Good morning, sleepyhead! In keeping with this week’s dark theme, today in Shed U, we’re talking about what’s keeping you up at night!
I first became serious about sleep my junior year of high school. I made it my New Year’s resolution (see—goals!) to get enough sleep. Once I did, I felt a million times better and got the best grades of my high school career. There are times when I’ve let my sleeping habits go, and the results have been bad, bad, bad. Getting enough sleep will make you healthier in so many aspects of your life!
- It will keep you (and everyone else) safer. A tired driver is as bad as a drunk driver.
- It will make you smarter. Well, let me rephrase that: it helps with learning and memory. If you think that kiwis are baby coconuts (true story!), sorry, more sleep can’t help you. However, it could teach you the difference between “your” and “you’re”–which will make you appear smarter.
- It will make you nicer. People who don’t get enough sleep are always way-too-stressed out biatches who are mean and nasty to everyone around them. Lack of sleep makes everyone so cranky, and you may be too tired to do the stuff you really like.
- It will make you healthier. Serious sleep disorders have been linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, high stress hormone levels, and a weakened immune system.
- It will make you prettier. They call it “beauty sleep” for a reason! Take pride in the fact that you’re a girl who can go all night, and you’ll also be the girl with puffy eyes, dark circles, and pale skin. Gross.
- If you’re trying to lose weight, sleep. Is. CRUCIAL. I cannot stress this enough. Here’s the deal: your appetite is controlled by the hormones leptin and ghrelin. Ghrelin makes you feel hungry. Leptin tells you you’re full. When you don’t get enough sleep, these hormones get out of whack—ghrelin shoots up and leptin drops. So you’re starving and insatiable all the time.
- Research shows that sleep-deprived people tend to crave sweets and salty or starchy foods. If you don’t believe me, let me tell you The Tale of Two Magical Milkshakes. There once was a girl who loved healthy food and taking good care of herself. During finals week of her sophomore year in college, she was barely sleeping as she wrote her first 20-page research paper while studying for exams. Then she found out that Pizza House restaurant delivers not just pizza, but also milkshakes! Milkshakes, delivered!? She definitely needed a chocolate milkshake to keep her up. When she called to order, they said there was a minimum of $7 for delivery. So she promptly ordered two milkshakes to meet the minimum. Normally she would not even drink one milkshake, but then her magical appetite kicked in and she drank them both when they were delivered to her dorm 15 minutes later! From then on, when good sleep was impossible to come by, her magical powers returned: an entire bag of tortilla chips, a foot-long from Subway. Her magical powers could take down Lord Voldermort!! TRUE STORY.
It’s also important to know how much sleep you really need. Usually this is best determined on vacation, when you can sleep freely for several days. The perfect number is generally between 6 and 8 hours for adults. For me, seven is awesome. Anything less than five and I start dropping/breaking things; my brain also stops working so I refer to everything as “motherf*cker.” Very bad habit.
All right, so I usually hear that you WANT to get more sleep and just can’t seem to. O RLY?
- Why aren’t you getting enough sleep? I would bet money on the fact that you probably waste a lot of time on the Internet and channel surfing. I know this because I waste a lot of time on crap like this, and cutting it was how I made over my sleeping patterns. Fastest way to do it? Get off your computer. (Seriously, if you’re reading this right now, and it’s past your bedtime, shut it down. I don’t even care.) During my sleep makeover, I cut AIM to do it (because it was 2002 and that’s what the kids did back then). If the reason you aren’t getting sleep starts with “F” and ends with “ACEBOOK,” shut. It. DOWN. PeopleOfWalmart.com? The freaks will still be there in the morning! G-chat? Kthxbye.
- If you’re staying up late because you spent too much time watching trash TV, stop it right now! I’m not judging you for watching “The Hills” (lies—I am)….I’m really judging you because you are re-watching an episode you’ve probably already seen, and you somehow missed the memo that every single show known to man is replayed all the time, at all hours of the day, and is also downlodable and On Demand. You know what? When there is an episode of “The Hills” that has real action — action that involves more than eyes opening really wide and the phrase “I don’t know” times a thousand — and like, a cliffhanger that you won’t ever be able to find out if you don’t stay up till midnight…then you have my full permission to stay up late and skip your morning workout. Other than that, umm…see you in the AM, my friends!
