Today, I want to continue my health series by going over why sleep is important as well as how to achieve consistent sleep.
Why Sleep Is More Important And Powerful Than You Realize
Sleep is an elusive thing for many people. Insomnia is a common problem, but people are also choosing to avoid sleep by consuming media well past a reasonable bedtime. In our culture, we deeply underappreciate sleep and it’s destroying us.
However, there are many benefits to sleeping. Firstly, sleep allows your brain to rest because your brain is a muscle and like any other muscle, it needs to be able to rest in order to grow, develop, and mature.
Additionally, sleep allows your body to recover. Even if you’re not active (until you read the next post about exercise), your body still needs time to unwind and settle down. Sleep provides this opportunity for your body to recharge.
Furthermore, sleep is important because it is a pleasant and refreshing activity where you can let go of the troubles of the day, take a break from the daily grind, and allow your mind to shut off. If you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, a good nap can give you the destresser you need.
Lastly, sleeping presents the opportunity for dreams. Dreams are like a portal into your subconscious mind and enable you to better yourself. Even nightmares give you the wisdom you need to better understand and resolve lingering issues that may hunt you subconscious but you’ve ignored in your conscious state.
Getting at least seven hours of sleep a day will improve your life significantly. Investing in the refreshing of your body will ensure your mental and physical being is more than ready to tackle the difficulties of the world.
My Own Struggles And Fights With Sleep
Sleep is important and offers a multitude of benefits. Why, then, do people struggle with it and others outright avoid it? Personally, I struggle with sleep and it’s easily the one thing I forego when it is convenient. Now, I could blame my child for my lack of sleep. However, before I become a parent I still struggled to catch a few z’s which means I am the cause of my sleeping problems.
The biggest hurdles I have when sleeping are the constant nightmares I have. These nightmares can rip me awake and make it impossible to close my eyes. These nightmares involved large-scale fears, such as nation-wide financial collapse, to local concerns, such as burglaries or potential job loss.
On the other hand, I’ve failed to sleep because I poorly used my time. I would start a video game, commit to an hour of play, and end up going to bed well into the early morning. As I’ve gotten older, I commit such mistakes less and less. However, I have avoided sleep on more than one occasion to wrap up a project and I’ve felt terrible the next day from lack of sleep.
Fortunately, through the techniques below, I’ve managed to mitigate my sleep problems and achieve a more consistent schedule.
Six Ways To Achieve Better, More Fulfilling Sleep
Achieving consistent sleep involves adopting better behaviors that serve your ability to sleep. If you have poor habits, make bad decisions, and pursue meaningless aims, then your mind will be negatively affected.
1. Exercise Allows Your Body To Be Tired In A Healthy, Productive Way
Exercising is an activity that tires your body and mind in a productive way. Because exercising involves challenging your mental fortitude and your capacity to persist physically, you’ll feel a productive and meaningful challenge that will leave you tired but proud. Because you feel proud of your efforts, you’ll feel less guilt which will prevent anxiety from creeping and keeping you from sleeping. For example, say you’re lying in bed and your brain is trying to remind you of an awkward text you sent five years ago. You can immediately shoot back that you had a great work out today and plan to workout again tomorrow. This positive achievement will block out more negative thoughts and should aid you in sleeping.
Additionally, exercise pushes your body and mind. You should feel a sense of exhaustion after working out before recovering. This exhaustion will help ease any lingering restlessness your body or mind may have while you lie in bed.
Exercising provides the pride and exhaustion you need to make sleeping a little easier. Next week, I’ll go into more detail as to how to start exercising. However, there are plenty of resources online that detail exercising and the best techniques.
2. Journaling Frees Your Mind To Achieve Better Sleep
Journaling allows us to explore our inner thoughts and reflect on any hangups we may have. Journaling involves actively engaging with your day as well as seeing if there’s anything you can improve upon or grow with.
Sleeping can be difficult because we have lingering faults, concerns, or worries that we’re not noticing. When we don’t reflect on our lives, we may miss these fairly obvious problems. For example, you may be working around the clock to finish a project but you’re ignoring your family. Your subconscious knows that you love your family and will create anxiety in your conscious mind. If you journal, think about your life goals, reflect on the virtues, and remember your loyalties, you’ll be able to catch your error and make time for your family. Suddenly, you’ll see your anxiety disappear as you recommit to everything that is important in your life.
There are many ways to journal but I like the more Stoic approach. Simply ask yourself a few questions:
- What virtues did I excel at today?
- Which virtue did I fail to practice today?
- What can I do differently tomorrow?
Through this system, I save time while actively engaging with my life and my decisions. That’s why I advise against simply recounting your day verbatim – you’ll lose interest and it doesn’t require any active participation on your part. However, if you ask yourself questions, look for faults in your thinking, and seek to congratulate your positive efforts, then you’ll enjoy journaling more.
Journaling is a great way to dump your brain, reflect on your day, and think about what you can improve. This ensures you’re active in the course of your own life which always helps to reduce anxiety and should make it easier for you to catch a few Zs.
3. Don’t Waste Your Life Away
Do you ever feel restless at night? After some reflecting, article reading, and honest conversations with my wife, I realized one of the reasons I feel so restless at night is that I wasted so much time during the day. Because I was wasteful, I felt restless at night because I kept thinking about all the things I should have done.
