An article by Dr. Heidi Lepper, Ph.D.

The Doings of Sleep

— Why it is More Important than Food or Water

NOTE! This article is not intended for people with potential or diagnosed sleep disorders or persons with clinical depression. This is an article intended for a typical person who does not get enough sleep and is looking for new ways to understand sleep and how to get more sleep.
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Introduction

A friend of mine remarked the other day how tired she has been. I mean, she was truly tired, worn out, dissatisfied with things and a bit stressed out at the end of each day and not feeling much better by morning. She started to imagine because she is getting older perhaps there was 'something wrong' - thinking maybe she had a thyroid issue or perhaps her iron was low.

She made an appointment with her physician who said he could take all the requisite blood work to find out if 'something is wrong.' But he said he had one qualification before he proceeded: "Tell me what your schedule is like." So she goes on, not ever having made the connection herself, to tell him what her days are like. He got stuck on what he took away from her commentary: "I go to bed at midnight and get up at 6 am." "Ding!" he must have thought. She is exhausted, not feeling great, thinking something is wrong medically, but she's getting only six hours of sleep night after night. So he tells her he'd be happy to oblige with the medical tests if, and only if, she does not feel better after a month of going to bed at 10 and getting up at 6.

My friend honestly had never made the connection to how she was feeling while getting only six hours of sleep a night. She admits to knowing 'we need eight' but figured 'I was different,' and 'that rule does not apply to me' but, lo and behold, she learned that indeed it does. And the rule applies to you too! Personally, though, that realization makes me smile. I know that feeling better is just two short weeks away (if not a matter of days) if you read this and take it all in as though I were your professional advisor.

Part I ― Put Sleep at the Top of Your To-Do List

How many of you want to feel better, happier, healthier and stronger each day? Of course, we all do! Ask yourself:
• Do you want to be a calmer, more patient parent?
• Would you prefer to be a more loving, less irksome spouse or partner?
• Are you lacking motivation to stick to a workout routine or your studies?
• Do you desire more creativity and fluidity in your thinking?
• Or perhaps, you simply notice that you catch too many colds or are a bit too worn out or run down day after day and you just want to feel better.

Well, maybe what you need is more sleep!

This is an essay about the relationship between sleep quality and overall feelings of well-being. We all know we need sleep. We all know that when we do not get enough sleep we do not function as well. Yet, most of us do not get the 'optimal' amount of sleep. In fact, you may miss out on a good night's sleep just once or twice a week and think it's not having a detrimental effect. But I'm sorry to have to report: It does! And in ways you may not fully appreciate.

So, my primary goal for you in reading this article is that you'll learn to become more mindful of how lack of enough sleep truly alters how you think, feel and relate in all aspects of your world. Your inner mental life, your emotional outer life and your overall well-being are impacted by your sleep quality. Everything is easier when you are well slept and everything is harder when you are poorly slept. Certainly you may generally be aware of this, but actually many of us are not mindful of it on a daily basis. The same reality is true for your children, your spouse and all those others around you: Everything is easier when we are well slept and everything is harder when we are poorly slept.

The doings of sleep

Did you know that a good night's sleep cures a lot of ills? Well, it does! We spend a third of our lives asleep yet most of us know little about the doings of sleep. In infancy, childhood, and adolescence sleep is the time for physical growth and brain maturation. Sleep works to keep our bodies healthy by reducing inflammation and cancer risk, alleviating emotional stress, maintaining daily alertness and bolstering memory, providing greater physical energy and better daily moods, reducing accident rates and much more. With better sleep we become better partners and parents, workers and learners. Our moods are more positive, our thinking less muddled, our humor intact, and our behavior is more tolerable when we maintain daily good sleep quality.

