth is that doesn’t work for me, so I have stopped trying to force that and instead make sure that we have quality time together earlier in the evening.

If you can nap, do it. Maybe you work from home, or you can safely take a snooze in your car or your office. (When I wasn’t working from home, I did take some naps in my car!) Catnaps are a key part of my life. If I look back and am honest, on the days I powered through and didn’t take a nap, I was less productive, less clear-headed, and less kind—than days I let myself take a nap when I needed it. Even just laying down and resting for 5-10 minutes is so powerful to reset your system.

What about asking for what you need to support you in getting enough sleep? Some friends invited us over for dinner a few months ago, and we spoke up and kindly asked if we could move up the time a little because I’m an early-to-bed person. They totally understood and were happy to move it up. You never know if you don’t ask!

What else can support you? Think about settings on your devices to either change the light to go warmer or dimmer in nighttime mode, as well as have do not disturb turn on an hour or so before going to bed.

Do you need different bedding or darker window coverings or maybe a soothing noise machine? We use an air purifier for that, and when I travel, I use an app on my phone.

I also found I really needed something to help regulate my temperature so I got an Ooler which basically is a pad that goes over my side of the mattress and has a small tube of water that runs through it that you can set the temperature of. It’s awesome!

“A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures for anything.”

— Irish proverb

 🎧 👉 Prefer audio? You can also listen to me share about this in podcast episode #037 here.

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