Since beginning The Hourglass Project a few of years ago, I’ve really been trying to reflect on how to achieve balance in my life. Despite the ups and downs and unexpected turns – I’ve really been able to learn a lot about myself and what I need to help me stay centered in my life. My experiences have only made me more confident that the fundamentals of The Hourglass Project – sleep, activity, and nutrition while paired with a focus on mind, body, and soul are truly the keys to finding happiness.
Each time I find myself off kilter in regards to my personal mental or physical well-being, I can honestly say that it is typically connected with my neglecting one of these areas. The most common culprit for throwing off my balance is lack of sleep.
Sleep seems to be the most pivotal component to finding balance.
I do realize that all together so many behaviors that are better for our health are easier said than done. But instead of focusing on trying to change all unhealthy elements at once I’d encourage your entire focus to be on taking one small step at a time towards better sleep, because without good sleep, it is extremely difficult to achieve sustainable, healthy changes in our lives.
Here are some tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way in regards to help improve your sleep.
First, schedule is important! Anyone with kids can tell you how true this is. From the point we are born our body craves structure. Having a relative schedule that we can stick to in regards to sleep is important. Now sometimes this is impossible, so just do your best, but if you have the ability to construct a bedtime and rise time for yourself I highly encourage you to do so. Having a set time you go to bed helps tremendously in allowing your body to get on a schedule. It’s kind of like muscle memory. Go to bed at 10 o’clock every night and when that time rolls around your body will naturally tell you it is tired and ready for bed.
Second, cut out caffeine – as much as possible. I know that it may be asking a lot to ask you all to give up caffeine all together. I mean, I drink coffee so who would I be to tell you to stop, but it is important to be aware of how it affects your body and your sleep cycle. Often times we do not think it affects us because we have consumed it for so long, but we cannot see the actual effect until there is a substantial absence of the stimulant. When I am working to get my sleep back on track I will abstain from all caffeine until I am successful. So, try cutting back on caffeine or cutting it out all together. At the very least find a time in the morning to be your cut off point. I make sure not to have caffeine after noon because I find that on days I do, I have difficulty shutting my brain down at night.
Caffeine is a chemical and has a half life, it takes time to get out of our system and even though it seems to wear off throughout the day it does have a lingering effect which can affect us even 12 hours later. So my advice, follow my lead and cut out all caffeine intake after 12 pm. Or even better 10 am!
Third, get into a routine. So beyond just setting a schedule, create a routine for yourself. This again is similar to the muscle memory. If you follow the same routine every night of getting in your pajamas at a certain time, drinking a soothing glass of tea, and cuddling up with a good book (not electronics!) your body will start noticing these cues and work to shut down your body. You will notice over time that your body will be able to get into relaxation mode faster and just simply getting into your pajamas may trigger a sleepy response.
And lastly cut out other stimulants beyond coffee. This means get away from your computer, your television, and your smartphone. The bright lights, noises, and data that come from each of these products are stimulating to your brain and do not allow you to unwind. Additionally, the stress from checking last minute emails can be detrimental to your sleep cycle. What I suggest is to sleep with a notepad next to your bed and write down any “urgent” thoughts that may come up as you try to get to sleep so that you can deal with them first thing in the morning. Most of the time these urgencies are not truly urgent and can wait til morning, we just fear that we will forget. In the morning take your list and read through them and attend to any truly pressing matters.
If you can handle it, I suggest sleeping with your phone in another room completely, or at least on the other side of the room so you are not tempted. If you use your phone as an alarm clock – invest a whopping $10 in an old school digital plugin and throw that excuse in the trash. Your health and well being is well worth the small investment.
Follow these basic tips and you should see a significant difference in your sleep quality within a few weeks. But remember, change doesn’t happen overnight, so you have to trust in the process and give it time. I’d love to hear if you have tips or tricks of your own to share – or if you’ve tried these techniques, how they’ve worked for you! Comment below!