Lack of sleep, on the other hand (even just one hour short a night on many nights), kicks off an ancient stress response. The body triggers an inner biological alarm that essentially reports, "There must be something wrong! Danger lurks!" We know when our ancestors did not get enough sleep it was because something was terribly wrong in their immediate environment. This ancient stress response was an adaptive process. It gave them the clarity, physical energy, and motivation to stay alive in times of threat and turmoil. Yet, while it was very useful and advantageous, it was an arousing process, one flooding the body with stress hormones. Unfortunately back then, just like now, if stress hormone overload happened too often the body started to break down.

But for most of us today, nothing is that dramatically wrong. We just cannot seem to fall or stay asleep! Our alarm clocks wake us before we are ready. Our children pitter-patter in at odd times during the night. We have so much work to do. Sleep is not at the top of our to-do list. And yet we are still functioning with a brain that needs sleep more than it needs food or water. We are still functioning with a brain that, when it misses out on sleep, an inner alarm is triggered announcing, "There must be something wrong! Danger lurks!"

Think about it. Lack of sleep translates into something going biologically wrong. The body becomes stressed. Stress, in turn, produces certain thought and emotional consequences. When we are poorly slept it becomes inordinately hard to listen well to others and to accept what they have to say. It's difficult to find calm and succinct ways of putting our own thoughts and feelings into words. It's nearly impossible to be amicable and remain patient when we are tired! Consequences indeed. And I have not even touched on the issues of motivation, desire to work and staying engaged in critical activities. Imagine! Even just one hour less of sleep per day, day-in and day-out, can have this kind of harmful impact on your daily life!

Working and active couples have busy lives and that cuts into sleep. Typically, they have children and that cuts into sleep. And, lack of sleep promotes less good sleep. When this overarching lack of sleep begins to promote daily irritable moods and negative thinking states, you then begin to pick on each other. You become more rigid and less forgiving. Your love erodes slowly over time. Why? Because of a lack of sleep!

Teenagers have many struggles, don't they? I firmly believe a good many of their issues intensify because they do not get nearly enough sleep! They have a sense of not fitting in. They fall prey to social pressures. They medicate with drugs and alcohol. They suffer from worry, anxiety, depression and lack of motivation to get work done promptly so they decide to stay up late to get it done. (You can read about my ideas on how today's technology such as Facebook contributes to this process.)

I believe most of us get less than 'optimal' sleep; and, that condition is a causal factor in many relationship problems.

Adequate sleep is essential

So are you thinking about sleep loss a bit differently now? There's more. When we lose sleep the stress response sets in and another negative cycle ensues: lack of sleep promotes poor sleep quality! As a result, our bodies are even more stressed during the day. Yet, we don't really appreciate that reality because we feel we can get up and easily conduct our daily lives with just 6 or 7 hours of sleep. People do it all the time, right? But, there's a big problem. Our body and brain need at least 8 hours of sleep! Less than that won't work because of the balance within our sleep cycles of two pressing brain needs: rejuvenation and understanding. It is during very deep sleep that our bodies and brain become rested and rejuvenated for the next day's events. And just as important, it is during the dream state that our brain comes to understand the previous day's events. Rejuvenation and understanding: We need both! We cannot function at our true, optimal level emotionally or mentally without adequate sleep. I write much more about this in Parts II and III.

You should want to put sleep at the top of your To-Do list every single day. Remember to keep mindful of the fact that even a little less than 'optimal' sleep does indeed alter your daily mood and thinking states. Without adequate sleep you are not going to be quite as positive as you could be or you should be. Yes, sleep is that important. Maybe what YOU need is more sleep!

Part II ― Sleep Myths, Sleep Cycles and a Couple of Sleep Tips

You cannot go a day without sleep

You cannot go a day without sleep. It's as simple as that. Unlike water and food which you can do without for about three days and three weeks respectively, you cannot go twenty-four hours without sleep! Your brain will fall asleep every single day whether you like it or not. Ultimately you have no control over the point at which you enter sleep. It happens to you automatically. Except in extreme circumstances and with the aid of stimulant drugs, you cannot keep yourself awake when your brain decides it's time to go to sleep. When you need to sleep you do, even for just a few seconds at a time. This is why people, even professional truck drivers, occasionally fall asleep while rolling down the road at 65 miles per hour!

