Published by Nelly Carson
If you’ve been following my journey as a dog blogger (you’re missing out if you haven’t been), you may have noticed I have a bit of an obsession with naps. Think of my sleep schedule as a hobbit’s eating schedule. Whereas they have breakfast, second breakfast, elevenses, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner and supper, I have a morning nap, midmorning nap, pre-lunch nap, after lunch nap, siesta, post-dinner nap and finally, the marathon all-nighter nap. I get exhausted just thinking about my jam-packed snoozing itinerary.
Before you start to judge me for obviously dozing on the job, remember dogs require 12-14 hours of sleep per day. And, unlike humans, we are relentless about prioritizing shut-eye. In fact, it ranks second only to treats in my book.
When my dad recently returned from Excell in Las Vegas (a trip he incorrectly assumed I wouldn’t want to go on…HELLO has he seen the picture of dogs playing poker?), he recapped all the great keynote speakers that presented at the conference. I was particularly curious about Arianna Huffington’s message on sleep. I see humans suffer the health and social consequences of lack of sleep every single day, and like Arianna, I want to lend a helping paw. It’s time for my two-legged friends, coworkers and adoring fans (that’s you!) to start experiencing the joy and energy we from the fairer species get from quality slumber.
Tips for a Better Night’s Rest
I’m officially declaring a mini-intervention. How many hours of sleep did you get last night? How about every other night this week? If you can’t confidently say you got 7-9 hours with the sandman, guess what, you are in the danger zone. Yawns and overwhelming lethargy ahead!
Even though I’m on the other end of the spectrum as far as sleep is concerned, I understand why people are so worn out. There are bills to pay (thank God there’s no mortgage on my doghouse), work to be done and puppies (i.e. children) to raise. There just doesn’t seem to be enough minutes in the day. Add worry, stress and anxiety to the mix, and it’s no wonder many adults have trouble falling or staying asleep.
Before you resign yourself to a life sentence of fatigue, realize you can take control of the situation with some behavior modification (a term I learned in Muttessori school). Here are some tricks I’ve mastered (I can also shake and “play dead” on command) to adopt healthier bedtime habits:
Create a Routine
When my mom and dad used to put my siblings (Chelsie, Maddie and Grant) to bed, they went through a whole process. There were baths and stories and all kinds of giggles. I’m sure at one point in your life you’ve experienced this too, either playing the role of cute kiddo or patient parent.
Somewhere along the way, however, humans forget to follow a routine. They just expect to hit the pillow and fall right asleep. Instead of crossing your fingers and hoping that works, put together a bedtime ritual. Each night, around the same time (that’s important!) engage in an activity that will help you decompress the day. Meditate, read a book, pet your dog (I’ve heard from a very reliable source this can be soothing for both parties involved) or journal – whatever helps you relax. This will signal your body that it’s time to transition from on-the-go mode into sleep mode.
Say Goodnight to Electronics
I know you love your cell and tablet as much as I love my iBone. But, the convenience of modern life has humans checking emails, browsing social media and watching TV at very inconvenient times (aka when they should be sleeping). Additionally, the blue light emitted from these devices is unsuitable for quality sleep conditions.
Shut off and stow away all electronics a half an hour before sleep departure. If it’s still just too tempting, banish them from your room altogether. Sure, it will take you a few weeks to get used to this change, but I promise you that email will still be there in the morning and that must-see episode can be recorded.
Think about Atmosphere
Ambiance isn’t just for fancy French restaurants and 5-Star pet hotels; it’s for your home too. Your bedroom should make you feel at peace and ready to rest. Next time you cross its threshold, evaluate your sleeping space. Does it say “Welcome, Unwind Here” or “Stay Away! No Vacancy”?
If the latter is true, try design your master suite to be an optimal sleep environment. It should be cool, quiet and dark. Invest in the ETFs of sleep – ear plugs and eye masks, treatments for your windows that omit light, and fans. A comfortable and supportive mattress is also vital to complete your serene surroundings.
Exercise and Maintain a Balanced Diet
If you’re already dog-tired (pardon the bad pun) it seems impossible to muster up the energy to hit the gym. Unless, of course, you count the sauna as a workout. But, it may be in your best interest to increase your activity level (example: take your dog on more W-A-L-Ks), as the more you move the better you’ll sleep.
As someone who has recently lost a little weight (thank you, I know I have a very svelte figure), I’ve learned what you put in your body also affects your slumber. Avoid going to bed hungry or stuffed, limit snacks before bedtime (this is a challenge if you love midnight pup-peronis, like me) and stay away from caffeine and alcohol late into the evening.
Let Fido Sleep Next to You
Now, I admit, this last one may be a little self-serving. In my defense, a 2017 study from the Mayo Clinic found humans who allow their dogs in their rooms actually felt more rested in the morning. It must be because we are THE BEST at snuggling and guarding. I must caution, however, they did not recommend my kind actually co-sleep in beds, because let’s face it, we snore and fart and accidentally kick. If I can speak (ruff!) for your dog, I think he/she would prefer a nice memory foam dog bed with cooling technology and a built-in white noise machine (hint: I want this for Christmas, Dad).
I hope the steps I’ve outlined above inspire you to turn your sleep struggles into sweet dreams. If all else fails, I’ve found turning around in four circles before you lay down works well for me.