The sad fact, however, is that prolonged "sleep debt" does far more than make you desperate for a caffeine I.V. According to the National Sleep Foundation, it "can also lead to serious health consequences and jeopardize your safety and the safety of individuals around you. For example, short sleep duration is linked with: increased risk of motor vehicle accidents, increase in body mass index – a greater likelihood of obesity due to an increased appetite caused by sleep deprivation, increased risk of diabetes and heart problems, increased risk for psychiatric conditions including depression and substance abuse, and decreased ability to pay attention, react to signals or remember new information." That's some pretty serious consequences.
So lately I've been thinking about how to address the sleep deprivation at our home, and I've come up with five tactics to help us (well, mostly me). I'm thinking they may be helpful for others too:
- Establish a real and earlier bedtime - That may not sound earth-shattering or brilliant, but if you're anything like me, bedtime is usually this phantom "when the work gets done" or when I'm so exhausted I can't move anymore time. Instead, set up a reasonable bedtime and then keep it - set a timer if you have to. The key is reasonable - as in allowing you to get a little closer to the suggested hours of sleep needed for adults, but still leaving room for your daily routines.
- Stop the "just one more thing" pattern - Do you suffer from "just one more thing-itis?" Common symptoms include making statements like, "I'm heading to bed as soon as I fold one more load of laundry," or "I'm calling it quits as soon as I finish this one last thing." Invariably, I always find "one more thing" to do after I've finished the first thing and it goes on and on. Instead, make a list of the non-negotiables that must be done before the end of the day. If you have time to get beyond the non-negotiables before your reasonable bedtime, great, if not, save it for the weekend, or better yet, delegate it.
- Seriously evaluate your non-negotiables and learn to delegate - When you write down your non-negotiable tasks for each day, be honest. What really, really, really has to be done? While all of us would like a spotless home at the end of the each day, is it really more important than getting your needed sleep? (Remember the consequences of sleep deprivation - somehow a dusted bookshelf doesn't hold as much weight in comparison). Once you've come up with your list of "Must be dones," decide what you could delegate to your partner, an older child, the nanny, etc.
- Don't jump headlong into "the do more at night for a better morning" routine - Ever read those wonderful articles that tell you how to have a smoother morning? If you have, you'll soon see many of the tips involve planning ahead (which isn't a bad thing) and doing more the night before. Sometimes there are so many things to do the night before, that you could end up staying up far later than you should preparing for a better morning. While many of the ideas are great, be sure to consider any extra nighttime tasks when you develop your daily non-negotiables. I think if you get more rest, you'll begin to have more energy and perhaps can add more to your list, but at the beginning, just stick with those non-negotiable tasks.
- 30 minutes to bedtime is not screen time - You only have a few minutes until that established bedtime of yours, and you haven't had much "fun" or adult time all day. Watching TV or browsing online (Facebook, twitter and more) seems perfect. Fair warning though, if it's too close to bedtime, you may get sucked into the "screen time vortex" only to pull yourself out of it hours later. And there goes the hope of a reasonable, established bedtime. Set your own limit for when screen time is just plain too close to bedtime to be managed well.