Myth: Sleep is an all out snooze fest for the brain. Fact: No. Sleep is a critically important process that the body and brain need to occur naturally every single day.

Adults need 8 to 8½ hours of sleep a night. Sure, you can survive day in and day out on 6 or 7 hours of sleep. But you will not function at an optimal, intelligent, physically healthy and emotionally-well level. Sorry, I know it's disappointing, but it's true. There are virtually no exceptions. Adolescents need at least 9 to 9½ hours of sleep a night. Children need even higher averages than that (elementary school age kids generally need 10 to 10½ hours) with the greatest needs for sleep in infancy (upwards of 16-20 hours of sleep a day needed).

Your children can get up day after day with less sleep than 10 to 10½ hours. You just need to know that they will not be as cooperative, stable, alert, understanding or happy as they should.

Myth: "I am one of those who needs less sleep." Some people can function just fine on less than 8 hours of sleep per night. Fact: No. Sorry, but it just ain't true. Your body actually keeps an internal 'sleep log' of anything less than what is needed biologically; and, your biological need for sleep is the same as all other human beings.

When you get less than 8+ hours of sleep, your body keeps track. When you go night after night with less than 8+ hours of sleep, your body develops a internal 'sleep debt' that it holds onto for about two weeks. The need for sleep is constant and unvarying. You know you cannot go much more than three days without water, right? We all understand that, without water, a human will become so dehydrated he or she will become delirious and die. We also know that he or she can go a few days and function before death. But is that poor soul functioning optimally and happily in those few days? Of course not.

Our requirement for water is biological. Sleep is no different! Your brain will not let you go more than 24 hours without putting you to sleep! It's biological! You might think you can 'function just fine' on less sleep, but there will be both short-term and long-term consequences. You cannot get off scot-free when you lack sleep.

Sleep Tip: One of the great paradoxes about sleep is that sleep begets sleep!
When we are worn out we often have a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep for a good solid 8 to 8½ hours. This is why some of you may be arguing with me right now: "But I cannot sleep 8 hours!" The reason for this is that the lack of sleep you have been getting continues to fuel an inability to sleep a full 8 hours. And, this lack of sleep continues to fuel the stress response which is keeping the body in 'alarm mode.' In essence, much of your daily functioning is colored by that alarm system going off outside your conscious awareness.

Myth: People need less sleep as they grow older. Fact: No. Once passed adolescence, young and old adults alike need 8 to 8½ hours of sleep a night, never less. Keep in mind that the human brain is not fully 'adult' until about age 25.

As a consequence for lack of adequate sleep, you may be testy and feeling irritable and stressed. You may look to find ways to explain your condition, but as with most people, you don't imagine the real cause: lack of 'optimal' sleep. A person may feel overwhelmed, stressed or poorly motivated and be searching for ways to explain the stress or lack of motivation but a lack of 'optimal' sleep almost never surfaces! We humans are quite good at coming up with explanations for our unhappiness or poor moods, for our lack of motivation, or feelings of being overwhelmed... but we tend to not look directly in the mirror. Our sleep patterns are a reflective mirror of who we are and how we function each day.

The Sleep Cycles

Normal sleep cycles in humans follow 90-minute iterations. Each cycle is comprised of five stages. If you are well slept you go through five full cycles each night. If you are not well slept then you are truncating the last cycle (or perhaps even two!). Each cycle, while 90 minutes in length, has differing purposes as the night progresses. Here are the stages simplified:

Stage 1 ― Very Light Sleep. You are still settling in after having turned off the light and decided 'it is time to sleep.' This stage is sometimes characterized by fantastic images resembling hallucinations, known as hypnagogic states. Not everyone remembers having them. But they are important signs of possible stress, significant learning, or sleep debt in those who do. Unless you have a nighttime awakening, you enter Stage 1 only at the beginning of your sleep time and then not again until morning. If all goes according to plan this will take 20 minutes. If you hit the pillow and are completely 'zonked' or it takes you more than 30 minutes, this is a sign of a problem. Children can fall asleep faster. In fact, if it takes longer it is generally a sign of being overtired not actually un-tired!

