5 Tips for Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

Research proves sleep is important. In fact, it plays an essential role in a person’s ability to be productive and healthy.

While experts say that everyone needs 7-8 hours of solid slumber every night, many individuals argue they can be at their best with less. Regardless, the fact remains that a good night’s sleep, however you define that, is essential.

While I still sometimes struggle getting a good night’s sleep, doing so is no longer a constant struggle like it used to be. Most nights, I now sleep a full 7 hours and wake feeling refreshed. This doesn’t happen by chance. I’ve learned that I have a great deal of control over how well I sleep, something I didn’t always believe to be true.

5 Tips for Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

These tips are mostly based on my personal struggle with sleep over the years. However, what I learned by trial and error is actually supported by what experts recommend too.

  1. Consider supplements. Some people swear by prescription sleep aids, but I never liked the results and side effects. Some people take melatonin every night before bed to help them fall asleep quickly. For me, drinking tea with valerian and/or chamomile works best. Everyone is different, and it’s okay to experiment a bit in order to find out what works.
  2. Evaluate your environment. While my husband can sleep with the lights on or off and with noise or quiet, I need almost total darkness and complete silence. The temperature of the room matters too. I don’t like to be too cold, but my mother loves to have the window open when it’s freezing outside. Getting a consistent environment can go a long way in getting a good night’s sleep.
  3. Experiment with tools. Tools for sleeping include eye masks, ear plugs, white noise (a fan, for example), a body pillow, and an electric blanket. Again, play with these different tools to see what helps you sleep better. While the electric blanket is the only one I use at home (we live in Michigan, and the nights can get quite cold, especially when my husband is traveling for work), I do use ear plugs sometimes when traveling (like when camping). I have also used an eye mask in the past when I wanted to take a nap or could not control the room’s lighting.
  4. Change your bedtime routine. Caffeine and alcohol or wine too close to bedtime can affect how a person sleeps, and so can viewing any type of media screen (television, smart phone, computer, etc.). Think about what you do after 8:00PM that may be contributing to your sleep problems.
  5. Think about how you rest. Some people struggle sleeping at night because they replay their day over and over again in their minds. They struggle with how to relax. Counteracting this happens in a variety of ways. Ideas include writing down thoughts before going to bed and finding ways to relax during the day to prevent stress building up. Some people find that a power nap every afternoon helps them relax and feel less stressed at the end of the day. Others use full-body muscle relaxation techniques, and still others employ stretching and exercise to reduce stress.

Find What Works for You

The combination of techniques is unique to every individual. In addition, work toward as much consistency as possible with your routine. This includes getting up and going to sleep at about the same time every day, even during vacation and on weekends.

The benefits of a good night’s sleep include increased productivity, consistent energy levels and improved relationships. It also results in a more positive outlook on life. In fact, a good night’s sleep is an essential building block for EVERY area of life.

Don’t neglect this crucial proponent of good health. Simply put, being well-rested is one of the best ways to be ready to “make the most of every opportunity.” (See Ephesians 5:15-16). This was a huge motivation for me to improve my sleep routine. Getting a good night’s sleep goes a long way in helping me to be consistently at my best.

If you consistently sleep well, how do you make that happen? If you don’t, what will you try to hopefully change that?

Weekend Reflections – Making Memories

Up until this past weekend, my family and I have gone camping with other families when we go. This time, though, it was just the four of us. My boys were forced to redefine what camping meant to them. Before, camping meant spending time with friends generally their age. It meant more than being just with the people with whom they live and spend their daily lives.

When they found out this trip would be “just the four of us,” both boys seemed at a loss of what we would do to fill the time. In other words, they were certain it would be boring. When I saw their disappointment and the anticipation and excitement drain from their eyes, a determination rose up in me to show them how to choose to make a disappointing situation become a memorable experience.

Sugar

I don’t like it. I don’t eat much of it usually. Yet, so many of life’s pleasures have it. At some point, I simply came to terms with the idea that letting my kids have s’mores with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and chewy chocolate chip cookies wasn’t being a bad mom. It’s creating a memory that will span generations. Besides, it’s not like we have them for breakfast. (Okay, maybe cookies once, but that’s it.) The point is that having treats like this goes a long way in making the trip memorable for my family simply because it was special and not something they normally get.

