Taking time to slow down is typically one of the built-in benefits of holidays, providing you don’t work in a profession that requires holiday coverage.
I’m not always very good at slowing down. And when I don’t slow down and rest, sleep takes over whether I’m ready or not.
There is evidence of me fast asleep on more than one Christmas Eve night, fully dressed in festive attire and snoozing on the couch like the world doesn’t exist (parties are no match for my ability to sleep through anything). I’ve fallen asleep sitting up in chairs and curled up on the floor, sitting with my legs crossed and folded over on myself with notes and books in a ring around me. Even when in bed (or just on the bed), I’ve fallen asleep with a notebook on my lap and a pen in my hand (resulting in decorated comforters, especially when I was in the habit of using liquid-ink pens), and now I sometimes fall asleep with my laptop still open and my hands on the keyboard.
Sleep is critical and I know this…and yet I still try to do one more thing some evenings. Sometimes I do that additional thing. Sometimes my body shuts down, as if to say, “Nope — you’re done. Nice try. Tomorrow’s another day.”
Sleeping in and waking up without an alarm is wonderful, and this is part of what makes the holidays special.
I read an article a few months ago about how many of us are sleep-deprived, and that if we understood how sleep restores our bodies along with the full extent of the damage we are doing by not getting enough quality sleep, we might be less cavalier about our sleep habits.
Though most of us acknowledge the truth of needing to sleep well every night, some of us still pack so much into our days that we don’t always get a good night’s sleep. Or we go to bed only to have trouble sleeping once we’re tucked in…
Among other things, sleep quality and duration can be affected by your stress level, when and what you eat, whether you’re watching TV or staring at a computer screen late into the evening, your sleep routine, and your sleep environment. Problems with sleep range from minor to major, and they can be occasional to persistent.
If you’ve ever had trouble sleeping, you know it’s not fun (there is a reason why sleep deprivation is used as a torture technique — clearly I’ve watched too many spy movies), and when we are running low on sleep or not getting quality sleep, we are not functioning at our best — physically or mentally.
So how can you improve your sleep?
Exercise is one of those levers you can adjust to improve your sleep, and, just as exercising regularly can help you to sleep better at night, sleeping better can improve your exercise experience.
Getting enough good sleep on a regular basis is a result of many smaller habits that culminate in a successful night of rest, night after night.
Adjusting your habits to optimize exercise while ignoring the impact that sleeping well can have on your health is to miss a key part of the equation.
As you look to find a fitness routine that works for you, consider how you can improve your sleep habits, too.
Feeling well-rested shouldn’t be a state as infrequent as long holiday weekends. By intentionally working to improve the quality of your sleep, you’ll be better able to reach your fitness goals while improving your overall health.