Stage 2 ― Light Sleep. In this stage, your brain is slowing down but you can be easily woken and your muscles are not yet fully relaxed. You are asleep.

Stage 3A relatively quick Transition from Light Sleep to Deep Sleep. Primarily what is happening is that your muscles are showing more relaxation, you do not move at all, you are harder to awaken and your brain is slowing down its activity even further.

Stage 4 ― Deep Sleep. Your brain is at its true resting state, about 75% its daily activity level. It is incredibly difficult to wake you now. You will be very confused if you are. If for some reason you awaken during this stage, you will feel as though your body is paralyzed. It is during this stage that your brain is rejuvenated for the next day's activities.

You now move back up through to Stage 3 and then Stage 2 sleep to enter:

Stage 5 ― REM (Rapid Eye Movement) Sleep. Your brain becomes very active yet your muscles are so relaxed you do not move. You are now dreaming. You have five dream cycles a night. You will remember them only if you wake up immediately during or after that time. Some of us (about 20%) are lucid dreamers (we can become aware of our dreams while dreaming.) And, 8 out of 10 dreams are negative in nature (struggling, fighting, forgetting something and so forth). The end of your 8-hour slumber culminates with a dream cycle. So, if you wake yourself up before that 8-hour time you are depriving yourself of that final dream set.

The nighttime sleep cycle in normal adults looks like this:
sleep_graph_300.jpg

http://www.helpguide.org/life/sleeping.htm#stages

The amount of time each stage comprises the 90 minute cycle changes as the night progresses, with periods of Stage 4 deep, recuperative sleep progressively shortening and periods of Stage 5 REM/dream sleep lengthening. It is the deep Stage 4 sleep that gives you the refreshed feeling in the morning (if you get it that is!) and the Stage 5 dream sleep that your brain so desperately needs for the reasons I'll discuss later in this essay!

Remember that ideal sleep which produces the greatest daytime benefits follows the balance between deep sleep and dreaming sleep. You need both! But we now know that dreaming is of primary importance to the brain's ability to remain alert, focused, and vigilant during the day and what allows us to learn from our experiences.

During times of emotional stress or significant learning our brain spends more of the 90 minute sleep cycles in dream sleep. We also experience what is known as 'REM rebound' whereby when we are deprived of REM (dreaming) in one night, on the next night our brains make up that time by drawing from Stage 4 (Deep Sleep). Your 90 minute cycles are still 90 minutes but more time is spent dreaming than in other stages of sleep, in particular deep sleep.

Sleep Tip: Keep in mind that you and everyone else needs two weeks of good sleep to reap the rewards!

Humans experience 24-hour cycles of varying alertness, body temperature, and growth hormone secretion. Our body temperature rises as morning approaches, peaks during the day, dips for a time in early afternoon, and then begins to drop again before we go to sleep. Light levels do impact alertness throughout the day. Humans who are still growing do their physical growth during sleep when growth hormone is secreted. The food eaten during the day is essentially transferred to cellular growth during the night sleep cycle. Children do not grow physically during waking hours -- deprive a baby or child of sleep, you deprive them of healthy physical growth.


If you are chronically depriving yourself of sleep then your brain has to make up its need for dreaming by depriving you then of deep slumber. When this happens each subsequent night's sleep is not ideal, even if you get 8+ hours of sleep. So this is why even after an 8-hour night you may not feel refreshed. Or why after an extra long sleep, say on the weekends, you do not necessarily feel wonderful but in fact a bit groggy. And that feeds your false belief that you do not need 8+ hours of sleep.

Myth: The Weekends are for Sleeping In! Fact: No. Many of us sleep in on the weekends hoping to compensate for lost weekday sleep. While sleeping late may help catch up on your sleep debt, it alters your sleep schedule. You sleep late one or two days and then wake up early again on Monday. Your body must adjust to these changes and most of us do not have bodies that adapt that quickly. The overall quality of your sleep is poor.