Fire

Making popcorn over a campfire in a coffee can. Cooking almost all our meals over the fire. Watching things melt. Yes, we probably sometimes broke the rule to not play with fire, but at least it was contained. All campers are captivated by this element around which all campsites center. As we sat there at various times during the day and every evening, we constantly ended up“fanning the flames” of connection in our family in some way. (Check out 1 Timothy 1:3-7 for added emphasis on the importance of family connection.)We remembered a lot of fun times, we joked, we talked about when my husband and I were kids, and we even talked about books and movies. And at some point we got to words that might not have ever been said in the company of others or even at the dinner table at home. Family words spoken in the dark as we watched the fire.

Movement

We spent a lot of time just sitting and relaxing or reading, but a large part of this trip was about activity. Most of this activity necessitated family interaction. Corn hole. Bike rides. Walks. Swimming. We competed with each other, and we even trash talked some. Movement together as a family leads to compromise, conflict resolution, preferring and encouraging. At home, we can find separate corners of the house when irritations arise. While camping, there’s no real getting away from one another. Camping can promote much-needed interaction as a family, especially in the absence of electronics (which I highly recommend, by the way).

Disappointing to Memorable

Seems silly to bring sugar, fire and movement together in a post reflecting on my weekend, but as I think about this past weekend and what we did to create memories, I realize that these three elements really came together to allow us to be fully present as individuals in a family unit. They helped create an atmosphere that allowed each one of us to enjoy every moment together.

Which brings me full circle to turning disappointing into memorable. The elements that seem essential for that recipe include being fully present, doing something special, creating the right atmosphere, moving together and preferring one another. Sure, there are tons of ways to create memories as a family, but don’t they all really contain the same ingredients? What ingredients am I missing?

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Sunday Reflections – 5 Reasons to Consider Camping

Dirt everywhere. Bugs too. Five minute walk to the bathroom. Very little privacy. Meals made over a campfire or on a propane stove. Cooler for “fridge.” Loud neighbors. Sleeping on a semi-comfortable air mattress. No air conditioning.

Personally, camping is not my thing. So, why? Why subject myself to two poor nights of sleep along with almost constant social interaction (not easy for an introvert)? Simply put, my husband and boys LOVE camping. On this past trip, the realization hit me that my efforts toward the camping experience were kind of pathetic. Just going did not seem like enough, especially with the words of 2 Corinthians 9:8 in mind.

“God can pour on the blessings in astonishing ways so that you’re ready for anything and everything, more than just ready to do what needs to be done.”

For this reason, I decided to consider the benefits of camping beyond the obvious of honoring my family. My Everyday God once again showed me more than I expected. I am realizing that if I get over myself and my expectations, camping can enhance other areas of life tremendously.

  1. Fellowship. We camp with friends, usually families from church. We have spent time together at church as well as church-related activities and even at each other’s houses. But something about spending two days together, talking at the campfire each night and seeing each other at our morning bests creates a deeper connection.
  2. Family. Take away video games, computers and phones. Take away toys and television. Minus housework and yard work. All excuses removed for why you can’t spend time together as a family. Camping returns a family back to the basic of enjoying each other in simple ways.
  3. Faith. Spending time in nature always increases my faith, and camping certainly is all about spending time outside. Walking trails. Enjoying sounds of animals. Watching the campfire. Something about camping brings out my introspective nature and opens me more to the voice of God.

These three crucial aspects of life seem to get a much-needed focus when camping. Maybe it’s the minimal distractions. Maybe it’s the simplicity of eating. Maybe both.

Not only does camping provide opportunity to strengthen fellowship, family and faith, it goes further into opportunity for

personal reflection and relaxation that few other settings can provide.

