Having problems shutting down for a good night sleep? Research shows that getting good sleep will help you decrease your risk for certain types of cancer plus it will make you a nicer human to boot.
“You don’t get extraordinary days when you live everyday ordinary” is a great motivational statement that Phillip Deas had as part of his sermon this week on Excellence. However, I will turn this statement on its head a bit and say that you won’t have extraordinary days if you don’t value sleep as a part of your ordinary daily routine. If you read my article last week, you know sleep is vital for your health. Sleep strengthens your immune system, has critical roles in brain functions for memory, mood regulation, and helps to decrease the risk for dementia. Sleep is also crucial for appetite regulation, reducing your risk for obesity, diabetes, and cancer.
Now, let’s pretend that we live in a magical fairyland where research and factual scientific data change day-to-day practices. I picture this world like something you might see on Star Trek, where all the people seem healthy and full of purpose as they walk across the city with skin the colors of the rainbow and funky ears. Back to reality, where life is messy, where if your skin looks purple, it was probably because there was some accident involving small humans, curiosity, and a general disregard for consequences. For normal humans, the end of the day is full of last-minute strings to be tied up whether we feel like it or not. So is it any wonder that we can’t get to sleep at a reasonable hour, and even when we lay down, our minds run through all the things we didn’t complete? Not so much. One of my favorite authors, Micheal Hyatt, calls this ‘life in the whirlwind,’ which I think is apt. It is from Micheal Hyatt that I learned the power of the shutdown ritual, which helped me improve my sleep hygiene.
“What is sleep hygiene?” might be the question you are now asking. Sleep hygiene is all about good practices you can follow to create the ideal conditions for a quality night’s rest. For me, this is all about setting up a routine or ritual that allows me to ignore specific tasks because I know that I will get to them on a different day. That knowledge also allows my mind to view it differently as I will get to it vs. I have to remember to get to it. You already have a ritual at night, but they are not intentional or optimized. What should be included in your evening shutdown ritual? Generally, all the tasks that need to be done at night with some time for specific tasks like taking the garbage out on Monday. Here is an example of a nightly shut down:
Cook dinner 5:15-5:45
Dinner Clean up/Pack lunches for next day 6:15-6:40
Read with kids 6:55-7:15
Pick out clothes for next day/ pack workout clothes 7:15-7:20
Tell kids goodnight & set up audiobook 7:20-7:30
Prep dinner for tomorrow & clean up rest of kitchen 7:30-8:00
Go through kids folders from school 8:00-8:10
Put away ten items of laundry & spray pillow with lavender linen spray 8:10-8:20
____ specific day task 8:20-8:40
Wash face/brush teeth etc. 8:40-9:00
Sleep meditation 9:00-9:10
The goal is not that your ritual looks exactly like this but that you own the process of shutting down nightly. Notice that I didn’t put in any TV or social media gazing on the schedule. I did this mainly as the blue light from both activities will keep your brain alert and keep you from falling asleep. Keeping screen use to a minimum, at least an hour before bed, is essential for sound sleep. Besides the blue light disrupting your brain’s ability to shut down, videos, work emails, and social feeds all conspire to keep your mind active — and keep you awake way later than you should be. Schedule your TV or social media time so that you get out of the habit of just scrolling through Facebook whenever you have two free minutes. Use the digital wellness app that comes pre-installed on your phone or install one for yourself.
Your rituals will hold you when your willpower gives way. I am human like everyone, and I know in my bones that I need a ritual to do what I need to for my body. I know everything I should do, just like most healthcare providers but doing them is no easier than it is for anyone else. I am not 100% successful every day, but I no longer live day to day dealing with what life has thrown at me. I have tamed my whirlwind to the best of my abilities, and that gives me the mental capacity to deal with the unexpected better than I did in the past. I want extraordinary days that come from doing something common in an uncommon way.
Action steps: Create a shutdown ritual on a piece of paper and put it on your fridge and your mirror. Leave space for editing because you will need to add or take out things. Get all the people in your house on board. When kids have a bedtime routine, they can better focus in school and control their emotions just like adults.
Looking Ahead: Mindfulness and meditation have tons of research supporting them, but what exactly are they? We will delve into mindfulness and meditation during the next few weeks to see if they are the missing ingredient on your lifestyle change journey.