I used to be a sleeper-inner. I coined that phrase in my twenties when I was at the height of my sleeping-in years. I enjoyed going out late and staying up into the wee hours, then reveled in sleeping in the next day. I used to think of it as a reward after a long work-week. That was well before kids and the realization of a consistent sleep routine.
Now, twenty-some years later, I’m asleep by 10 pm and awake by 5 am five days a week (I sleep until 7 am on the weekends because that’s grace!). Sound daunting? Well, it didn’t happen overnight, nor was it an easy transition. It started when my youngest son, Will, was about 8 months old and stopped breastfeeding. At that point, I’d been pregnant and/or breastfeeding for three years straight and it was time for momma to do something about the baby weight. My sister was big into Pilates so I decided to give it a try just one day a week at 6 am. Those mornings were brutal at first, especially because the baby was still getting up at odd hours some nights; but it worked for our schedule because I could get there and back before my husband had to leave for work.
Over the course of about eight years, I added one day at a time to my Pilates schedule and worked my way up to going 5 days a week at 6 am. If you would have told a former version of me that I would be one of those people who wakes up at 5 am five days a week TO WORK OUT, I never would have believed you. Yet, in hindsight, I could have been on this schedule in far less than eight years had I understood the importance of a consistent sleep routine.
Sleep is like any habitual act; if you have a healthy approach, you increase your probability of getting positive results. In the same breath, it’s completely acceptable to have no plan whatsoever given the fact that sleep is going to happen with or without a plan. I mean, we all sleep every night, you don’t exactly need a “plan” for it. But, having a plan can make a difference. How many of us can say that we sleep well every night and wake up ready to face each new day with a positive mindset? That is a life-changing learned behavior!
With that said, I’m still learning too. I’m learning that a consistent sleep routine is a privilege and that for many the window of opportunity for healthy sleep is limited. In college, I was a serious sleeper. In fact, I was once challenged to a sleep-off. I won with 15 hours of consecutive slumber. For some people, that’s three nights worth. In my twenties, I slept in whenever I wasn’t working and was befuddled why anyone would wake before 10am if they didn’t have to. My thirties showed me what the opposite of sleep looked like with the arrival of two babies born 18-months apart who would eventually become needy toddlers. My forties have been the sweet spot. I still sleep like a champ, but now it’s on my terms. I know it won’t be long – maybe as soon as 50 (7 short years from now) when menopause will be calling the shots with sleepless nights, restless leg syndrome, hot flashes and all the other detestable things I’ve heard from my more mature friends. But, for now, I practice healthy sleep habits like it’s my job and will hold on to those habits for as long as womanly possible.
So, what do healthy sleep habits look like? Grace in the Race utilizes a strategy called PACE to get laser-focused on being more intentional in all areas of mom-struggle. Here’s is PACE defined and how it applies to sleep:
- P = Perseverance: (n) persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success
- A = Attitude: (n) a settled way of thinking or feeling about someone or something, typically one that is reflected in a person’s behavior.
- C = Consistency: (n) consistency in the application of something, typically that which is necessary for the sake of logic, accuracy or fairness
- E = Effort (n) a vigorous or determined attempt
Perseverance and Sleep: Make the hard choice to be a better sleeper – chances are you know it would be good for you. Persevere by deciding how many hours of sleep you need and shoot for that number nightly.
Attitude and Sleep: Shift your mindset by deciding that you are a person committed to healthy sleep habits. Since your behavior is a reflection of your attitude, you must talk the talk and walk the walk. Own it – work it, GIRL!
Consistency and Sleep: Show up for your new habit EVERY DAY/NIGHT, specifically, go to sleep and wake up at the same time every-single-day.
Effort and Sleep: You must be all in! No more excuses! Maybe you’re a night owl. Is that serving you? If yes, super. But, chances are, it’s not. Stop using it as an excuse and implement change!
I’m hitting you with a little tough love here because I need you to understand that the system is important. If you’re going to implement change, you’re going to have to do the hard things.
Now, with that said, once we set our PACE, it’s imperative that we filter in the grace. Remember, GracePace is grace in action at YOUR pace! Too much grace negates your PACE – grace is a temporary reprieve, so don’t hang out there too long. There’s a slippery slope between grace and no-longer-working. Too little grace often results in overinflated expectations, disappointment, guilt, and failure. We see this happen all the time – especially with eating. People dive headfirst into a fad-diet, can’t handle the drastic change to their lifestyle and immediately dive back into a bag of chips (I know. I’ve been that girl.) The just-right amount of grace promotes positive growth. It means setting a reasonable expectation for change and working to achieve it while giving yourself a temporary reprieve along the way.
This article from CBC highlights the many benefits of healthy sleep habits and encourages us to think of them as a lifestyle rather than a temporary discipline. A temporary discipline is something like a New Years’ resolution . . . how successful are those? Here are some of the benefits of healthy sleep from the CBC article:
- Better digestion, regularity, stronger immunity
- Improved concentration and productivity
- Emotional stability
Additionally, consider this statistic from an article found on mindbodygreen.com: “Compared to people who are more loose about the time they get up each morning, people with strict wake-up times were 13% more satisfied with their personal lives, 45% more satisfied with their financial situation and 42% more satisfied with their work-life balance. Those are some huge differences!”
All this to say, Zzzz’s matter! Being intentional about sleep sets the stage for us to wake with intention. Waking with intention sets the tone for our entire day, up to and including our nighttime routine, which resets the cycle for another restful night! Rocking this consistent sleep routine is a game-changer! I’m living proof!!
Have you joined The Grace Experiment? It’s the Grace in the Race monthly challenge and it’s FREE! The March Challenge is all about sleep. We want to hear what’s working for you and where you struggle to see if we can help! The challenge community is designed to do just that and ultimately foster a better you.
Click HERE to join the challenge!