Adult insomnia

The single biggest contributor to adult insomnia is this deprivation cycle. Even though you are exhausted, you may have a hard time falling asleep. Why? Because of the vicious cycle of REM rebound (i.e. you get less Deep Sleep to make up for lack of REM) and thus poor Stage 4 Deep Sleep. Your body perceives this situation as a 'threat' and begins fueling you with the physiological mechanisms to 'fight or to flee' (known as 'the stress response').

Additionally, this deprivation cycle is what leads to fatigue and mental slowness, daily drowsiness and so on. This highlights just how important REM sleep is! Our brains have to dream! It is during the dream state in adulthood that our brains lay down the memories of the day's events, process new information, make sense of our worlds, help us to be prepared for negative and unexpected events and so forth. But it does this in fantastical ways!

Now is the time you may be asking, "What does last night's dream actually mean?" No one knows for sure but generally you take in some amount of information from your physical environment (say your bed sheet is tight around your ankle perhaps) and your brain makes a story with it (you dream you have suffered a sprained ankle) to help you prepare perhaps for something in your waking life (you are worried about the new exercise program you are not fully committed to). This is where the wonder of sleep and dreams reside.

When adults are well slept week after week they are 'wicked smart' and emotionally stable whereas a lack of sleep 'makes us dumb' and moody! Sadly most adults are chronically deprived of sleep so they do not know just how smart and happy they can be. If I could put you in a two-week sleep lab and promote fabulous sleep you would be immensely impressed with your mental ability and how grand your daily mood has become!

Children need an incredible amount of sleep

Myth: Children With a Sleep Deficit Will Be Tired. Fact: No! This myth could not be farther from the truth! While some children do show signs of obvious fatigue, many children can actually behave in very hyperactive ways. When not well slept, their bodies flood them with stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline (think of these as natural 'caffeine-ators'). While overly active, their emotions are also not well controlled: they tend to get angry easily and intensely and/or are more likely to dissolve into tears with slight frustration during the day. At night they have a hard time going to sleep or wake in the middle of the night or early the next day, and so you think they do not need as much sleep and just figure them to be 'difficult' or 'hyperactive.' And a vicious cycle ensues.

Children need an incredible amount of sleep. As adults we need to protect their sleep! It is during a full night's good sleep that their bodies grow and their brains store memories, lay down new skills in the form of those memories, and sort through which brain wiring they do and do not need! Only during sleep can their brains do that. Think of it this way, there is too much going on during the day otherwise.

In infancy and throughout childhood and adolescence the brain is still growing to the point of adult levels (reached at approximately age 25). It is during dreaming that the brain is making important connections among all the different brain regions. Dreaming facilitates brain maturation! We take in information during the day and it gets laid down in the form of cell (neural) connections at night. The brain needs time to shut down for a period of time each day (deep sleep) and then become active without your conscious interference (dreaming) so that it can maximize the trillions of connections among all the cells in all the different brain areas. How cool is that? But only during sleep does this happen!

Part III ― 'Blanket Statement' Critical Sleep Tips

Once again, while asleep your brain has the opportunity to a) process the previous day's events; b) make connections among brain cell; and, c) allow your body a chance to rejuvenate its cells.
Good sleep quality means you will feel more mentally alert. Your immune system benefits. Your emotions are more positive and any negative emotions are better under control. And, you have more physical energy for those tasks you deem important. You stop making problems where there are none!

What you can start doing today

So what can you start doing today? Well, that depends on you, your family structure you're your current routines. While many of these are very common sense, let's go through some 'blanket' statements, pun intended:

Blanket 1Never wake a sleeping baby. This you should pay attention to: Do not keep a baby awake during the day thinking he or she will sleep better at night. Lack of sleep stresses a baby's body and just like in older children (and even you), an internal alarm system gets rung and stress hormones get released which then serve to make nighttime sleep more difficult. Let a baby sleep! A lot! His or her brain will naturally, over time, establish a routine of daytime to nighttime alertness and sleep. It does take time.

