A recent survey on the lifestyle of French people reveals that "on average the French sleep nine hours a day." That's considerably more than my fellow Americans, who seem to think it's a badge of honor to sleep five or six hours a night. How many of you have heard, "I don't need much sleep"? Nonsense. Or "I've trained myself to get by on six hours of sleep"? Could there be a correlation between French women's long life expectancy and their hours exercising their sleep muscles?
In all of my writing -- both in my books and on my Website -- I urge women to 1) take time to eat (no less than 20 minutes per meal) and 2) sleep well. Sleep, I believe, is the most neglected state of being in American life.
When in Paris, my American husband always notices the pitch-dark apartment buildings we pass while walking home late at night from a meal at a friend's house or the theater. It's barely 11 o'clock p.m., yet most of the lights are off. For one thing, the French don't watch much television (no staying up for Conan O'Brien or Dave Letterman's monologue). They come home from work, prepare dinner, sit down to eat (that's entertainment!) and relax. Some may prolong the evening reading or listening to music for half an hour, but by ten or 11 o'clock most of them are au dodo. No late-night e-mailing or typing away at the computer. How different that is from New York, the city that never sleeps. From our Manhattan windows we see plenty of lights and people in buildings all around us until the wee hours. That the French spend more than two hours each day eating is another contrast with America. Eating is one of the great pleasures in life, after all. Kitchen or bedroom? For the French it's a toss-up, according to the latest survey.
How's your sleep? We could (and should) all improve our sleep patterns in these stressful times -- and when aren't times at least somewhat stressful?
So, here are ten easy tips you may consider so you, too, can enjoy the benefits of a good night's sleep.
1. Move, move, move during the day! Studies have proven that exercise, in addition to burning calories, makes it easier to fall and stay asleep. No need to run a marathon or spend hours sweating; a 20- to 30-minute brisk walk or yoga will do the trick. (Just be careful not to do it too close to bedtime -- this will actually have the opposite effect!)
2. Stay away from stimulants, such as caffeine and nicotine and alcohol. All three substances make us jittery, interrupt our quality of sleep and our ability to fall asleep. Many people who rely on caffeine to get them through the day are shocked to learn that it can have a stimulating effect for up to 12 hours after they've imbibed.
3. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Our bodies crave balance and if we train our body to fall asleep at a certain time and wake up at a certain time (even if we're still sleepy), it will eventually listen to our requests.
4. Reserve the bedroom for sleeping only. This may seem silly, but watching TV, balancing a checkbook, doing paperwork or simply lounging in bed can cause problems when it's time to actually fall asleep.
5. Herbal teas work magic. Chamomile, anise, valerian and fennel-blend teas are known to help relax and make sleep come easier. Most health -food stores have their own specialty blends as well.
6. Turn off the lights earlier. Lights signal to our brain that it's daytime and can interfere with our bodies' ability to wind down for sleep.
7. Turn off the computer and TV at least a half hour, but preferably an hour, before bedtime. Both tend to keep our mind active, the last thing we want before bedtime.
8. If you can't sleep for a full half hour, get up and read a book or listen to soothing music for a little while. Staying in bed will only make you more restless.
9. Avoid having a very large meal before bedtime. Have your dinner at least two to three hours before you plan on going to sleep.
10. Create an environment that is conducive to sleep with a bedroom that's totally dark, well ventilated and cool. If you don't have curtains that shade the light, try a sleeping mask. If you live on a busy street, try a fan or a "white noise" machine.
And remember: a bad night's rest means a short temper, short attention span, more stress and, for women especially, a greater risk of heart disease.
Bon soir, mes amis!
Originally published on wowOwow.com. To read more of Mireille, visit her website. Her upcoming book Women, Work & the Art of Savoir Faire: Business Sense & Sensibility will be published in October.