For example, I agreed with myself to draw at least an hour a day. After a few weeks, I began to struggle to sleep because I was anxious and restless. It didn’t take to long to realize that I was constantly thinking about how I hadn’t kept up with my a promise – I would draw 30 minutes a day or (sometimes not at all) while playing games or watching YouTube videos. I wasn’t directly engaged with what I needed to do. It wasn’t that I was relaxing – I was trying to relax and work instead of just working, finishing my task, then enjoying my well-earned chill time.
Once I stayed consistent with my goal, I felt the restlessness go away. Time and time again, this is the biggest causer of any anxiety I may be feeling when trying to sleep. Therefore, I urge you to set clear goals and expectations for yourself. Make sure these daily goals challenge you while pushing you closer to your life goals. Then, stick with accomplishing these goals. When you manage to get your tasks done for the day, you should find it easier to drift to sleep.
4. Schedule Your Day Better And Avoid Electronics
Firstly, avoid electronics. Never pull your phone out when you’re on the bed. Your phone’s screen will keep you awake and going down the various rabbit holes on the internet will keep your mind wired.
Additionally, set a schedule for when you sleep. I never stay up past 11 pm. I understand that if I’m up beyond 11 pm then I either failed or there’s a legitimate problem (like my sick kid). I always respect this limitation and I recognize that setting a schedule ensures I’m consistent.
Lastly, try to shoot for how long you want to sleep for. Everyone has flexible schedules, life duties, and other considerations. However, always try to earn seven hours of sleep. Admittedly, I am guilty of failing this rather consistently but it’s an aim all adults should be shooting for.
Try to wrap up any lingering concerns before climbing to bed. Don’t start a big project for example. Try reading a book or doing some light cleaning before turning into bed for the night.
Setting a schedule and avoiding electronics can help ease you into sleep.
5. Avoid Negative Thoughts And Anyone That Makes You Feel Powerless
Here’s the big one. When I could not sleep a few years ago, I consistently realized that my sleep was being interrupted because I was anxious and stressed. Now, what was I bothered by? I was bothered by all the stupid, petty, and little things I had no control over. I was stressed about politics and financial policy. I was anxious about racists, sexists, and homophobes. I was stressed about what other people thought of me.
Suddenly, I could sleep a lot better and my waking hours even improved. As individuals, we have to accept that the world is going to do what it pleases no matter what we feel. We can yell into the heavens and no one will hear, care, or acknowledge it. Your pain is your pain. Your concerns are your concerns. Your desires are your desires.
When we focus on that which we cannot control, our brain freaks out and becomes anxious. It’s like betting your life savings that you can lift the sky. You’re going to freak out because about losing all your money because you know such a task is impossible. Similarly, your brain freaks out because it’s impossible to change the physical world – all you control is yourself, thus you should focus on yourself.
Therefore, shut off the news. Stop reading articles about this extremist or that extremist. Stop looking for validation from your peers. Hit the gym. Create a budget. Save your money. Learn a skill. Define your life. Gain power over yourself.
6. Humble Yourself and Focus On What You Can Control
When you humble yourself and turn inward, you can make real change in your life which will reduce your anxiety and the actual issues facing you. You can’t do anything about the financial future of the country but you can get another job to pay off your loans. You can’t do anything about societal exploitation but you can stand against any abusers you know in your life. You cannot defeat prejudice people but you can scrub yourself of any prejudice thoughts you have against innocent individuals.
As always, I’m not saying detach from the world. There is value in protesting, standing up against governmental abuse, and pursuing change. I’m arguing that the external should never be your main focus. If protesting is the bulk of your efforts then you will feel lost as your individual life fails to experience any meaningful change. Pursuing external change should be less than 10% of your life. The other 90% should be dedicated to defeating your own demons, mastering your shadow, and helping everyone in your immediate vicinity do the same.
In conclusion: the more power you exercise over yourself, the more peaceful you’ll feel and the easier it will be to sleep.
Should You Use Drugs or Therapy?
I want to end by exploring whether or not you should pursue drugs and/or therapy to help with sleeping. Firstly, I’m just some guy on the internet, but I think pursuing the methods I outlined above should help you immensely. They’re not full proof but they’re a good starting point for helping you sleep better.
Secondly, therapy is always beneficial in nearly any circumstance. A good therapist can help you explore your mind and resolve lingering issues. At the very least, you’ll have another person (a professional no less) help you through small and big mental issues you may be struggling with.
Lastly, drugs are a huge step and you should talk to a doctor. I always liked the way Jordan Peterson has approached it: find drug-free methods to help with your mental issues. If these methods don’t work then pursue professional help and drugs if needed. So, find a therapist and ask them for help. They can aid you with these questions better than I can.
Sleep, Your Success, And Individualism
Sleep is important for your body and mind’s growth and development. Ergo, don’t let it elude you. Invest time in understanding how you can earn your sleep and improve your wellbeing.
Next week, we’re going to talk about exercising and how working out improves health and happiness.
- How much sleep do you get on average? Are you happy or disappointed about the amount of sleep you get?
- How different do you think your life would be if you got more sleep? If you got less?
- Of the six techniques above, which techniques do you already do? Which ones can you implement?
- If stress or anxiety keeps you awake, whay are you stressed/anxious about? Can you make a meaningful change?
Please remember that it’s important to do the actionables. You’re not on this earth to simply read but to do. To become an individual, you must act more than you consume.
*Image credit to Unsplash.