We all do it. Hit the snooze button at least once instead of rising with our alarm. It’s a mechanism many of us use to grab just a few more moments of sleep. While we may drift off for a few seconds, more often we lie in a semi-conscious fog, simply not wanting to get up. Soon, ten, twenty, even sixty minutes are snooze buttoned away. Enough! Don’t hit the snooze button-let’s get up, address our sleep issues and enjoy more memorable moments.
To sleep or not to sleep, that is the question for many of us. No matter what stage of life, from infancy to our last days, sleep is always a priority. This has never been truer for me than in the last month.
It doesn’t matter if we are infants, parents of infants, stressed teens or adults, or older adults wrestling with sleep issues, every stage of life presents sleep challenges. Infants, children and even teens need extra sleep for brains to process and develop adequately. Parents of said children need sleep to be able to parent them well. As adults, many issues can interfere with sleep, some we have control over and others we don’t. Older adults often have their sleep interrupted by changing physical conditions and surroundings. Numerous variables impact our sleep, but the one thing that is constant is how important sleep is to our mental and physical wellness.
In the last month, I’ve dealt with physical issues, caregiving challenges and also mental roadblocks which have impacted my sleep. I understand the importance of sleep to mental and physical wellness, but not all the circumstances were under my control. I imagine this has happened to all of us at one time or another. So what can we do?
Control what we can and manage the rest.
At times, I chose less sleep due to unforeseen or uncontrollable circumstances. Other times, physical issues made sleeping more difficult and still other nights, worry invaded my peaceful rest. Not all of these were of my own doing. But I did strive to balance what I could to achieve at least a decent amount of sleep. Now that many of the issues have been or are resolved, my sleep is improving. But in the midst of the worst, I did what I could to manage.
A recent article reminded me of what’s all at stake with sleep and our memories. Our brain links memories with the rest of our world when we sleep. If this process doesn’t occur for whatever reason, we wind up not functioning as well mentally or physically the next day. Our memories are impacted and we cannot make decisions well. None of these are helpful as we try to function and learn whether as children or adults.
Here are a few tips that may be helpful when sleep challenges arise:
- Make sleep a priority. Don’t put it off thinking you can make it up later. Set a bedtime and try to stick to it. If you literally can’t sleep as much as you should due to unforeseen circumstances, do your best to get as much as you can and get back on track ASAP.
- Don’t do anything but sleep. Don’t eat or watch TV, don’t worry or wonder, let it all go and rest. Write down any concerns you have, try to relax and let sleep come. Often new solutions rise when we lay down our worries with our heads.
- Try to plan for contingencies. If physical issues could cause problems while sleeping, take preventative measures. If too hot, use a fan. If in discomfort, try a new position or different pillow arrangements. Think ahead to solve some issues in advance.
- If sleep deprived, try a nap. If a good night’s sleep was missed, a short (~30 minute) nap the next day can be incredibly helpful and refreshing.
- Keep trying. There will be days and even weeks when sleep eludes us for various reasons in life. But let’s not slide into bad habits. Keep trying to get back on track to a healthy sleep schedule. Our bodies and minds will thank us.
Sleep is an integral part of our lives from birth to death. How we learn to manage and make it a priority in our lives will make an enormous difference in the quality of our lives. So here’s to sleeping well, remembering more and enjoying life one moment at a time.
Winds are shifting, leaves are beginning to fall and school bells are ringing. These telltale end of summer signs may make us feel sad about the end of one season and the beginning of another. But if you’ve participated in our #SummerToRemember series, it’s my hope you have plenty of memories to draw upon as autumn approaches.
Mine sure has been a summer to remember with monumental birthdays, milestone events and small moments to cherish. Whether yours was full of big moments or a series of small, all of them are worth savoring. We began this series with the premise that life is short, so let’s make our choices count. The goal was to create an environment for making memories of all our fleeting moments. I did pretty well-how about you?
