Good self-care starts with good sleep
Ever heard the saying that ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’?
Perhaps this is you:
- Someone who is always feeling drained because your whole life is very full on
- Your mind is constantly racing, and this continues especially when you’re trying to sleep at night
- On waking each morning, you feel so tired as though you’ve had very little sleep and wish you could just turn over and start the whole night’s sleep again
- You get to work and those feelings of ‘overwhelm’ hit you and you find yourself not being very productive because you feel so tired all the time
What is your time schedule like in a typical day and how much of that time is factored in for ‘self-care?’ Some ideas of how that ‘me time’ might be spent are:
- Playing a sport
- Going for a massage
- Getting a snack and going to sit somewhere peaceful to enjoy the food and your surroundings
This constant feeling of having little to no energy is more common than you think and is a habit. Like any habit, it’s a learned behaviour, but this can also be unlearned.
Let us show you how…
What is self-care?
Firstly let’s ask the same question as above, “how well do you take care of yourself?”
The term “self-care” is so broad because it’s not only your mental and emotional health, your physical health, your relationships, your fitness, your life-balance but it’s all of those and more.1,2
What do you do/think to take care of YOU?
The reason we include ‘think’ is because how we think often becomes how we act. If we consciously think about caring for ourselves and take action to make it happen, the positive results from that will be immediate.
Self-care is any activity you do with the intention of making you happier and healthier, and when you are happier and healthier, you sleep better.2
Types of self-care
As the term self-care covers many different elements of your health, it can be broken down into different types, such as1:
How well you look after your physical needs. For example, are you eating well for your body and maintaining your physical fitness? You don’t need a fitness guru to tell you that if you eat unhealthy food and don’t get enough exercise that it can affect your physical health. How often, after eating a heavy meal, do you feel really lethargic and simply want to put your head down and sleep? What activities do you fit into your routine to look after your physical health?
Mental self-care is about sharpening your ability to learn, think, reason, remember, solve problems, make decisions, and pay attention. What do you do to keep your mind sharp?
How easy can you handle uncomfortable emotions like anxiety, anger, grief, stress, sadness? Emotional self-care is about developing healthy coping skills to help you feel empowered and in control of your emotions. What do you do to cope when emotions overwhelm you?
Spiritual self-care does not have to involve religion. It can involve anything that helps you develop a deeper sense of meaning, purpose, understanding, or connection to the world. What gives you a feeling of purpose and fulfilment? Many people cite yoga as being the ultimate in spiritual self-care and it’s also physical self-care too!
Humans are beings that need connection with other humans. This is why your relationships with friends, family and colleagues are also important to your wellbeing. How much time do you make to spend with the people that are important to you?
Good sleep is a fundamental part of self-care and where it starts and ends really. Sleep quality can impact your physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and social health. How well are you sleeping?
Why good self-care starts with a good sleep
Sleep has such a profound effect on all areas of your life. When you haven’t slept do you feel like you have the energy to exercise, the willpower to eat healthily, the ability to think clearly, or emotional resilience to handle what life throws at you?
When you improve your sleep health you also improve your overall health and wellbeing. Therefore, a good place to start when creating a self-care strategy is to improve your quality of sleep.
Self-care strategies for a better night’s sleep
Improving the quality of your sleep can begin with small, subtle changes. If you want good sleep, experiment with some of the suggested strategies below to see what helps you get a better night’s sleep:
- Make sleep a priority – Do not let your work, scrolling through social media, or your favourite TV shows creep into the time you could be sleeping
- Design a consistent sleep routine – go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends
- Avoid caffeine within 6 hours of bedtime3
- No food within 3 hours of going to bed, as this could cause disturbed sleep through heartburn4
- Limit your liquid intake close to bedtime, you don’t want a full bladder waking you up in the middle of the night
- If you are going to nap, keep it short and earlier in the afternoon, ideally before 3pm5
- Make sure your bedroom is the perfect environment for sleep – quiet, dark, cool and comfortable
- If you smoke or vape, and you are not ready to give up nicotine, then make sure you avoid smoking or vaping within 2 hours of bedtime, as nicotine keeps you awake for longer.6 You may be surprised at how much nicotine is in a cigarette and more.
- Exercise earlier in the day. Strenuous exercise close to bedtime can make it difficult to fall asleep7
- Keep devices out of the bedroom – the blue light from the devices trick your eyes into thinking it is daytime, and the stimulating content can leave your mind racing – both keep you awake for longer
Designing a simple self-care plan
There is no such thing as one-size-fits-all self-care plan, and unlike some misconceptions, caring for yourself is not a selfish act. You cannot help or care for others if you are not feeling at your best.
Here are some quick tips for creating a simple customised self-care plan:
- Prioritise: Assess which areas of your life need to be prioritised for self-care, i.e. sleep health, physical health, emotional health, etc.
- Baby Steps: Don’t try to tackle everything at once – changing habits is always more sustainable and successful if taken in small, incremental steps. Choose one area of your health you would like to improve and create a plan for change – this can be one small step and once that becomes a new habit, then introduce one more and continue like that.
- Schedule time – even if your life is full on, factor in that crucial ‘me time’, even if this starts off at 10 minutes a day.
- Make sleep part of your self-care routine – remember sleep can have a big impact on how you feel emotionally and physically. Good sleep can be a key ingredient in making your life healthier and happier.
- 5 Self-Care Practices for Every Area of Your Life – Very Well Mind
- Self-Care: 12 Ways to Take Better Care of Yourself – Psychology Today
- Caffeine and Sleep – SleepFoundation.org
- Eating at Night Disrupts Sleep – Dr Michael J. Breus
- Debunking Sleep Myths: Does Napping During the Day Affect Your Sleep at Night? – SleepFoundation.org
- Impact of Nicotine and Other Stimulants on Sleep in Young Adults – Caviness et al
- The Best Time of Day to Exercise for Quality Zzz’s – SleepFoundation.org