No, that’s not a toddler whining... It’s practically everybody you know — maybe including you!
For generations, it’s been commonly recommended that we get at least seven hours of sleep every night. But how common is it to get all seven hours?
How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?
When we think back to those misguided days of youth, we fought bedtime because we KNEW all the best TV shows and the best snacks showed up after 9:00 at night. Our parents got to drive, spend money and do whatever they wanted, they just sent us off to bed so they could live it up into the wee hours….
Or so we thought.
As we’ve moved through the stages of life, our minds have been opened to new realities. Who wouldn’t jump back to those carefree days before job stress, paying bills, and worrying about kids? But until time travel becomes a thing, let’s look at where we are now, and what we can do today.
Stress and Sleep
People’s lives in the United States and abroad have improved over the past 30+ years, but for Gen-X women, middle-age is quite different from what it was for their mothers and grandmothers: Middle-aged Gen-X women carry financial responsibilities that in the old days were held by men, and while men do more these days to care for their children and for the elderly, caregiving responsibilities still fall more on middle-aged women than on any other group.
In general, the double-whammy has perfectly imperfect timing: In 2017, a major Gallup poll found that the two greatest stressors reported by women were work and children. And as if they weren’t difficult enough on their own, each one of those concerns makes it really tough to work on — and even enjoy — the other.
Since we’re meant to spend about a third of our lives resting and regenerating our body’s systems (seven-plus hours of sleep every night), we might need to adjust our activities and maybe even learn some new habits. Here are some proven techniques for helping us get the most out of what should be restful rest
SLEEP QUALITY - With so much of our lives spent sleeping, we often overlook the value of a good mattress. You are going to spend more time in your bed than any other spot. Spend some time dialing in your bed and mattress. No one mattress is best for everyone, but there will be one best mattress for you. Here are some items to figure out to get the most out of your bedding:
- Pillow top or no pillow top?
- Firm or soft?
- Coils, memory foam, inflatable air, or other construction?
- Adjustable or fixed?
- Made of breathable, safe materials?
- Does it have a good warranty and return policy or trial period?
- Susceptible to allergies or bedbugs?
- Amount of movement transferred (if you sleep with a partner)?
- Is it the right size for your sleep needs and habits?
- Within your price range?
MATH MATTERS — We start by knowing what time we need to wake up, then counting the hours backward from there. Any smartphone can help: Tell your phone’s alarm settings when you want to wake up, and let the tech go to work for you.
FIND YOUR SWEET SPOT — There’s a curious scientific reason that experts recommend at least seven hours of sleep: It works! Find out for yourself whether you need as little as six or as much as eight, but whatever your personal needs are, that rest every night means good news for your body… and for your spouse, your kids, your co-workers, your studies, your barista, your traffic neighbors, etc.
BE FOOD-WISE — Digestion is serious business for your body, so don’t eat so late that it has to pull double duty. If you keep eating right up until bedtime, your body will have to deal with that in addition to focusing on rebuilding from the day.
BE REALISTIC — You want to beat traffic by leaving home at 7:30 am, and you know you need an hour and 15 minutes to wake up, work out, shower, get ready and eat. If you set your alarm for 6:15 am, you should be good, right? So make sure you’re getting to bed in time to make that 6:15 am legit.
SERIOUSLY: BE REALISTIC! — If you think you can binge another episode (or nine), or power through an all-night gaming session and still somehow deliver on your tomorrow with less sleep, you’re not even fooling yourself. Treat yourself like a priority, and then bask in those rewards.
COMFORT ZONE — If you were going on a seven-hour drive, you’d want the car to be comfy, right? Same thing for your seven-hour drive of dreams: You don’t want to be restless, or wake up sore, or make your body work more than it has to. You want a mattress that works for you, so take your time and research what will deliver for you.