Blanket 2Do your absolute best not to wake a sleeping child or teenager who has gone to bed at a reasonable hour. They are sleeping for a reason. During times of stress or significant learning they need more sleep - same is true during physical growth spurts (they are growing more, so need more sleep). Important note: this is for those who are going to sleep 'on time', not those who are staying up late. A child who honestly has gone to sleep well (not sick) and stayed asleep at night will at times need a bit of extra sleep for biological reasons. Whenever you absolutely can, let that happen.

Blanket 3If you must wake a sleeping child or teen, do it gently and slowly, trying to allow their brains to come up from sleep to wake easier. For instance, open curtains or use a 'dawn or sunrise light' that slowly brightens for thirty minutes before it is time to awaken. If you find you have to actually gently shake your child awake, try to look at their eyes first to see if they are moving back and forth rapidly. If so, try to wait a bit longer, let the dream state finish whenever you can. They are dreaming for a reason!

Blanket 4Limit all computer use and interactive games an hour before bedtime. These activities they are arousing in nature and will make the onset of slumber more difficult. Instead, establish evenings of reading or even television. Both are better than computer screens which really do keep the brain aroused. Regarding TV though, I have personally experienced with my kids, "But Mom I want to watch until the end of the show!" Been there too? Well, that does interfere with a natural progression toward drowsiness and sleep onset. More importantly, this really that means no My Spacing or Facebooking in the later evening before bedtime. That is, if you want good quality sleep.

Blanket 5By all means limit simple refined sugar and anything with hidden caffeine in the evenings. For instance, chocolate contains caffeine. Do you or your kids have after dinner treats with much in the way of chocolate? If so, you may want to rethink those.

Blanket 6Establish regular, reliable bedtimes. Re-establish this -- set a new precedent in your household. Set your family structure by bedtimes - count backwards from how many hours of sleep you know they need and at what hour they need to be up daily. Keep to that bedtime! So a 9-year-old needs a minimum of 10 hours. Putting him or her to bed at 8:00 pm with a bit of quiet reading allows him to fall asleep by say 8:45 or 9:00 pm at the latest. That will allow him or her to sleep well until 7:00 am and wake up on his own to get ready for school. You can fudge this based on the ages of your children and when you feel they need to get up for the day. On special occasions they can stay-up later, but not every weekend or every weeknight (for instance, limit sleepovers to once a month). Staying up late every weekend puts too much stress on their body for the next week. Teenagers too still need a minimum of 9 hours of sleep to grow and function at their best. You can even tell them I told you so!

Blanket 7Using common sense...find ways to make the sleep environment comfortable for you and your family. Your bed needs to feel good to you. The lights need to be out and the noise level down. (About night lights, children do have nighttime fears, the use of a nightlight or house light needs to be negotiated such that the room is dark enough to promote sleep but the child feels heard and safe.) Your body needs to feel soothed, warm and calm. You can teach yourself the process of guided, progressive relaxation and do so for your children. Relatively simple process of deep breathing while feeling/imagining your body parts from toes to head becoming soft, warm and relaxed. Additionally you may want to use sleep masks and ear plugs to limit light and noise levels.

Blanket 8What about 'sleeping aids' you may be asking. I am sure you can guess within the body of my writing that I am not going to recommend sleeping pills per se. And you guess correctly! If you are taking in all of this information you will see that largely it is the way we think about sleep and not sleeping enough that promotes a need for 'sleeping pills.' But that being said there is a natural hormone that our bodies produce that relates to sleep onset and our overall circadian rhythm: melatonin. There is still a bit of controversy about the use of over-the-counter melatonin supplements but I do advocate the short term use of it to alleviate the pressures associated with jet lag (generally defined as crossing five time zones) and high light levels as found in certain world regions in the summer and winter months. Children generally produce higher melatonin levels than do adults. Supplements should be kept as low as possible (keep in mind adults produce >.3 mg per day). As an example, you may want to try 1-3 mg an hour before you want to be asleep. Of course, the use of melatonin with children should absolutely be discussed with a physician prior to use.

