Get More Zzzzzzzs

by Karen Kerk February 01, 2016

Get More Zzzzzzzs

I <3 Sleep! Seriously! Who doesn’t?? Sleep is SO SO SO good for us, but most of us don’t get nearly enough – except maybe my friend Julie who sometimes brags on her Facebook page that she “just slept 13 hours straight!”. (I’ll protect the rest of her identity so she doesn’t get flooded with hate mail.)

But the rest of us have some work to do in the sleep department. It’s been noted that most of us in North America are sleep deprived. Some go as far to say that we are a “nation of zombies” because we are so sleep deprived. We tend to treat sleep as a luxury when really, we should be prioritizing it as a necessity in order to function effectively.

Sleep Benefits: Sleep helps our bodies in SO many ways: it helps recharge our bodies and minds, it helps collate and reconcile things we learn during the day, it regulates our organs and internal processes, it allows our bodies to heal and regenerate, and the list goes on.  Sleep is important because it has an insulating effect on our bodies and our overall physical, mental and emotional health.

How Much: The vast majority of us can get by on about 6 hours of sleep. But that’s just getting by. We should be aiming for between 7 and 9 hours each night. But sleep needs are very individualized and seasonal. It’s no surprise that our bodies crave sleep more during the darker, winter months. In an ideal world, we should go to bed when we are tired and get up when we wake up naturally (insert hysterical laughter here). Since that isn’t feasible for most of us, we should aim for what “feels” right. For me, I function best on 8-9 hours of sleep, and sometimes more in the winter.

Getting Ready for Sleep: Pick the sleeping and waking times that suit your schedule and work around them.Then try to follow these tips:

-Wrap up all of your house/work/family responsibilities about an hour before you plan to get to bed.

-Turn off all electronics at least half an hour before bed. This includes TV’s, computers, phones, etc. (and keep those electronics out of your bedroom)

-Make your bedroom a sleep haven! Invest in a comfy bed, awesome sheets, blankets, pillows, etc. Your bed should feel like a cozy nest.

-Keep your room dark. No lights, no glowing blue computer screens, no phones (ahem, P bare), no streetlights creeping in…

-Make sure you don’t go to bed starving, nor stuffed.

-If you want, add in some simple relaxing pre-bed routines like stretching, reading, meditating, etc. but keep it short and simple.

-then SLEEP!

Making Up Sleep Deficits: The good news is, we can help “catch up” on missed sleep by napping and sleeping in at a later date. But it only helps, it doesn’t replace the benefits of the sleep we’ve lost. So if you work shifts, or have a late night out, you can get back on track without too much damage. If you’re looking to nap, you should try to nap in the afternoon for no more than one hour. Longer than that and you screw up your night time sleeping schedule. And if you can sleep in, go for it! Just make sure you’re active enough the next day to get back on track.

Special Notes for Parents of Babies & Children: If you have young children, you are likely laughing at how ridiculous this all sounds. I’ve been there. I co-slept and nursed on demand with both boys for a long time. I was up several times each night. I think it was several years before I had a solid four hour chunk of sleep. But I managed! You will survive this time and it will get better. If you have youngins, I suggest trying to nap whenever you can when the baby/child naps, and/or go to bed when he/she goes to bed. Even if it’s at 7pm. Leave all the other household responsibilities. They can wait.

Special Notes for Parents re: Sleep Needs of Babies & Children: As a parent, it’s your job to ensure that your baby/child is getting the sleep he/she needs. The best parenting tip I read was to put my baby to bed around supper time. Worked like a charm. He still woke every 2-3 hours, but overall it helped all of us manage better. Sleep begets sleep! And if your “baby” is a teenager, they are still growing and need much more sleep than they get. Help them unplug and crawl in so they can function effectively. My 9 & 11 year olds still need 10+ hours daily for optimum functioning.

Gift yourself better health this year by committing to getting more sleep. You deserve it! Sweet dreams…




Karen Kerk
Karen Kerk

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