Sleep… The Final Frontier…
If you are a dad, you have a more profound appreciation for sleep than before your first child was born.
Chances are that your relationship with sleep has also profoundly changed. Every dad is different in the degree his sleep is affected when kids come along. One thing, however, is universal: sleep is harder to come by.
Thus getting Great Sleep truly IS the Final Frontier for a lot of dads.
Lots of things change when the first child comes along. First of all, simply getting past the newborn and infant stages is a challenge. As a child grows up, there are further challenges that place stress on every father: what school does my kid go to? These bills are piling up… How am I going to get everything done on time? Goddamn it. Stress is terrible for sleep hygiene.
Finally, as men get older, there is a tendency to let things slide. Us guys drink more coffee and beer than is good for us. We gain weight, eat too much, ignore exercise, and stress out about things that are out of our control. None of which is conducive to getting a good night’s sleep.
So, many of us just accept that sleep is a far distant memory. Many of us just accept the fact that sleep deprivation will always be a thing until the kids are off to college.
This is a mistake. Sleep deprivation is not only undesirable, it can lead to seriously bad ramifications for a man, his family, and his work.
Sleep deprivation makes you dumb. Sleep is critical to cognitive performance. Lack of sleep hurts concentration, problem solving, judgment, and attention span.
Sleep deprivation hurts memory retention. Sleep has a role in consolidating memory. Not getting enough sleep can lead to a lot of forgetfulness.
Sleep deprivation leads to accidents. Crashing the car on the way to work because you are sleepy does not help the family cause. Screwing up at work because of a lack of zzz’s does not help the family cause.
Sleep deprivation is not sexy. Lack of sleep kills the sex drive. It also makes your eyes puffy and sags your skin.
Sleep deprivation is unhealthy. A lack of sleep puts you at risk for cardiac complications, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, depression, other mental issues, and possibly even cancer. Sleep is an investment in your health.
Whether you sleep awesome or sleep poorly depends on your lifestyle. What you do every day helps or hinders how you sleep.
The fix is to build a Flywheel for Great Sleep.
Great Sleep is uninterrupted, regularly scheduled sleep of a healthy duration.
The Flywheel consists of a series of built-up Sleep Habits that can dramatically improve your sleep hygiene, and thus get you to Great Sleep.
Sleep Habit #1: Reduce Stress.
Stress is a sleep killer. There is nothing worse than waking up in the middle of the night thinking about that stressful thing that has been on your mind all day.
Fortunately there are tons of stress-busters that you can do to help with your sleep quality.
- You can build something. Men are natural builders of things. Creation calms us down and staves off anxiety.
- Do one thing at a time. Multi-tasking not only is super inefficient, it causes a lot of stress.
- You can meditate. This can be simply lying down on a mat and thinking of nothing. Ahhhh.
- Do something spiritual. This does not have to be anything religious, but try and find something bigger than yourself to appreciate.
Sleep Habit #2: Don’t drink coffee.
Yes, quit the devil bean entirely. I have written here about how quitting coffee has improved my life in numerous ways—better hydration, better skin, less stress, and of course, better sleep.
Tea is a perfect alternative. The lower caffeine content and mellower buzz of tea avoids that sharp caffeine spike-and-crash that is a hallmark of drinking coffee.
Quitting coffee was the single best thing that I have done to get Great Sleep.
Sleep Habit #3: Eliminate late night screen usage.
Phones, tablets, computers, TV’s. Screens are everywhere, demanding our attention.
The problem with digital screens is that using them before bed really kills your mood for sleep.
- Using TV, phones, or computers jacks your brain before bed.
- The blue light emitted from a screen suppresses the sleep hormone melatonin.
- Phone alerts keep you wanting to check your phone at night.
So ditch the digital screens before bed time!
A good family habit to have is to make the last hour or two before bed a screen-free time with your family. That way you actually talk to each other at the end of the day rather than spend time on your phones liking each other’s social media posts.
By avoiding screen time before bed you are really improving your sleep hygiene!
Building up these Sleep Habits in addition to a good schedule for sleep for your whole family takes a bit of time. Habit building does not happen overnight, but it can happen over days and weeks.
The Flywheel of Great Sleep starts spinning once you start creating and building good Sleep Habits. Once your habits are formed, the Flywheel is at speed, and the work to get to Great Sleep much less.
If you enjoyed this post, check out my latest book, A Dad’s Guide to Great Sleep. You will learn: why Great Sleep is so important to your family’s well-being, Seven Sleep Habits that drastically improve your sleep hygiene with little added effort, and how to construct time-efficient Sleep Rotas for your whole family.
‘Till next time,