Lullaby and Goodnight
Getting a good nights’ sleep is essential to being healthy, losing weight and controlling stress. Just ask any new mom. Seriously, several not so good things happen when we don’t get enough sleep. First, our body feels sluggish and lacking in energy, duh. Unfortunately our first response is to eat for energy. And overeat. Not good. Second, our decision making capacity is diminished and we seem to do what is expedient, not what is good for us. Hand me that cookie, I’m too tired to peel an orange. And third, with our body running on empty little things get to us and we turn to food for relief. Our ability to deal with regular stressors falters and we stuff some chocolate in our mouth to help us cope. Am I wrong? No, I did not think so.
Okay, what do we do about this phenomenon. Well, the good news is that things will change. The bad news is that patience is needed until then. Children do grow up and leave home, we will be able to go to bed at a decent hour and have a nice regular schedule. Until that time, however, we have to have some strategies for helping us get through the right now.
Number one: (which is like everything else, easier said than done) Make your sleeping room just that, a bedroom for sleeping. No television, computers, sewing machines, exercise equipment. No dumping of everything that doesn’t fit anywhere else. Make the room an oasis, a refuge, a sanctuary. Yes, I know, easier said than done. (You should have seen mine a few weeks ago.) But keep at it until it happens. And if you have small children, make them sleep in their own room. Two or more to a room, that way they have company and won’t be scared or lonely all by themselves and will let you sleep. Another benefit is that they will learn to sleep through little noises, hopefully, and develop better sleeping habits of their own.
Try really hard not to have anything in the room that reminds you of something that needs to be done. You want to shut all that out when you step into your refuge. And if you are married you want the room to be conducive to romance. Naturally.
Number Two: Establish a pre-sleep routine that induces relaxation. I walk through the house making sure doors are locked, curtains closed, paths cleared; then I go to the bathroom for my nightly routine of washing my face, brushing my teeth and using the toilet; then prayers, then reading for bit, then lights out and I can usually go to sleep. When the routine is interrupted or I’m waiting up for a teen who is out late, I have more trouble, until they come in and then I fall asleep almost instantly. My daughter listens to music to fall asleep. On the other hand, some of the males in the family have trained themselves to fall asleep when and wherever they are. But I have a mother’s heart (and ears) and can’t go to sleep until I know that all is safe and secure in my little world. And then the least little out of the ordinary noise will wake me up. Big sigh.
Number Three: At least for me, it must be dark (a natural dark) for me to fall asleep. (Those males I mentioned do not have this need, but I do.) Some people are not as sensitive to light as I am, but if you are like me watch out for sleep preventing lights such as clocks, electronics, outside lights, etc. I cover my clock as it is way too bright even on the dim setting. You are not supposed to have any electronics in the room with you, but if you do, and if their blinking lights (Apple computers) or other small lights are keeping you from getting a good night’s sleep put them in another room, or a drawer, or cover them with a towel.
Now, what did I mean by a “natural dark”? Well, the moon shining through my white curtains does not bother me, but my clock does. Even the bright security light on the garage does not bother me like the glow or blink of all the electronics. The blinking lights of the smoke alarms in hotel rooms are especially annoying to me. I have to cover my face from those. Wear a sleep mask if you need to and can (those bother my breathing), but do what you can to eliminate distracting lights that shine through the thin skin of your eyelids. It can be oh so helpful to getting restful sleep.
But what if I don’t get enough sleep and I’m tired during the day. Recognize the symptoms and use strategies to combat the tendency to eat to compensate. Drink more water (there’s my ubiquitous cure again), go for a short walk in the fresh air, exercise a bit, plan your eating more carefully to add lots of water rich foods like vegetables, and natural sugars from fruits (rather than from candy or other treats). Water will help the brain function more efficiently, fruit will give you good energy without negative side-effects or addiction.
Children of all ages benefit from a consistent bedtime routine. They also benefit from having a calm life in general. (Watch out, a little bit of pontification is coming.) Too many organized activities, with too much driving around picking up and dropping off of siblings, hurried dinners and frazzled parents is hard on children. Examine your life, decide what is most important in the eternal perspective and drop the unnecessary. Slow down, let children be children without overwhelming activities almost every night of the week. Have sit down dinners at home, do the dishes together, have baths, then read a chapter book, one chapter a night, to elementary school age children, story books to little ones, and then prayers and sleep for them. Children need more mommy time and more sleep than we give them credit for. I even read to our middle school age children, just to spend time with them and help them relax for bed. They count those times as happy memories, and that is what we want to give our children isn’t it.
Have you ever noticed how many diet books are written by single people? Someone who either has never married or is now divorced with no children living at home? Family life is complex, complicated and mothers tend to put the needs of others first. The only book I know of, let me know if you know of any others, is the Set for Life book, written by a mother/daughter team. The mother had six children and eighteen grandchildren at publication time; the daughter, the oldest of the six, had six children of her own. But that is the only book of the ones on my shelves! And these two women are those type A, driven, workaholic women who make me look like a slug on tranquilizers. Someone like me would never write a book about her success with weight loss. Well, not yet anyway. I am working on it.
Back to the subject at hand. Sleep deprivations effects our weight gain. Just Google it and you will find mountains of information about it. Suffice it to say here that it is real and dangerous, but it can be dealt with. In the meantime, children will eventually grow up and leave home (at which time you will be getting up at least once each night to go to the bathroom anyway) and you will be able to better control your bedtime routine. Hopefully.