Labor Day’s late arrival was a mixed blessing. It extended the lazy days of summer with extreme generosity—but now we feel pressured to make up for lost time. As we rush into fall routines, I’d like to suggest you focus on a critical task: Sleep.
That might seem counterintuitive when you feel like you never have enough hours in the day. But sleep deprivation is epidemic , and it steals your energy and productivity. Studies also show it can lead to weight gain, memory problems, irritability, and even illness.
A sleep study released just last week found that people who sleep six hours a night or less are four times more likely to catch a cold, compared to those who spend more than seven hours in slumber land.
Here's how to get the sleep you need:
Change your mindset. Consider whether you think of sleep as the end of one day, or the beginning of the next? Folks who think of sleep as the end of the day often have trouble letting go at night – like little kids who refuse to leave a party for fear of missing out on some fun. Try flipping your thinking—when you view sleep as the beginning of the next day, you can’t wait to get into bed and recharge your batteries.
Give yourself time. If you have kids, put them to bed at least 90 minutes before your own bedtime so you can chill out.
Unplug. Set an alarm to go off at least 60 minutes before bed, which indicates it’s time to shut down all devices….no more email, social media, online shopping, or cat videos. While we often turn to them to unwind, research shows they stir us up. Cover all electronics that emit light in your bedroom (alarm clocks, laptops, cable boxes, etc.) Those hazy green lights can make it hard to relax.
Establish a soothing routine. Try deep stretches, soft music, a cup of herbal tea or an almond-cherry smoothie. Lay out your clothes for the next day, walk around the house locking the doors, straighten the sofa pillows and bookshelves if that relaxes you. Try spraying your pillow with lavendar. Read a great book in bed (but not on a tablet that tempts you to surf!), or meditate.
Give it a month. Building a new routine takes time and practice. For the rest of September, keep a daily log of whether you succeeded in your sleep goals, reflecting on what worked, what didn’t, and why. Then make adjustments until your sleep routine is as automatic as brushing your teeth. The payoff: Fewer colds, sharper focus, and the energy to bring the best of yourself to your work, friends, family, and goals.
Let me know how these techniques worked for you. To sleep, perchance to dream!