The Power of Sleep

Sleep plays an important role in physical health, brain function and emotional wellbeing.  How you feel when you’re awake is partly due to your quality of sleep. While sleep may seem like a long stream of unconsciousness, your body is actually replenishing nutrients and processing information that your brain was too busy to analyze during the day.

In addition to following the micro Habits of Health such as getting between seven and eight hours of sleep each night, here are some tips to improve overall sleep habits:

  • Stick to a schedule. Sticking to the same sleep schedule helps the body find its natural rhythm and settle into a regular cycle, making it easier to fall asleep and wake up. An irregular sleep schedule can cause irritability, drowsiness, and mood swings. It’s important to stick to the same schedule on the weekends as well—your body has a difficult time adjusting if your weekend schedule is drastically different from your weekday routine.
  • Avoid caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant and promotes alertness, so naturally it would make it more difficult to go to sleep after enjoying a cup of coffee. It can also affect the quality of your sleep.
  • Eat at least two hours prior. Just like caffeine, certain foods act as stimulants which can make it harder to transition to sleep mode if you eat too late. Eating right before bed can also cause reflux or digestive discomfort the next morning.
  • Relax before bedtime. Take a bath or listen to soothing music to activate relaxation and prepare your body for bed. Try to avoid electronics, including texting and using the computer.
  • Create an optimal sleep environment. Your bedroom should be dark, quiet, and a moderate temperature. Use white noise to mask ambient noises.
  • Get out of bed if you can’t sleep. Sometimes the anxiety of not being asleep can make it harder to fall asleep. If you’re still awake after a half hour of lying in bed, get up and do a relaxing activity until you start to feel sleepy.

If you often feel tired during the day or don’t wake up refreshed, it may be helpful to keep a sleep diary to track these patterns and consult your doctor for professional advice. Keep in mind that along with nutrition and exercise, quality sleep is a pillar for achieving Optimal Health.


The holidays can be a lot of fun!  Parties to go to and dinners to host, shopping for the perfect gifts for those that we love, and taking time to be thankful and reflective of what we’re truly celebrating.  Unfortunately, all of the activity can take it’s toll on our budget.  We go into the stores with no plan other than to Wow them with our gift.  Credit cards get used, budgets are thrown out the window, and next thing we know….January bills come in and the stress begins!

My kids are grown and there’s much to be said about hindsight being 20/20.  When my family gets together and the kids talk about their memories, you want to know what they NEVER talk about?  The gifts they received.  Instead they laugh about goofy things one of their brothers did or said, memories of going to Longwood Gardens or the living Nativity, their favorite holiday food, and how we used to spend time together.  One of my son’s most distinct childhood memories comes from a time when I was a broke single mom.  I decided to get creative one night and we had Backwards Night.  We wore our clothes backwards, walked backwards, ate dessert before dinner, etc.  We laughed a lot that night.  He remembers that more than he remembers going to St Thomas for vacation!  <sigh>

So what are some ways that you can get creative and spend time with friends and family instead of worrying about insignificant gifts that will be soon forgotten?

Step 1:  Decide on a budget (only budget what you can pay cash with)

Step 2:  Use an envelope system to keep you on track.

Step 3:  Get creative in areas where you’ve decided to cut back in spending.  Listed below are a few ideas I’ve discovered others do that work well.

  • Go see Christmas lights and end the night with hot chocolate
  • Visit a living Nativity at a local church.  Many are free.
  • Make Christmas cookies
  • Make Christmas tree ornaments
  • Take cookies or ornaments to a nursing home or to elderly neighbors and spend some time with them.
  • Read the story of Jesus’ birth in Luke as a family.
  • Keep dinner parties simple focusing on the social aspect more than the feast that only gets half eaten.
  • Make Christmas gifts (there are some great ideas on Pinterest).

Share some ideas below to see how creative we can be this Christmas.