You may be wondering why we are talking about sleep when you already know that you are either getting a lot of sleep but waking up feeling unrefreshed, or you are experiencing difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep (insomnia).
The truth of the matter is that you need to reset your sleep so that you can get a full night of restful sleep. One of the ways to do this is to reevaluate your sleep habits. For example, one of the things that often leads to burnout in the first place is burning the candle at both ends, and attempting to live off less sleep than what your body really needs. If you have a Type-A, perfectionist personality, you are more likely to be suffering from this. You are taking on too many projects, because no one can do things as well as you can. You will need to change this thought process.
Americans are sleeping less, on average, compared to two decades ago. The advances of technology (computers, social media, cellular phones) have all made it difficult to turn outside distractions off so that you can get adequate relaxation and rest in your home and in your outside activities. You are always "on," or "plugged in."
Part of getting better means that you are going to need to prioritize sleep as a means of healing. Sleep is going to be only one part of the solution to regaining your energy, but it is a very important component. At the start, you may feel like you are still sleeping a lot and not feeling better, but with time as you implement all the strategies that get discussed in this book, you should notice a big improvement in how you are feeling. That is why you will also want to ensure that in addition to sleep, that you also follow all the other suggestions that you will read about in upcoming chapters.
So what are some recommendations for your sleep?
Get at least eight to nine hours of sleep per night. Aim to go to bed by 10 p.m. if you will be getting up at 6 a.m. or 7 a.m.
Whenever possible, sleep in. Again, aim to get nine or ten hours of sleep. This may mean turning off your alarm clock so that you are not disrupted before you are ready to wake up. Also be sure to dim your alarm clock, as the brightness of an alarm clock can interfere with sleep. In saying this, though, you do not want to sleep in until noon as it is important that you eat breakfast to help improve your total energy for the day. More about that will be discussed in the diet chapter of this book.
Have a warm bath (not hot as that will just make it harder to sleep, plus it contributes to inhalation of chlorine fumes) in Epsom salts. Epsom salts are high in magnesium and sulfate, and these two minerals are easily absorbed through your skin. They offer a number of health benefits including prevention of migraines, reducing stress, and promoting relaxation. It is best to use them no more than three times per week.
Stick to a regular bedtime routine, even on weekends. Yes, this may mean you cannot go out too late with your friends, but remember that your goal is to feel better. In fact, you may not have the energy to visit with family and friends, but socialization is another tool that is effective in getting better so you do need to try to spend some time with them. This will be discussed more later on in the book.
Nap when you have to. Do not feel guilty that you are napping. Eventually, as you implement the other techniques to be discussed in the rest of the book, your need for naps will decrease. For now, it is needed to heal your body.
Refuse to let your anger or grudges about particular people in your life keep you from getting a good sleep. Learn to practice forgiveness, because if you do not forgive, the only one you are hurting is yourself. When you get good at this, you will find it very freeing and healing for both your mind and body.
Spend your early evening relaxing and preparing for sleep. This can be difficult when you have younger children, especially if they are involved in extra-curricular activities. While you are recovering and fighting to get your energy back, you may need to put some of these activities on hold or you may need to rely on friends, family, or your spouse. After all, you cannot be a good parent, friend, or anything else until you put yourself first and make sure you get better.
You can listen to relaxing music, read a book, do yoga, meditation, or deep breathing. Basically, do anything that you enjoy and relaxes you. Do NOT go on your computer or cell phone as you need time to get away from technology. Unfortunately, these devices are too often becoming a distraction not only in our work lives, but they are also creeping into our personal home lives. FoMO (Fear of Missing Out) is why social media thrives, but it also causes extra stress and anxiety in your life that you do not need. In fact, you may want to deactivate your personal accounts altogether, if you do not need them. Another idea is to limit your friends and family that you interact with on social media only to positive people who you would invite to your home for dinner. In other words, exclude any negativity and distractions that waste your time and energy.
Like your computer and cell phone, avoid watching television for some time before going to bed. In some people, the bright light by these devices reduces the production of melatonin. Melatonin is produced in a gland in your brain, and there is increased production of it as light outside (and in your home) decreases. Its production is important in preparing your body for sleep. Melatonin levels decrease in the morning hours as your body prepares to wake up.