I have always thought of myself as a good sleeper, mostly because I typically don’t have any trouble falling or staying asleep. But being a good sleeper and having good sleep habits is not the same thing, and over the past several months, I have discovered that my sleep habits needed some attention.
For about a year, I have been addressing different lifestyle habits in an effort to reduce my overall level of stress because I wanted to feel better. It’s a long story, and I will continue to talk about all of it, but for today’s post, I want to share how addressing my sleep habits has transformed the way I feel.
I hope we all can agree that sleep is foundational to our health and well-being. If you are checking all the other boxes (nutrition, water, movement, mental health, etc.) yet not sleeping well, those other factors almost don’t matter. This is where I found myself several months ago. I had put into practice a lot of really beneficial habits in my life, and yet, I still didn’t feel great. I never considered sleep to be part of my problem because, like I mentioned above, I am a good sleeper.
After researching the topic of sleep hygiene, which is the term used to describe your sleep habits and routines, I realized I was sleeping, but not giving myself enough high quality sleep. I made the mistake of assuming that because I was sleeping (sometimes for nine hours!) that I was getting the full benefits from sleep.
I decided to prioritize sleep, which is a broad way of saying I did everything I knew to do to give myself the opportunity to gain all of the potential benefits from sleep. Getting in bed and closing my eyes was not enough. I decided to embrace a way of life that approached sleep as a responsibility, and I have been wowed by the results.
It is also worth noting that at the same time I decided to prioritize sleep I also began waking up super early to walk in the morning (to avoid the triple digit heat in the afternoon). The early wake time created a motivation for me to get to sleep earlier than normal. Waking up early while addressing my sleep habits was a great hand-in-hand approach for me and provided a layer of motivation to get to bed early.
After three weeks (or so) of prioritizing sleep in my life, I began to feel the shift. I don’t know how to explain it other than to say I felt more alive. I was waking up before my alarm went off. I was able to focus and stay engaged at work. I did not feel like I needed an afternoon nap. It felt like all the other lifestyle changes I had made were suddenly unlocked and I began to feel like a different person, or, more accurately, I began to feel like myself again. I actually looked forward to winding down at the end of the day so that I could wake up knowing I would feel good. It was infectious.
I am going to share the specifics of my nighttime routine in Thursday’s post. The point of today’s post is to say that prioritizing sleep has really changed how I feel, and I have discovered it’s not enough to merely sleep. Or, it’s not enough for me as I age and address areas of chronic stress that are impacting other areas of my life. I now view my sleep as a resource that I steward, and making the most of this resource has been a gift that has provided huge returns.