Blanket 9It is true that attempting to unwind and fall into sleep on a thirsty or empty stomach is difficult. A bit of low fat milk or cheese or a handful of nuts at bedtime will help. And while a 'nightcap' might make falling into slumber easier it does not allow for natural sleep cycles. A glass of wine at dinner, hours before, is better if you do want to drink.

Blanket 10 ― Turn off the snooze alarm! Many people set their snooze alarm well before they actually have to get up. Some people derive some sort of pleasure in hitting it hard and going right back to sleep and then doing it again ten minutes later and then once again perhaps. Just bring it up as a topic of conversation sometime and you will see people's glee come out. Some people feel that they somehow are more powerful than their snooze button. Instead though, consider that this process really deprives you of the much needed last 30 minutes of sleep! And that is your final dream cycle and movement into wakefulness. Seriously, I recommend do not set the alarm earlier than you have to get up. Consider disciplining yourself to the point of getting up when you actually have to, upon the first beeping of the alarm. Besides, if you have a sleep partner who does not have to get up this 'snooze' process is really disturbing his or her sleep.

Talking about alarms, I might as well end these 'blankets' with this very shocking fact: if you are well slept night after night, you do not need an alarm clock! If you're well slept, you will rise naturally by 6 or 7 in the morning. (If you need to rise by 5 for instance, you do need to go to bed an hour earlier and your body naturally will wake up unassisted and well rested.)

Decide to sleep well

In conclusion, thank you for having read this far along and keeping sleep quality for you and your family at top of mind. Now you know that doing so will go a long way to promoting greater daily well-being and personal productivity. So, your next steps might be:

• First, deciding right now to make any necessary shifts as an individual and/or as a parent to better the sleep habits of you and your family. You need to buy into this shift for a minimum of two weeks to reap the rewards. Think of it this way: that is less time than is needed than the six week program at your gym to 'revamp' your fitness level! That is less time than is needed to lose five pounds safely. That is less time than is needed to complete your taxes (if you are like me)!

• Second, allow yourself to become more understanding of the role of sleep in your daily life and stop the negative cycle that ensues when you get less than 'optimal' sleep. One of the things you can do is keep a running tally of how much sleep the family gets and when any one member is not well slept be more forgiving of his or her behavior - refrain from making negative statements (such as, "You are so naughty!") about your child but gently urge him or her to see a relationship between poor sleep and behavior (such as, "I think you are having a hard day because we did not help you get enough sleep last night.").

• Third, if you feel that you cannot sleep 8 hours because you do not have enough time, consider how much time you may waste during the day because of a lack of sleep. That For instance, when you are in an unhappy or even a foul mood, people are not as compliant with your requests. Of course, you then have to keep asking them or put up with the fight that inevitably ensues. Days like these probably wear you out from fatigue and you cannot mentally and physically complete tasks as quickly (so simply put it takes you more daily minutes to do things!)! Make the time. Get your sleep. All 8+ hours of it!

In conclusion

If you read any of my other writing you know that I am a positive psychologist, working to teach people like yourself how to grasp the triangle of thinking-feeling-doing in their every day lives and how to shift it from a negative triangle (which most of us have) to a positive triangle (which most of us have to learn and work toward). Please feel free to visit my website at: www.HeidiLepper.com.

One of the factors that will allow this shift to take place is in good sleep quality.

So I'll finish by asking: Do you want to feel better, happier, healthier and stronger each day? I promise you, get the proper amount and quality sleep, and you certainly will! Just giving it a two week trial.

Download and Print this Article as a PDF
Two books I recommend:

1. The Promise of Sleep: A Pioneer in Sleep Medicine Explores the Vital Connection Between Health, Happiness, and a Good Night's Sleep

2. Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child


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