Self-care: Sleep matters too!


How can we take care of others if we don’t—or won’t—take care of ourselves?

Flight attendants instruct us that, in the event of crisis, we must put our own oxygen masks on before trying to help anyone else. It seems counterintuitive, but it’s so true! Self-care is all about accepting ourselves and being grateful for what we have—rather than always wanting things faster, better, more.

One simple but important component of taking care of ourselves is taking care of our sleep.

Sleep is a way for the brain and body to reboot and become revitalized for the next day, as well as store information and memories. Consequentially, the lack of sleep limits your ability to learn, listen, concentrate and solve problems.

Researchers also have found that sleep is like the body’s neurological housecleaner. Here’s how that process works: when we’re awake, the brain cells stay squashed up against each other, allowing the brain to focus on cognitive functions. But when our bodies go to sleep, those little tiny gaps between brain cells open up, allowing fluid to wash the brain and clear away toxins. Sleep really is like the body’s nighttime housekeeper.

So when you get good sleep, you’re better able to take care of yourself during the day.

And if you are lacking sleep you will also be less able to help yourself, or to help your friends and peers solve their problems.


So, how can you combat this lack of sleep and feel better?

  • Prioritize. Put “getting good sleep” near the top of your list.
  • Take a nap. Try to limit naps to 30 minutes once a day. If naps are taken too close to bedtime or are too long, they can interfere with your regular sleep.
  • Control your atmosphere. Keep your bedroom quiet, dark, and cool.
  • No pills or supplements can replace natural sleep. Stay away from caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol close to bedtime.
  • Schedule sleep. Having a consistent sleep- and wake-time each day will allow your body to get into a routine, hopefully close to your natural patterns.
  • Eat well and exercise at the right times. Don’t eat, drink, or exercise within a few hours of your bedtime. Avoid looking at screens—especially backlit computer and phone screens—within two hours of bedtime, as they activate centers in your brain which take around an hour to dull-down and allow you to go to sleep.

Source: National Sleep Foundation

How would you describe the quality of your sleep? What kinds of practices have helped you sleep better? Share your experiences with us and other readers.

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