  1. Reflection. Think you’re doing pretty well in how you treat others and with humility? Feel like you do well with thinking of others before yourself? Camping gives a status check in these areas. How do you react when other campers are louder than seems appropriate? What about when people act as if they’re in their own back yard and seem to forget the existence of other campers? Do annoyances and small conflicts serve to separate or create greater bonds? Any expectation of personal privacy or routine must give way to flexibility. The only other options are unhappiness, irritation and even alienation. The choice comes down to being right or having relationship.
  2. Relaxation. In our nonstop world where so many people struggle to stop doing and just be, camping provides an essential break from the hustle and bustle of modern culture. The peaceful morning solitude. Simple, fun food. Congregating around the fire. With little effort, relaxing comes when the simpler life is allowed to simply run in course even if only for a weekend. Sure, everyone might relax differently, but simply being open to the idea of relaxing somehow allows it to flourish. Just one tiny step, maybe turning off the cell phone or putting down that file from work, and the relaxation that is camping easily consumes

This deeper look at camping has helped me realize that a change of venue to a simpler life allows perspective that only this simpler life can provide. Camping forces me to get outside of my silent, orderly world and into the world of interacting with others in a way that can strengthen and deepen bonds when flexibility and grace guide attitude, actions and words.

Maybe you don’t struggle with camping like I do. But you do have a “camping” issue in your life. Everyone does. How do you personally relate to my struggles with camping?

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Discovering Joyful Simplicity

The more I simplify my life, the more I realize that a Relatively Simple life is intertwined with joy. The simpler my physical life and surroundings, the deeper and better quality my mental state and spiritual life. For me, this means the more organized my house, the fewer activities with which I and my family are involved, and the more I reduce the trivial choices like what to wear or eat, the more joy I feel.

Perhaps it’s having a sense of control over my life, and perhaps my mind simply has less to deal with and thus can concentrate on quality rather than quantity. Whatever the reason, increased simplicity certainly made me a more joyful person. I no longer feel trapped by a complexity that took my life spiraling out of control.

What does joyful simplicity look like to you?

The following are 5 suggestions to help stimulate ideas for a simpler life in a way that also brings more joy:

  1. Be a kid. Coloring and doing crafts with my boys takes me back to my childhood. At the same time, they present an opportunity for simple quality time with my kids too. Adults are too wrapped up in adult stuff sometimes that they forget the simple joys that come with being a kid. Get in touch with that joy again. Not sure what to do? Ask your kids… they’ll have lots of great ideas!
  2. Turn of technology. When we play family games, my husband and I turn off the sound on our phones. When we go camping, I deliberately leave my phone in the car and refuse to participate in technology. Turning off technology forces me to enjoy simple pleasures like reading and watching birds. This is an amazingly relaxing activity.
  3. Go on a fast. My husband and I decided to go on a financial fast for the first quarter of 2012. This simplified our lives in that we just didn’t give much thought to buying. We just knew we couldn’t spend any extra money, and we focused on activities that didn’t involve doing so. A fast in pretty much any area of life lends itself nicely to the process for one to pursue simplicity.
  4. Purge. The idea of getting rid of excess is exceedingly freeing. For me, when I start to purge, I struggle stopping myself once I start. A yearly garage sale makes purging a habit for my family. Taking a look at what is no longer needed provides a terrific avenue for simplifying belongings. Like fasting, purging can occur in a variety of areas. For example, consider purging your calendar or your Facebook friend list.
  5. Help others. Tutor kids. Minister at a community dinner. Teach a Sunday school class.  Pray with a friend. Help a friend clean. Run an errand for someone. Call your pastor and ask what needs done at the church. Helping others provides a simple way to not only bring joy to another but to also know the simple joy of making another person’s life easier.

Simple joy comes through a life free to answer the call of God. When life is simple and not overwhelming, the possibilities for simple joy seem to open up. Maybe this happens because life is no longer just happening to you. Maybe it happens because you finally have time to think and choose what you want to do with your time rather than letting time happen to you. Whatever the reason and whatever the path chosen, a simpler life equates to more joy.

DISCUSSION: What activities help you discover simple joy? If you need more simple joy in your life, what activities will you try today to make that happen?