Life Balance: reaching a healthy sleeping routine

Sleeping routine

Do you find it hard to wake up in the morning and have no sleeping routine? Do wake up because you have to, while you actually still feel tired and sleepy? Are you in a bad mood (especially on Mondays) and often irritated, not wanting to do much, especially work? I am sure we all know the feeling of dragging ourselves out of bed, getting ready for work and feeling really not up to the tasks we are due to for the day?

A lot of these “symptoms” come from lacking the proper hours of sleep, a poor sleep quality and no sleeping routine. Going further, except with the cases of insomnia or some medical problems, the cause of poor sleep is the fact that you’re not following a thorough sleep discipline.

You want to watch a movie till late, you’re out with friends and lose track of time or you chat on your phone with your date and the thrill keeps you awake till late hours. There are many reasons why you don’t go to sleep before very late and therefore you wake up as late as you possibly can, hit the snooze for as many times as it’s possible and when you finally get out of the bed, you feel very tired and with a very low energy level. I’m sure we all know this feeling.

Especially if the things you have to do (school, job) are not particularly what you love or like doing – then you’re even less inclined to boost your energy level and mood. Another dreadful day feeling moody and tired and so sleepy, dreaming about when the time will come to be free from your job or school or task you have to do.

The good news is that there are a few, easy to follow rules in order to sleep well every night and have the energy you need and want for the day.

Switch to a simple sleeping routine

Our body needs on average 7 hours of sleep every night in order to function normally, to have the energy needed to perform and to keep an overall healthy lifestyle. You can organize your sleeping routine starting with this time frame in mind.

The first step would be to decide what is the time you want to be up in the morning. The idea behind this is to train your body into sleeping the time it needs but also wake up at the same time every morning – no matter if you need to go to school or to a job or it’s a weekend and you could sleep in. Once your body is trained to wake up at the same hour every day, you won’t feel the need to sleep in during weekends, don’t worry!

Once you have agreed the wake up hour, count back 7 hours and that’s the time you should be falling asleep already. Let’s say for example that you want to wake up every day at 7 in the morning. That means you should be already asleep at midnight.

I know it’s most probably a myth, but I just choose to believe that is it healthy to sleep for at least one hour before midnight – as in at 11 pm. Based on the analysis of my sleep (I have a watch that tracks my sleeping phases), it is the most intense just around midnight, that’s why I feel really rested if I fall asleep before 11 pm and sleep properly for 7 hours. Following this routine, I hardly wake up at all during my night sleep and I also wake up easily at 6 am every morning.

In order to fall asleep, a very important thing to do is to tune out technology one hour before the time you should be sleeping already. That means you need to turn off the TV and the movie you’re watching, ignore your phone, stop browsing Facebook or Instagram and definitely stop chatting with your friends over texts or messages.

By doing so you have one-hour free of any technology, the time needed for the brain to actually rest and get into the sleeping mood. You don’t have to just sit there and do nothing for one hour. You can read a book (ideally a paper book, not tablet), write a journal, talk to your roommate or partner, drink water or your favorite tea, craft something or… do any relaxing activity you wish that doesn’t include technology.

The picture below sums up very well what your body needs before sleeping (or mostly, what it doesn’t need) so that you can easily achieve your own personal sleeping routine.

Infographic by Jan Diehm for The Huffington Post

It may take one hour in the beginning, but after a few days you’ll see that as soon as your brain has a technology break and starts relaxing over a book or a chat, sleep will install and you’ll enjoy a very good night rest. We call this a pre-sleep routine. With time, this routine will trigger the brain to relax and go to sleep very fast! It’s a very efficient way to fall asleep but to also sleep well and wake up fresh and energetic.

Some reasons to wake up early

I learned to wake up at 6:00 am every morning – I’ve trained my body and brain to do so without much effort now. I admit the most difficult part is actually getting out of the bed, especially during winter when there’s still dark outside and maybe a little cold in the room.

But once I hit the bathroom and put some water on my face, and then get to sip from a fresh amazingly smelling coffee – everything looks so much better and I feel good. I have the energy to do the things I love doing and I also have the time to do them before I have to go to work (where I also love the things I am doing, but that’s another story).

Twice a week I go for a run in the morning, I usually choose a park, riverside or lake to run around when the weather allows, otherwise the gym will do. My routine currently is 5-6 km, and it makes me feel good. When I don’t go out running, I do things for my mind: read, do my German lessons (20 min/day), write or plan something exciting. I feel those 2 hours that are just for myself are the ones that count the most for my health and balance.

From my experience, waking up early is possible if:

  • We have the average of 7 hours of sleep needed for our body and mind to rest and regenerate
  • When the alarm goes on, we wake up, go out of the bed, stretch, have coffee or tea or whatever helps us feel awake completely; hitting the snooze button is absolutely out of question
  • We have a really good reason to wake up, like having something exciting to do, something we really look forward to get to be doing – like doing some reading, some sports or anything you don’t have the time to be doing once the crazy day starts

To have a balance in life, you need to have besides the professional fulfilling development, a clear time for yourself. It can be after work, or during weekends, but I believe having it daily is very important. It’s wrong to believe a sleeping routine is going to work on its own – it needs to be connected to a life routine or habits that will allow you to keep going and feeling well.

The reason why I choose to have the morning and first hours of the day dedicated to myself and my personal development and discovery is that this is the time of the day when my brain is most rested, I have great ideas and the best energy level. As I really believe I am the most important person in the world for myself, I choose to allocate the best time of the day to me (I call this “me-time”).

In the evening, after spending 8 hours at work, dealing with lots of people and tasks and strategies and solving problems, I feel drained of energy and all I feel I want to do is enjoy a good dinner, relax, spend time with my dear ones and just… do nothing that is even close to the productive area.

I felt like sharing my reasons to wake up early. There are literally thousands of articles around the web talking about why successful people wake up early and the things that a really successful person does every morning etc. Read them if you feel inspired, but I am skeptical about following someone else’s recipe to success. I think you need to find your own balance and the things that get you moving. Having to wake up at 5 am to check a to-do list that is not yours just because you read it somewhere will work only for a little while. You’ll not feel excited to wake up for it, you’ll feel it like a burden and in a very short time you’ll abandon it and go back to your previous habits.

That’s what my invitation to you is right now: think on when you have the most energy, think how much you’d like to sleep, when to go to bed to be able to wake up at the same time every day, find out what drives you to wake up happily every morning and commit to doing so starting as soon as you put your mind to it. I’ve given you the recipe in the lines above on how to trick your mind to fall asleep and wake up – but it’s you who needs to put them in practice and reach your desired life and sleeping routine.

It’s really up to you to find your balance and that’s really all you need to do in order to sleep well, be in a good mood all day and eventually, accomplishing something (can be big or really small) you are really proud of.

Feel free to read up more from Work and Life Balance blog, or get your daily news by following our Facebook page, Twitter or Instagram accounts. My only humble hope is to be able to inspire others with the little learning gathered from my life, interactions and readings.

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