When improving our health and wellbeing we can get sucked in the vortex of trialling different easy-to-implement habits. Less snacking, cut down alcohol, avoid the foods that grow on red desert sand, or removing carbs because:
“That guy on Instagram said so and, see, how lean is he?! I think I can see the outlines of his kidney.*”
Often we bounce from one habit to the next with no progress. Frustration boils over and we heave arrows of blame at anyone we can think of. Our limited willpower, unhealthy circle of friends, and our mum eating too much toothpaste when we were in the womb. Everyone gets their fare share of blame.
The struggle is palatable because we gravitate towards shallow, surface level habits. Don’t get me wrong, these have their place. But they need to be suspended on a thick foundation. We can’t hang these habits on air and wishful thinking. Heavy branches need a thick trunk.
And there just so happens to be a clear reason why the trunk is on the thin side for most people who struggle. And it has nothing to do with how much toothpaste your mum ate.
You’ll need to lie down for this
The lack of sleep is the magnifier of all our weaknesses and negative traits. Every single thing in life is a drag when we’re tired.
Navigating the world on limited sleep highlights our not-so-wonderful personality traits. Irritability, anyone?
It clouds our judgement. Be it with food, alcohol, or relationships. It makes following every other habit a drag. It makes training sessions feel like trying to do breaststrokes in quicksand.
And it reduces our concentration and takes us away from doing deep work. Just ask anyone with a newborn.
There’s a reason why parents with newborns are content at not taking on the world** for the next 6-12 months. Life is twice as challenging when lived through drooped eyelids.
Some of us live through their lives as if there’s been a newborn at home for the last ten years. Sure, there are some odd balls who claim to function on four hours of sleep. And tell everyone about it on Twitter. Like, uh I don’t know, Donald Trump.
But I think that he too could use couple more hours of sleep. To help him act less like a newborn himself.
Anyways. For the next month, instead of trying to improve your eating and exercise habits, focus on improving the quantity and quality of your sleep. This will radiate ease into everything else you’re trying to do.
How to improve your sleep
Most of us need around 7-10 hours of good quality sleep per night. If you have the luxury to sleep as much as you can (most of us don’t) try not setting your alarm for the next week and see if there are natural sleeping patterns you’ll notice.
But before you bury yourself in the fresh sheets and blankets, get your house in order:
- Spend money on a good bed and a pillow. Whatever “good” means to your body.
- No caffeine after 3pm. Or earlier if caffeine kicks you into overdrive.
- No screens 90-120 minutes before planned sleep time.
- No alcohol before bed.
- For busy brainiacs do a mind dumb on a notebook to clear your thoughts. Make a pact with yourself to come back to them in the morning.
- Keep the bedroom cool, dark and quiet. Earplugs might help if your neighbours are dicks.
- The bedroom should be a sanctuary only reserved for sleep and sex (and a book if it helps you to wind down).
- Aim to be asleep by 10pm. Plan your evening accordingly.
That’s a start. None of us is perfect. I know I sometimes use my phone in bed. And tend to have an alcoholic beverage on Saturday while watching Netflix right until going to bed.
If you aim to follow that list on most days you might find that there is a different person hiding behind those sleep deprived eyes.
*I don’t get this. It’s like asking a guy with a great hair to cut my hair.
**Although, caring for a newborn is harder than taking on the world.