- Getting enough sleep doesn’t start at night. It means wasting less time throughout the day. If you’re up until 1 AM doing schoolwork…and you were blog surfing from noon to 4 PM….you were not up late because you were doing schoolwork. Don’t even try it.
- Stop talking about how tired you are! It’s not chic. It doesn’t make you a successful or productive member of society. People talking about how tired they are is one of my biggest pet peeves. Why? Because first, they have to state it repeatedly. Second, when I finally indulge them and ask why they’re so tired…and their answer involves, “The Real World Cancun”…I get irrationally angry.
All right, so let’s say you finally dragged yourself away from “Toddlers & Tiaras” and are committed to getting more sleep. But your hours don’t count if it’s not good sleep. Even if you can only get five hours, make it a damn good five hours!
- Set a bedtime and a waketime, and stick with it, even on weekends. Yes, this is a huge pain in the ass if you’re me, and your body sticks with its 7 AM wake-up call even if you didn’t fall asleep until 4 AM. But, hey, it’s also forced me to work harder at finding a guy early in the night.
- Try to exercise earlier in the day. If you can’t do it until later, do what you have to do, but if you notice it affects your sleeping, try to get it in at least three hours before bedtime. But it’s really important to do it at some point—exercise definitely helps you sleep better at night!
- Don’t have caffeine late in the day–including chocolate and green tea. Seems obvious, but a Diet Coke at dinner could make you toss and turn later. And speaking of drinks, don’t count on booze to be a sleep aid. It can help you fall asleep, but it prevents you from sleeping well—basically, it will give you nightmares till your hangover wakes you up. Scary!
- LAY OFF THE TYLENOL PM! And the cold meds. Seriously. If you are still having trouble sleeping after making over some of your habits, then you need to talk to your doctor. If you get enough sleep and are still inexplicably exhausted, you definitely need to talk to your doctor. You could have sleep apnea or an iron deficiency.
- Find a way to decompress before bed. If you’re a worrier, a journal can really help. Listen to relaxing music, light a candle…whatever your “zen” thing is, create a ritual and do it!
- Your bedroom is for two things: sleep and sex. Keep your laptop out of bed and don’t fall asleep with the TV on.
- Speaking of sex, maybe I’m biased because I’d rather saw off my own arm than spoon, but if you’re a cuddler, keep in mind that bedfellows can really throw off your sleep patterns. Do you really need to go to your boyfriend’s three nights a week? Just sayin’.
- Invest in earplugs. In NYC, earplugs are a godsend. And when living with roommates (like five of them, in one room, as I may have once done)…trust me when I say it’s the best $2 you will spend this year! If you’re worried about not hearing your alarm, you can put your phone in a PJ pocket (like in your hoodie) or somewhere you can feel it, and then put it on vibrate.
- Speaking of phones, turn the Crackberry to “alarm only.” Is what your friend has to say at 3 AM that important that it’s really worth breaking your precious circadian rhythm? If you really miss it, go to Texts From Last Night—it’s more entertaining during waking hours anyway! I used to keep my phone on silent, and then I’d wake up at 6 AM to go pee, and, half-asleep, I’d check it and see all these e-mails and texts and I’d get super disoriented and would send out responses that were totally inappropriate to the situation. It caused so much drama! Now I have a feature where my phone is 100 percent off until the alarm turns it on. I love it because it helps with my “no boy drama” goal, and when I wake up, refreshed as a daisy, and the e-mails, BBMs, and texts start coming through, it’s like Christmas! OMG, Santa, how did you know I wanted two new Facebook events and passive-aggressive texts from three different drunk guys last night?!
Yes, there are times when we truly cannot get enough sleep. During Fashion Week, I remember one of the other assistants told me she was so tired she had started seeing spots. Other things that justifiably steal your Zzzzs include finals, crazy work schedules, and sex/masturbation. Yes, stuff comes up, but these things need to be the exception, not your lifestyle. Be selfish about your sleep. Yeah I have a room darkening shade, earplugs, a white noise machine, a fan, a mask, and a set bedtime. No I won’t cuddle with you or text you back. Sorry I’m not sorry—I strive to be good in bed!