First off, we discussed how the choices we make reflect what we value while also impacting what and how well we remember. What we choose to think about and how we manage our physical wellness is imperative. Taking care of our bodies and also prioritizing what’s important dictates how well we live and recall our lives. Making healthy choices matter.
To that end, we began with some challenges. The first one was to be aware of and hone the skill of focused attention. How we each do this is unique, but the main point is if we don’t or can’t pay attention well, we will never remember anything. It’s just not possible to input information into our memory without paying attention. If we learn and apply this, we’ll remember more.
Next was a challenge to identify HOW we individually prefer to remember. This typically stems from how we learn or our learning style-visual, auditory or tactile. We may not all understand how we learn best, but thinking about what we enjoy is a first step in knowing our unique learning style(s). Then we apply memory techniques to coincide with how we learn and bingo-we begin to remember more!
Now that we know how to remember more, our challenge focus shifted to keeping our brains healthier. Just like a muscle wants to move, the brain wants to be used. It’s the old ‘use it or lose it’ adage which rings so true. We need to keep learning to keep remembering. Resting on our laurels only allows our brains to atrophy. In order to make it a summer or any moment to remember, we need to keep our brains learning, growing, creating, and maintaining neural connections. This can even be improved upon by stepping out of our comfort zones.
Just as we need to keep our brains learning, we need to keep our bodies moving. Exercising our bodies feeds our brains to function better. Remembering well is enhanced by physical exercise and hopefully the 5 tips to encourage more movement benefited you this summer!
Remembering well is not just about the what, but also the how. How something feels as well as how we think impacts what we remember. Using our senses to connect memories while having a good attitude about life and all we experience truly strengthens our actual memories.
To remember well It’s crucial to manage the three S’s-socialization, sleep and stress. If these aren’t in sync and managed well, our moments can easily turn into ones of lonely, sleepless stress. Often this summer, my sleep habits were varied and I always felt it. Crabby, groggy and foggy could have described me on some days. But managing, adapting, and adjusting my sleep and stress when I could (not always as well as I would have hoped) was beneficial. Being with others can either cause stress or relieve it. Using all the tips given in these posts helped me manage and improve these big three components.
We went through a wealth of information in this #SummerToRemember series. It’s my hope you were able to learn but most importantly apply this information to make your own moments memorable. Take these memories and literally and figuratively store them in your memory and/or as something tangible like pictures, a journal or even simply sharing them with others. Our memories make up the fabric of our lives and the patchwork of our identity.
As we turn to September, autumn and the seasonal and life changes which will evoke different memories, I’ll be taking a week off to make and share memories with loved ones over Labor Day. Please do the same.
Life is short and every moment is meant to be savored. Take some time to enjoy the long weekend and share some memories with others. I’ll be back the following week, ready to encourage us all to even more memorable moments!
Ahh sleep-refreshing, rejuvenating and elusive? Our heads hit the pillow after a long day and we just want to relax. We collapse, find that comfortable spot and drift to dreamland, right? Wrong. For many people, especially those who are older, sleep becomes more elusive with age. Scientists and the medical community are educating us all on the importance of sleep for our bodies and brains. So how can we sleep well?
This generation is trending toward less sleep than many before it. Technology advances, never ending options for entertainment and commerce, fear of missing out, bodily changes as we age, are all reasons to explain why we are sleeping less. Sleep plays a pivotal role in our body and mind wellness, yet the processes aren’t fully known.
One things researchers do know about sleep is that is provides a virtual rewind and organizational component to brain and memory wellness. When we get enough sleep, these brain functions occur naturally and assist memory. When we don’t, things get backed up and just like a messy desk or an overgrown garden, it takes longer to be more efficient in our efforts the next day.
We know we need to sleep in order to function well in mind and body, yet our actions don’t always fit our wishes. I’m a perfect example.
