You and I want to be healthy but we can easily take temporary shortcuts when our to-do list is completely overwhelming. The problem is our temporary shortcuts can become a habit, a really bad habit. While I was a county Emergency Manager, several disaster events and busy seasons understandably caused a shortage of sleep as I tried to manage everything. Adding on a few babies didn’t help the matter either. Soon I began burning both ends of the candle, up late at night and up early in the morning. When life began to calm down again I didn’t change back to my old routines, resulting in feeling exhausted by the afternoon. Finally I realized changes needed to happen. I hope what I learned is a blessing to you. We can make two simple lifestyle changes with big impact: sleeping and drinking water. Life can seem brighter and less overwhelming when we are not exhausted and dehydrated.
A quick side note: I am not a doctor, dietician, nurse, x-ray tech or any type of professional in the medical field. I am only sharing information to encourage you to live your best life. The information is not intended to replace medical advice offered by physicians. But if you would like advice on good coffee or chocolate I can help you out!
Really, you are going to talk about sleep?
I would groan and roll my eyes reading headlines about research showing the importance of sleep. Seriously?! I am a mom of three active kids who are convinced their current purpose in life is to give job security to the vacuum cleaner, mop and sometimes the doctor. I might add they are quite successful as well. I have stayed up late and woke up early trying to accomplish more, yet many times throughout the day I would be frustrated, tired and impatient with the kids. After hearing research shows lack of sleep impacts the brain and may be a possible cause for Alzheimers, I started paying attention.
Follow me with this train of thought. My friend and I are driving together to go shopping. While on the highway my car chugs slowly until I pull over. I begin yelling at the car and hitting the steering wheel. My friend looks over and states, “Good news, the car is just out of gas and over there is a gas station”. But now I am switching between begging and yelling at the car. Confused my friend asks what in the world am I doing? “I don’t care the car is out of gas, it has to keep going!” My friend would probably leave me yelling at the car while she bought a container of gas because I was being totally unreasonable.
We do the same thing. We sleep on an average of five to six hours (or less) a night and become frustrated when we run out of energy, become impatient or we didn’t accomplish more in our day. You and I didn’t put gas into our car. Now at least four out of seven nights a week I am sleeping for seven hours or more (my procrastination and kids impact the other nights). My energy level and outlook has improved. I am awake during my morning routine of exercise and Bible reading instead of falling asleep on treadmill.
A special note to moms who have babies, you are in the thick of a very tough season that I remember well. While you may not be able to sleep seven hours at a time, you can take naps during your kids nap time to get you through until your sweet pea is sleeping through the night.
My new routine involves getting ready for bed followed by reading for about 30 minutes. After that point I am usually ready to fall asleep. If you have problems falling asleep at night consider listening to music, using a sound machine or a sleep app. I have found great success with Sleep Genius which you can find it on the Google Play and the iTunes. Sleep Genius allows you to play different background sounds while you are sleeping the entire night with a cheerful wakeup melody as an alarm.
Action step: Base on the time you need to wake up in the morning, count backwards seven to eight hours to find your bedtime. And also count back from your bedtime to allow for your evening routine of getting ready for sleep. If needed, set an alarm on your phone to notify you its time to get ready for bed.
And water is so . . . boring
Being very transparent, I am working on this area. I am not consistently drinking enough water. And I can tell when I am dehydrated because I have headaches with no other symptoms. Headaches were God’s natural way of telling us we are dehydrated before worst symptoms develop. There is also research showing the lack of water can cause headaches.
Even more convincing is the impact on our liver. According to WebMD “The liver’s main job is to filter the blood coming from the digestive tract, before passing it to the rest of the body. The liver also detoxifies chemicals and metabolizes drugs.” For the liver to function at its peak we need to drink water.
I have another analogy for you. Imagine my friend and I are finish our shopping trip and are on our way home. A red light flashes on my dashboard showing low oil. I ignore it completely and keep driving. What would happen if I keep driving for an extended amount of time without adding oil? I would eventually destroy my engine. Water is to our body as oil is for gasoline cars. We stress our bodies when we don’t drink water.
I so easily forget to drink water that I need the simplest reminder. Every time I see my water bottle or glass on the counter I take a drink. When I become bored with water I add orange or lemon to flavor my water. Also for every cup of coffee or tea I drink a glass of water afterwards.
Action Step: Find a water bottle or glass to keep in a visible location and begin by drinking two full glasses a day. Increase your glasses of water each day unless you are able to go full speed right away. Daily recommendations vary from 6 to 8 glasses of water. You can keep track of your water intake in your food tracking app such as My Fitness Pal or using a cute water sticker in your planner.
Now its your turn, in the comments below share what happens when you don’t have enough sleep or water.
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