Over the years of working with thousands of clients on their holistic wellbeing I realized there are really four elements to making a change and getting it to stick. In my first book, Wellness On A Shoestring: Seven Habits for a Healthy Life, I got deep on the first three – explaining what to do, how to do it, and why it was important to your health…and how it all intertwined. I was proud of that book. I still am. But as I started teaching it as a course and speaking on it all across the country I realized that I missed a piece. And that piece is the most critical to taking consistent action toward change, and maintaining good habits. You have to know your why.
This is your personal why. Why do you care? Why do you want this change in your life? It can’t just be to fit into an old pair of jeans or look great at your high school reunion. Those reasons might get you to your goal, but they won’t keep you there. Your why has to be deeper than that and more meaningful to your heart. That’s why the first chapter of my second book, The E Factor – Engage, Energize, Enrich – Three Steps to Vibrant Health, is “Know Your Why,” to help you explore and determine your why.
So why am I bringing this up in a blog that is supposed to be about sleep and relationships? Because nine times out of ten people’s why relates to other people. It may be that you want more energy to get through your day, or to play with the kids or grandkids. It may be living long enough and healthy enough to enjoy retirement with your honey. It may be feeling comfortable enough in your body to be more intimate.
I’ve been sharing a lot of information about the importance of sleep and how it affects the body. But let’s look at how getting more and better sleep can impact your relationships.
You’ll be less stressed. Sleep and exercise are the two best ways to process stress in the body. Ideally you’re doing both, but if you can only do one right now, focus on increasing your sleep. When you sleep you process stress hormones and bring your body out of “fight or flight” mode into “rest and digest.” This allows your body to shift focus away from stress to rejuvenating your cells from the day’s activities. When you don’t get enough sleep you don’t fully process stress or allow your body to refresh, and it shows up as being stressed all day. Stress impacts how you act and react with others. It may even influence who wants to be in your presence.
You’ll be in a better mood. This piggy-backs on the first point. When you don’t get enough sleep you risk hormone imbalances. You raise cortisol, which is a stress hormone. You also can affect your balance of serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin has many functions in the body, but one of its most important is for maintaining a steady mood. A deficit in serotonin leads to depression. Melatonin supports your circadian rhythm, helping you fall asleep and wake up. A deficit of melatonin can lead to insomnia or chronic fatigue. Stress, depression, and insomnia are not a recipe for good relationships. Getting more and better sleep will elevate your mood.
You’ll be more focused. One of the best things we can do for our relationships is to be truly present. This means that when you’re with someone, you’re truly there, focused on them and the experience you’re having together. It means that when you’re having a conversation you’re actually listening to one another. Being present is important both in your personal relationships and with your professional ones. But it is difficult to be present when you’re exhausted. It is hard to focus on anything – a person, a movie, or a spreadsheet – and really take it all in and engage fully when you’re tired and your brain is foggy. Lack of sleep impacts focus, and memory. So the next time someone gets frustrated that you aren’t really paying attention, or you can’t seem to remember that story they told you two days ago, consider that improving your sleep could make a difference.
You’ll have more energy. Sleep is the time our body uses to recharge. Every single cell in our body needs to refresh if we’re going to be fresh and full of energy. Caffeine is not the answer. That triple shot venti latte may “wake you up,” but only because it is putting you in a “fight or flight” stress mode internally. True energy comes from how we fuel and rejuvenate. We do that with nutrition, water and sleep. Anything else is simply a stimulant that may give you the short term burst you want, but has a negative impact in the long term. So if you’re craving energy to get more done, be a better employee or boss, spouse, partner, parent, grandparent, sister, brother, coach, or friend, start by giving your cells time to recharge. Sleep.
Getting more and better sleep is probably the single thing most of us need to do to immediately shift our health and wellbeing. It is at least in the top three of small changes that can create big shifts in how you feel. Sleep is not a luxury. It is a necessity to the wellbeing of your mind, body and spirit…and your relationships. Change some habits, shake it up and get a good night’s rest, consistently. Sweet dreams.
P.S. If you are interested in getting better sleep for a better you check out my program, 21 Days to Rejuvenating Sleep.