I need at least seven hours of sleep to function optimally but that is a rare occurrence. Getting up early for school, work or summer events, carving out a bit of quiet time for myself and/or being so used to getting up early I can’t sleep late anymore are a few of the reasons why I often don’t make that seven hour mark.
My fitness tracker also monitors my sleep and sometimes I catch up a bit on weekends, but my average sleep amount still usually falls short of those refreshing seven. And I feel it. Some days I’m just not physically or mentally sharp due to my lesser sleeping time. Getting to bed and sleep sooner is always a goal and I have made a dent.
My bedtime goal is earlier than it used to be. I’ve learned to manage the thoughts that sometimes make falling asleep difficult. I’ve adjusted my diet, our bedroom and our bed to make them more conducive to sleep. My motivation is not only to keep my body refreshed but also my brain and memory.
So here are a few tips that can help us to grab even just a few more moments of precious sleep:
- Keep a regular bedtime and wake schedule. Your body will then automatically sense when it’s time to sleep and awaken more naturally.
- Keep your bedroom about sleep. Don’t exercise, eat, watch TV, scroll the internet or be on any other electronic device before trying to get some sleep. Eliminating these things sets the tone to wind down and relax.
- Let go of what threatens the drift-off factor. Whether it’s thoughts, worries, moving around, or loud noises adjacent to your bedroom, let them go. Write down or pray about worries or things to do, find a comfy spot and try to stay there and control the noise. These will assist you to drift into dreamland more easily.
- Control your evening actions. Don’t exercise or eat a big meal. Don’t consume alcohol or caffeine right before bedtime. All of these can interfere with a more natural wind down time in the evenings.
- Work on what you can and when all else fails, talk to your doctor. There are many things we can control but if you’ve tried them all, see if your doctor has another solution. Maybe it’s adjusting your medications or trying another sleep producing alternative, but seek professional help if necessary.
Quality sleep is paramount in our efforts toward wellness in our body and mind. If we truly want to savor these last moments in our #SummerToRemember, we need to get enough sleep. See if these help with your sleep and overall memory and let’s remember our summer moments well!
Turning the calendar to April always feels a bit like a new beginning. It’s the fourth month but in many ways, it feels like a fresh start. Spring is coming and April heralds its brilliance beautifully. New life sprouts from the earth, brighter colors flood the landscape, and animals are birthed in the fresh breezes of April. It’s also a great time to start anew on our memory wellness choices.
Let’s honor and begin this new month with a fresh perspective on how we approach our memory. What are you doing today to positively impact your memory in ten, twenty or thirty years? It’s not something we think of each morning, but we should. What we do today determines how well we’ll remember in our later years. Makes you think, doesn’t it?
So let’s begin this month by consciously choosing to improve and enhance our memory and overall wellness by what we do each day. These choices don’t have to be big, but they will add up to a huge impact over time. Our lifestyle choices are like compound interest for our wellness.
Here are a few ideas on how to start fresh on memory wellness choices:
- Going to work? Park further away, take the stairs, walk at lunch and/or move each hour to insert more exercise into your day.
- Eating today? Add or swap in some colorful, brain healthy foods to assist your memory and overall wellness.
- Feeling Stressed? Step back from the situation to get a better perspective. Shift your attitude and manage the stress to avoid chronic illnesses and the brain limiting effects it can create.
- Feeling Sluggish? Get up and exercise both mind and body as well as taking steps toward good quality and quantity of sleep each night.
- Can’t remember like you used to? Stop and ask yourself if you’re doing too much or not enough. Doing too much distracts and steals our focus which hampers memory. Not doing enough mentally or physically leads to atrophy of brain cells which doesn’t allow the brain to access memories successfully. Organize and prioritize your time to remember well.
All of us can benefit from a fresh start for our memories and there’s no better time as we begin a new month and season. Every choice we make matters in this life. Are we making choices that will help or hamper our memory in the future? The choice is ours; let’s choose well and make a fresh start for our memory today!