Respect Your Fatigue

Posted on November 28, 2007. Filed under: Stop the Drama |

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Photo by TeeRish

The biggest challenge to my balancing act is getting enough sleep. Working all day, trying to get up early to exercise, not being short tempered with my husband and kids, all require that I be well rested.Sometimes this is caused by insomnia, which affects 30%-45% of adults. More frequently, it is caused by my lack of making sleep a priority. After getting everyone in bed and getting the house to myself, it is very tempting to stay up late reading, watching TV, surfing the web or just enjoying the silence. However, when I do not make sleep a priority, these other activities take over, and I spend the next day paying for it.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, not getting enough sleep puts me at risk for more than having a bad day. They report that poor sleep is associated with:

· Increased risk of motor vehicle accidents (I have been known to “rest my eyes” while waiting for a red light);

· Increased weight (Now I have another cause to blame);

· Increased risk of diabetes and heart disease (as if my increased weight and family history were not enough);

· Increased risk of psychiatric conditions such as depression and substance abuse (again, my weight and family history notwithstanding);

· Decreased ability to pay attention or remember new information (That may be advancing age as much as sleep deprivation).

Although I feel it is very difficult to get enough sleep, apparently single working women have it worse. According to the Sleep America Poll, working single women generally get less than 6 hours of sleep per night, and more than half wake up not feeling refreshed. Surprisingly, women who work part-time and are mothers of school aged children report getting the best sleep with half getting eight hours of sleep per night, and 60% taking a nap at least once per week. I belong to the demographic group they call “Briefcases and Backpacks”, women who work full time and have school aged children. We spend less than six hours in bed per night, 72% report having insomnia, 60% give up sleep and exercise, and we have the highest rate of drowsy driving at 35%.

So what’s a Briefcase-Backpacker to do? Respect your fatigue. About two years ago, I committed myself to getting enough sleep and promised myself I would get into bed by 10 PM every night. I am not 100% successful at making that happen, but when I can do it consistently, it makes a huge difference in how I feel and my ability to get through the day. It also makes it easier for me to recover from those nights when I don’t get enough sleep. Getting into bed at 10PM means that I can start my day at 6AM with eight hours of sleep. However, I have also learned that I sometimes need more than eight hours of sleep, and have been known to get into bed as early as 8PM or 9PM when my body calls for it. Here is my list of how to make getting a good night’s sleep a reality:

· Get the kids in bed 1-2 hours before you go to bed. This gives you some time to your self. My teenagers like to stay up late, so I tell them they can stay up but they have to stay in their rooms and leave me alone, giving me some time to myself.

· Do not wait up for your husband. My husband has night owl tendencies, and as much as I love snuggling with him to go to sleep, I have learned to go to sleep on my own. When he wants to, he can come to bed early and knows where to find me.

· Make an appointment with yourself to get into bed. If I have something to do after work, I plan it so I can be in bed by 10PM. If there is something good on TV that goes past 10PM, I won’t watch it. If I feel like watching a DVD in the evening, I make sure I start it early enough to be in bed on time.

· Go to bed even earlier. Getting to sleep by 10PM often means getting into bed at 9PM or 9:30PM, so I can settle down, read and be asleep by 10PM.

· Exercise. When I started running, I found I needed more sleep and have no problems getting to sleep.

· Turn off the TV. On the nights when I have stayed up late it is often because of TV, and it is always because of bad TV—reality shows are my vice, and are so not worth losing sleep over—literally!

· Turn off the TV II. When I do watch TV before going to bed, it cannot be anything that gets my heart pumping. I had to put a moratorium on my watching “24” because it causes too much of an adrenaline rush for me.

· Make your bed “delicious”. I found that getting a set of 300 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets was worth the investment and made slipping into bed an absolute delight. Major props also go to my electric blanket in the winter. I turn it on when I put my kids to sleep, and by the time I get into bed it’s nice and toasty. Then I can turn it off so I don’t get too hot during the night.

Other tips from the National Sleep Foundation include:

· Establish a consistent sleep and wake schedules, even on weekends

· Create a regular, relaxing bedtime routine such as soaking in a hot bath or listening to soothing music – begin an hour or more before the time you expect to fall asleep

· Create a sleep-conducive environment that is dark, quiet, comfortable and cool

· Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows

· Use your bedroom only for sleep and sex

· Finish eating at least 2-3 hours before your regular bedtime

· Exercise regularly during the day or at least a few hours before bedtime

· Avoid caffeine and alcohol products close to bedtime and give up smoking

Hmmm. No mention of Egyptian cotton sheets? No advice on how to keep your toddler from crawling into bed with you? And they call themselves experts.

Good Night!

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  • About

    Musings on how a disorganized woman with a full time job, three kids and a real need to relax is trying to make life simple.

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