One Small Change in Routine, One Giant Change in SleepAndrea Howe
Without a doubt, the biggest health goal I’ve set for the new year is to get more sleep. Sleep is as vital to our mental and physical health as water and food is, and without enough of it our well-being can suffer.
I know many of you can agree that when you’re tired, everything seems more troubling and darker than when you’re well-rested. Sometimes, even the smallest of tasks seem difficult to complete when you’re sleep-deprived! In my case, too little sleep makes me more emotional and impatient. I lack the energy to think clearly and the motivation to finish the most simplest of items on my to-do list. Research backs up all of these notions: a recent study indicates women need more sleep than men, and your physical health takes a hit when you don’t clock enough snooze time. (Those weight loss goals? Without enough rest, they’ll be a lot harder to achieve.) Indeed, deep sleep is the best way to metabolize the stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine. A 2013 study discovered that your genes could even change just after a week of getting less than 6 hours of shut-eye.
So, as I was sorting through some personal goals I wanted to complete in 2014, and “get more sleep” rang out as the most important one, I decided to get to the root of the problem by starting small. Instead of just making “get more sleep” my goal, I’m breaking it down and making a simple switch in my routine, to hopefully kick-start myself to healthier sleep habits.
You see, I’m a perpetual couch crasher after the kids go to bed. Maybe two nights a week I’ll have energy to get some writing done at night, or go out on a date night, but most nights I plop down on the couch after the kids go to bed and the dishes are done. There I’ll sit and relax for up to two hours, where I get lazier and lazier. But what really keeps me glued to the couch (more than a riveting episode of Grey’s Anatomy, that is)? The thought of having to get up to complete my nightly bedtime routine of washing my face, moisturizing, brushing and flossing, and taking out my contacts.
Plain and simple, I get too lazy to move, so I put off bedtime for far too long. Many nights I actually fall into a deep sleep on the couch, and then I wake up at midnight and stumble to bed. I barely get my teeth brushed, I do a pretty lousy job of flossing, and facial cleansing wipes usually replace a proper face washing. My peaceful, deep sleep is also interrupted, and I often lie in bed for over an hour, trying to fall back to sleep.
It’s a vicious, stupid cycle that has got to stop.
So from here on out, my new routine is to wash my face and brush my teeth immediately after the kids go to bed, and before I plop onto the couch.
It’s a simple change that will most likely completely change what time I go to bed, and how much sleep I get.
The somewhat comforting thing is I know I’m not alone in my lazy-couch ways. When I posted about this on Instagram, a flurry of hands went up and waved in solidarity. Turns out there’s a lot of us women who let the daunting task of personal hygiene get in the way of a good night’s sleep.
I’ve been testing it out for the past 3 nights, and so far, so good. By washing my face and brushing my teeth first, before I get lazy, I have nothing to dread when I start to feel sleepy. I can hop off the couch and head straight to my comforting, welcoming bed.
An added bonus? It has cut down on late-night snacking as well.
Because I’ve already brushed my teeth, it’s much easier to refuse a piece of chocolate or a bowl of ice cream because the minty taste in my mouth makes it seem less appealing, and do I really want to brush them all over again? Not really.
So as you prioritize your New Year’s goals, break them down into small steps and changes, to hopefully impact larger ones. It first gives you a starting point, and it makes the overarching goal seem much less intimidating.
Get more sleep? Sure, sounds good, but how? Seems kind of daunting. But wash my face and brush my teeth after I kiss the kids goodnight? That seems much more manageable.
Now, if only my baby would cooperate.