Sleep As Self-Care: 5 Ways I Plan On Getting More Sleep In 2016
Words: Anthonia Akitunde
Getting those eight hours of sleep is the best thing you can do for yourself. Here's how to make getting to bed easier.
A Month of Mindfulness is a 30-day program Aetna created to help people experience how mindfulness reduces stress and boosts health.
It's been such an eye-opening experience. Thanks to Aetna's mindfulness tips and techniques, I've been feeling much more in control of my body and my anxiety.
Tip #3: Enjoy a restful hour
Do you want to be less stressed, more productive, and revitalize your genes? Grab a pillow. Instead of going to bed late tonight, go to bed an hour earlier. You’ll also feel more refreshed in the morning—and you’ll recharge your mind so you can better tackle the day ahead. If your busy mind is keeping you awake try this: Follow your breathing in and out. When a thought comes into the mind, notice it, let it go, and come back to the breath.
Going to bed early? It's one of those things I know I should do, but it often gets pushed to the side. I've told myself that I'm one of those rare people who don't need the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep, and often find myself getting into bed at 11:00 p.m. or midnight—and snoozing once the alarm goes off at 6 a.m.
What was I doing up so late? I'd love to tell you it was productive time spent working on big projects for mater mea or my freelancing clients. But really, I was just making up for being unproductive during the day because I was so lethargic from lack of sleep and my poor eating habits. And when I did make it into bed, I usually brought my beloved phone with me. What was supposed to be a quick look at email before bed, was routinely becoming an hour wasted looking through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and several news apps. It didn't feel restorative, but like a bad habit loop I couldn't break until I looked over at the clock and realized how much time I spent digging deeper and deeper into some Internet personalities' timeline.
It's one thing to acknowledge you have a problem, and another to break it. It takes awhile to end unhealthy habits because we've created a space where certain cues reward the bad behaviors—in my case looking at my phone "one last time" before bed.
I realize getting to bed early won't happen overnight. So here's how I plan on getting those restful hours:
Ease up on the negative self-talk
I love the idea of going to bed early—it's the guilt I feel for not following the 24/7 entrepreneur hustle and grind narrative that gets me. My tendency for negative self-talk can lead to anxiety and stress, which I'm trying to end—or at least curb—this year. So I'll try to be nicer to myself in all parts of my life, because, to quote my new favorite poet Nayyirah Waheed:
be softer with you.
you are a breathing thing.
a memory to someone.
a home to life.
Focus on how good it makes me feel
On the nights I have gone to bed early, the following days have been some of the most productive ever. Along with tackling administrative tasks, I actually have the time and energy to devote to bigger-picture thinking, instead of anxiously putting out small fires throughout the day. Getting more sleep just feels good and makes the day more productive. Being mindful of that and noticing how my body and mind feels after a full-night's rest will make it easier for me to get to bed by 10 p.m.
Create a routine
Something I've learned about myself over the years is that I'm someone who needs a routine. I feel the most at ease when I have a schedule I'm following. Right now, I'm pretty free—I work from home, and don't have many meetings or outside activities that I can't take care of from my phone or computer.
That may sound amazing and relaxing, but it actually causes me a lot of stress. It can often feel like everything is happening at once, and I don't know what to tackle first, leading to ineffective multitasking and less productive days.
By creating a work and sleep routine, I can train myself to become a healthier creature of habit. Now I'll try to stop looking at my phone by 9 p.m., get my face washed and teeth brushed by 9:30, and get into bed by 10. The more relaxed I am towards bedtime, the less likely it is that I'll be all over the place when it's time to hit the sack.
I love this moment where health and tech have collided to create the quantified life: apps and wearable tech that can track your steps, heart rate, temperature, calories, etc. It makes me feel more in control of my health by making it feel like a game—Oh, I walked this much today? Let me see if I can beat that score today.
There's an app that does that for sleep called Sleep Cycle. It analyzes your sleep patterns and wakes you up during your lightest sleep phase so you feel fully rested. It's been interesting to see what my sleep patterns look like, and makes me want to get to bed early so I can have more restful sleep cycles during the night.
Put my phone on airplane mode
Can't Instagram when your wifi connection is off! Also, the lights emitting from our phones disrupt REM sleep, making it harder to get to bed once you decide it's finally time to go to bed.
Here's to a good night's rest, and better, less stressful days!
Anthonia Akitunde is the founder of mater mea.
This post was sponsored by Aetna, who believes health is about the body and the mind. Stress can affect emotional and physical health, and reducing stress can boost wellbeing. As part of their #Mindful30 challenge, the views and opinions expressed in my posts on the topic of mindfulness are my own, not Aetna’s. To learn more about mindfulness, visit aetnamindfulness.com.