The power of sleep in your self-care can lead to big changes
I was thinking about self-care as I walked home with a rucksack full of groceries on my back the other day.
I’d been admiring a gorgeous big fluffy grey cat called Noodles I often see. He sparked some thoughts around self-care and how we can learn from cats.
There were two things that struck me.
Disclaimer: this is based entirely on personal observations and no scientific research at all.
Firstly, cats are fully present. They live in the moment all the time. They follow their natural instincts. Now I know this is a big generalisation and is based on simply my own observations of being a life-long cat lover.
I can also only speculate that this is the case – that they don’t have conscious awareness of the past and present. Perhaps they do. Clearly they can recognise their owners so they do have memories. What I’m thinking of is their tendency to do as they please, seemingly without a care in the world or a thought about how their behaviour impacts those around them.
Now, on some level, wouldn’t that be a great way to live our own lives? Being more in tune with what our bodies need in the moment, and not wasting energy on all the ‘what ifs…’ and musings around what others think of us.
My second thought as I was being affectionately head-butted by Noodles was about sleep.
It’s well known that cats sleep 12-18 hours a day. Humans however, tend to aim for the 7-9 hour range. Many of us don’t achieve that on a regular basis. Perhaps this is due to stress, overactive brains, too much digital input or eating too close to going to bed, or perhaps the bedroom environment not being conducive to deep sleep (I’m thinking particularly of people with TVs in the bedroom here).
Many professional athletes treat sleep as part of their training and aim for a long time in the horizontal position. LeBron James, a professional basketball player averages 12hrs. Roger Federer gets 11-12hrs. Both make sleep a priority and use it as a secret weapon for improved performance (physically and mentally) and avoiding injury.
I think it’s fair to say that a high proportion of people are lacking good quality and sufficient sleep on a regular basis. And this isn’t healthy. I’ve read and listened to the book Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker twice now and each time I’m further convinced we need to be getting more sleep. Walker’s book is full of scientific facts on this and well worth a read.
The other point to make here is that you can’t just count the time you’re in bed. Unless you’re incredibly lucky (or you pass out) you never fall asleep as soon as you pull up the duvet and your head touches the pillow. Do a calculation now of the last few days: Hours in bed minus time spent not asleep (shuffling, reading, hopefully not but perhaps on your phone, waking for the loo, being disturbed by kids/cats/dogs/other stuff). How many hours do you now think you’ve been asleep??
Returning to the feline stream of thought, cats really know how to nap, and how to sleep. One of my cats can be so deep in sleep at various points of the day you can’t rouse her – on a regular basis I have to double check she’s still breathing!! You can literally pick her up and move her and she barely stirs.
It is my strong belief that we need to do all we can to get more sleep, and to improve the quality of that sleep. Not easy, I know.
Here’s a few things I’m striving to make habits in order to set boundaries around my time in bed and sleep. To be repetitive…I say time in bed as a serious point to note – the average 8hrs sleep is the time we need to be actually asleep, not the time in bed. I factor in around 30-60 minutes of extra time in bed for allowing my body and mind to relax and to actually fall asleep.
Sleep Boundaries to adopt
- be consistent in your sleep routine, even at weekends (your body doesn’t know the difference in days at work and days off)
- exercise early in the day
- avoid stimulants
- turn off all digital devices 60 minutes (or more) before you get into bed (blue light = disrupted sleep)
- embrace the quiet time before going to bed without needing to scroll social media or watch stimulating TV
- give yourself an additional 30-60 minutes in bed, on top of your target sleep time
- ensure your room is dark and cool
Gift yourself this self-care habit and treat sleep like your life depends on it – because it does.
Benefits of good sleep
- higher energy levels
- improved stress management
- less mental distress
- increased ability to cope with life’s challenges
- better moods
- improved mental functioning
- decreased blood pressure – a slower heart rate helps to reduce the risk of heart disease
- reduced risk of type 2 diabetes – insulin regulation is impacted by sleep, or lack of
- immune function improves – we’re better able to fight infections
- improved athletic performance
- greater production of natural appetite suppressants, leading to better weight management
For a fuller explanation of the benefits and tips read https://www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/benefits-of-sleep
I’d love to hear if how your sleep is, and how you might implement some of the positive habits I’ve talked about. Leave a comment below.
Adopting better habits and thought patterns can help us accomplish far more than we feel is possible. Life coaching conversations can help you make those positive changes. You have the space and time to explore what keeps you stuck, unfulfilled and not living aligned to your values. If this sounds like something you’d like to look into take a look at the Services I offer or get in touch to arrange an initial free and informal chat.