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Counting Sheep

1462307605 blank rightYou’d think that those of us in the business of ‘numbers’ would have NO problem falling asleep, right? Hey, we can count sheep like the best of them!

Personal tax season is over; we can get back to a ‘normal’ life; finally! But, does that mean we are going to be back to catching those ZZZ’s? Maybe; maybe not.

Sleep sounds like such an easy thing to do but, for many of us, not so much. It can be as elusive as trying to catch fog!

Oh, there are sleep aids (OTC and prescription), natural products, things we should and shouldn’t eat or do before we go to bed; the list goes on and on.

But, we also know that when 3 A.M. hits (that magic time) the old brain fires up and try as we might, we cannot find the off switch. (I keep a pad of paper beside the bed for the purpose of getting it out of my head and onto paper; only to wake up the next day to find a note looking more like a letter from my Doctor than an incredible idea!)

All jokes and remedies aside, the bottom line is that sleep is a necessity and lack thereof does affect our ability to function.

We feel like shadows of our former selves; going through the motions by rote; often wondering how we even made it to the office (and the coffee maker).

Approximately 40% of us are ‘tired’; having NOT gotten that recommended 7 – 9 hours of shut eye.

So, what’s so important about sleep, anyway? Is it highly overrated? No, it’s not overrated at all. We need it to reset our immune systems and keep our metabolism in balance. Sleep can help keep mental health issues in check. In a nutshell, it helps to keep us healthy, along with all those other amazing things we do like exercise, down time and healthy food choices.

Okay, we get it, sleep is important. Knowing it is important, though, does not equate to an automatic 8 hours of glorious slumber.

I have likely tried almost every trick in the book. I have found a few things that work for me. (Remember, these may not work every time; there’s always going to be that night that, for whatever reason, sleep is like trying to catch a greased pig):

  • Soak it Up: A nice, warm, relaxing bath about 45 minutes before bed, toss in some Epsom salts for good measure, can help to melt away the stresses of the day.
  • Keep it Chill: I like my room at about 15C/60F, window open year round. Find what temp works for you. It’s better to have a chilly room and lots of blankets.
  • Ditch the Clock: I don’t have a clock/alarm clock in the bedroom. I found that when I did, I was checking it every 5 minutes!
  • A Wee Sip: If you find you are getting up in the night for a sip of water, set a glass beside the bed; save the trip!
  • 7-9: What is the right amount? We’re all different. Find your sweet spot. Get to bed a bit earlier each night until you wake up fresh as a daisy!
  • Turn it Off: This means everything: TV, cell phone, tablet. That blue light could disrupt your melatonin production.
  • Now, Shut Down: Try to avoid social media, texting, emails, etc. It may appear that you are getting caught up on ‘stuff’ and that’s a good thing, but, you are not, really. Your mind is actively engaging in these processes when it should be winding down. Give the old gray matter a rest. You wouldn’t expect your car to run 24/7, right?
  • Stretching the Limit: Ahhh, a few good, long, gentle stretches, followed by a big exhalation! Let it all out! It was a long day; now’s the time to let it go.
  • Breathe: After that stretch, breathe. Just. Breathe. Eyes closed. Breathe deep into your belly. Clear your head of everything (yes, everything, the to-do list, anger, anxiety, anticipation, you name it, ditch it). Hold that breath; then, slowly, as slow as you can, let it go. Do this a few times. Before you know it, you will be off to dream land!
  • Wakey, Wakey: So, you managed to get to sleep; good for you! Now you have to wake up. Most of us don’t have a rooster handy to help with this but, I did find an amazing substitute; a wakeup light. I won’t get into brand names here but you can get these online or at your local pharmacy. I love this; especially for that time after the fall time change when we are catapulted into darkness. These are an amazing aid for those suffering from SADS. It’s quite simple. The light comes on slowly; simulating sunrise complete with chirping birds (various settings for this).
  • Rise and Shine: Stretch it out before getting out of bed. As you did to go to sleep, a few good stretches and exhalations gets the blood pumping, waking up the brain and body.

These are just a few tips; give them a try. Keep an open mind; change takes time. But, before you know it, you will be sleeping like a baby (a good baby). And, speaking of babies, nothing is wrong with a 30 minute nap in the day if you are really whipped. Of course, do this only if you have a safe, quiet spot to do so. More than 30 minutes may make it tougher to wake up and, of course, if you truly suffer from insomnia, likely not a good idea to nap in the day.

(DISCLAIMER: These tips are not intended to replace medical advice. Sleep, or lack thereof, is no joke.)