Mental health and your sleep routine

By Chanda Alicea

Well here I am back fresh from fall break! We enjoyed a little family get away to Disneyland and as crazy and hectic as it was, I came back feeling refreshed and full of some great ideas to put out in time for the holidays! Before we all get into the hustle and bustle of Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas, I thought that this was the perfect opportunity to discuss why keeping routines are important. I am speaking solely from my own experience.

I am going to be honest and tell you that it’s taken me almost 2.5 school years to figure out that my body and mental health CAN NOT deviate from the sleep routine that I am accustomed to during the school year. I’m definitely fashionably late to the game, but what can I say? I am a stubborn woman who enjoyed sleeping in. That is until I realized that it wasn’t just wrecking my mood and daily exercise routine, but most importantly it was wrecking my mental health. Here are the facts according to me 😉about keeping a routine while on holiday breaks. Some people are easily able to keep a routine and some (me) are not. If you are a working parent, this may or may not apply to you. You will have a daily routine regardless of what kind of holiday break your school age child is on. As a stay at home parent who battles depression though, I find that it’s really easy to slip out of the habit of a routine, and if you’re like me, sleep is your BEST FRIEND. Now I’m not the best at multi-tasking when it comes to routines and habits while on a school break or vacation. But what I have discovered about myself is that basically I have one job. I have to keep myself on the sleep schedule that I have become accustomed to during the school year. That schedule is as follows:

  1. My alarm clock goes off at 6 am.
  2. I wake my daughter up between 6:15 and 6:20. Why do I do this? Well it’s simple. I AM NOT A MORNING PERSON. I need those 15 to 20 minutes to really wake up and have that silence before our morning kicks into full swing.
  3. I try to make sure that during the weekdays, I am in bed between 10 to 10:30 – 11 at the latest. The longer I stay up, the harder it is for me to fall asleep, and the less sleep I get, the crankier I am in the morning. I have also noticed that due to the hormone medication I am on right now, I am super groggy and lethargic if I don’t a) take it by 10 and b) get between 7 to 8 hours of sleep because it makes me super sleepy.

That’s it, that’s my simple but effective routine. By sticking to it, I consider sleeping until 7am, 8 at the latest “sleeping in” on the weekends. So why is it so important for me to keep to this routine? Well here are the things I have noticed happen when I veer off the beaten path of my sleep routine:

  1. My body is weird. It’s sensitive and resistant to change all at the same time. I’m sure I am not alone in that, but I will explain what I mean. While it is easy to fall out of the habit by staying up later which causes me to sleep later in the morning and just let my kid watch ALL the Netflix until I am fully awake, it is EXTREMELY HARD for me to get back into the habit of going to sleep early so I can wake up at 6. By straying from this for even just a week, my body is having none of it and rebels against me.
  2. The later I stay up, the longer I sleep in then ALL I WANT TO DO IS SLEEP. I don’t want to be productive. I don’t want to engage with my kid. I don’t want to be a functioning part of society. I don’t want to go exercise. I don’t want to do anything or go anywhere. After a lot of reflection, I have realized that this is how depression sinks its claws in to me. All of these things are really not feasible to do when you are a stay at home parent who takes your child to school, picks them up and takes them to whatever appointments they may have. Bouts of depression and sleeping all day just aren’t things I have time for in my life, so if something as simple as keeping my body on a clocked schedule is what it takes to keep my mental health in check, I’m all for it.
  3. I know it sounds cliché, but sleep affects overall health. It’s scientific fact. Check the link below on a great article I have included on how routine is important for mental health.

I don’t know how helpful this is going to be, but again with the holiday season coming up, school is going to be out and I felt it was really important to share this. In the spirit of practicing what I preach, I will tell you that I still kept my alarm set for 6 am while on fall break. This meant that even though we had late nights and I learned the hard way to not play and take my hormone medicine past 10pm while on vacation, my body still kept to its schedule. Now I may not have been too happy about waking up at 6 am after going to bed at midnight, but that’s the Disneyland life. Just remember that keeping routine is one way to practice self-care and keep yourself healthy.

XOXO,

Chanda

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