Self Care: Sleep Matters

Mother sleeping


You keep your family functional through your strength, your health, your happiness and mood, and your focus. The one most important thing you can do to take care of yourself, the one thing that all other self care builds on, is getting enough sleep. Putting on your own oxygen mask first starts with sleep.

It’s so simple!

Sort of. Tough for a young mother but simple in theory.

You probably remember when it was easy to stay up all night and keep going the next day. That was before you had responsibilities for others, children to care for, and a long list of tasks you just have to get done every day. If you go without sleep now, you don’t feel your best the next day. A study of doctors showed that, when fatigued, their performance was comparable to having 3-4 cocktails.

Lack of sleep leaves you impaired with slower reaction times. This does not help your family. Beyond the immediate effects of impaired judgment, lack of sleep triggers health effects: lower immunity, metabolism changes (weight gain), and even more serious disease. This is just the beginning.

Abusing your body by doing without sleep will have a long-term impact. I write from experience. I know getting enough sleep is a very difficult thing for the mother of a young child, but it has both short- and long-term impact on your own health and on everyone around you. Right now you are bridging from your youth to your middle age, and the choices you make for your health make a difference for your present and your future.

Sleep does matter. You must take care of yourself.

Your Sleep Routine

Create routines that protect your sleep. In order to help your baby sleep with love and compassion, you need routines that signal to everyone that it is time to wind down and let go for the day. If you have figured this out for your baby, you already have an idea how developing a routine works. Your routines involve more than just you, of course. Especially if you are co-sleeping, you need to create routines that work for your entire family.

Start with what is working. When have you found that you slept really well recently? What did you do the day before or the evening before that great night’s sleep? How did you wake up? Can you replicate that?

Tweak your routine over time, but don’t assume it will all work out on its own. You need to protect your sleep time. If you can’t handle everything in the time your have available, ask for help.

How much sleep do you need? Every person is slightly different, but the general rules apply. Most adults need 8 hours sleep per night.

Self Care Means Love & Compassion for Yourself

Approach your own needs with love and compassion—as you would for your children or spouse. That doesn’t mean lining up excuses and accepting every one. Loving yourself means understanding your deeper needs and focusing there rather than on the superficial. Loving yourself means not prioritizing your needs below those of everyone else.

Finding a way to meet the needs of all family members can be difficult. You will undoubtedly come up short, but that doesn’t mean you don’t keep trying.

Understand that taking care of yourself matters. Getting enough sleep matters.

Sleep well.

For more details on the effects of lack of sleep, read “Sleep for Health.”

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Save Green: Saving Light

Winter morning sunIt’s a month after solstice and the days are getting longer, but there is less distraction of holiday twinkle lights. The darkness of winter becomes more apparent.

Long before winter blues becomes clinically diagnosed Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), you can take steps to keep yourself and your children healthy—and it doesn’t take a $200 light box to do it.

What is the most important remedy for lack of sunlight? Sunlight.

Active, Beautiful Nature Is the Answer

Without enough sunlight, your body has to work much harder to regulate your body clock, your circadian rhythms. And, your body needs sunlight in order to make Vitamin D. You skin doesn’t need so much sun that it burns. You just need regular, direct exposure to the sun. Light boxes that simulate bright sunlight are used as therapy for SAD. They work a lot like that big light outside, except that they plug in, so they run on ancient sunlight and other forms of electricity.

For some people, exposure to even slightly higher levels of light can be a mood lifter. It helps if the light exposure happens early in the day. An expensive mood-altering gadget that addresses this need is a dawn simulator (about $100-150). Think of it as an alarm clock that wakes you by gradually turning on the lights. It works a lot like sleeping on the east side of the house, leaving the blinds open at night, and letting the sunrise wake you.

Natural concentrations of negative ions, pounding surf at the beach or a wild rainstorm, can also help you feel better. There is another therapeutic toy available for $25-100 dollars, a negative ion generator, but doesn’t a storm sound more refreshing? We associate it with feeling refreshed because it works. A trip to the beach helps your mood because of the negative ions, the sunlight, and stirring up the general emotional stagnancy of a long winter indoors.

In all of these cases, long before winter blues escalates to full-blown depression, I’m wondering why people aren’t opting for the cheap, natural way.

  • Walk out to winter and greet the sun.
  • Open your blinds at night and let the actual dawn wake you.
  • Go for an early morning walk.
  • For breakfast, eat eggs and milk (both with tryptophan) in a sunny room.
  • Expose yourself to negative ions by going to the beach or opening your door to a storm.

It all seems so obvious, but there is no money to be made in encouraging you to open your windows and doors and get outside. The profit margin is in the light box and the dawn simulator, in the drugs and even in the bottle of St. John’s Wort.

Avoid the Stagnant

Stagnant—stagnant air, stagnant water, stagnant emotion— is not good for your health.

Have a laugh. Exercise. Run up and down the stairs. Shake things up and walk out to winter.

Today is day #16 of my new Save Green Habit: run the stairs every day.

And, suddenly it isn’t difficult. I find myself running upstairs (just once, just for the practical purpose of getting there) without even taking a deep breath. I can make it a dozen times before I notice that my legs hurt so much that I want to fall. It’s an incline of 35%, which is an awful lot more than the 10% incline on the treadmill I’m avoiding, so I feel good about my progress.

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