We are a sleep deprived society. According to the National Sleep Foundation, we’ve managed to squeeze almost a month of additional work and commuting time into each year. Meanwhile, we’ve sacrificed 2 hours of sleep every night in order to keep up with the increased demands of our fast paced lives. On average, adults are  now sleeping only 7 hours per night as opposed to the 8 hours sleep specialists recommend.

I’m all about learning from our cats, and they are no slouches when it comes to sleeping. The average cat sleeps between 12 and 16 hours a day. And since you don’t see cats stressing out over their to do lists, they must know something we don’t.

While I’m not suggesting that you should strive to sleep 12 to 16 hours a day, I’m betting that many of you don’t even get the recommended 8 hours most nights. Here are some tips that can help you sleep better:

Keep a regular sleep schedule. Going to bed and getting up at the same time each day will make you feel more refreshed than sleeping the same number of hours at different times. The reason why so many of us feel worse on Mondays is because we change our sleep pattern on weekends.

Create a relaxing bedtime routine. Relax even before you go to bed. Listen to some soothing music, play with your cats, meditate – do whatever it takes to send signals to your brain that it’s time to wind down.

Reserve your bedroom for sleeping only. No working, no reading, no television in bed. Once you elmininate these distractions, you’ll have an easier time falling asleep. I’ve never had a TV in the bedroom, but I used to love reading in bed. When I started having trouble falling alseep, I stopped, and it’s made a big difference.

Keep your bedroom on the cool side. Most people sleep best in a slightly cool room. The optimal recommended temperature is 65 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

Make sure your room is dark.  Use room darkening shades or try an eye mask. Remove electronic devices with glowing screens from your bedroom. Recent studies have shown that devices such as phones, iPads, and music players inhibit the ability to fall alseep. Even using these devices within an hour of bedtime can affect your sleep, because the light emitted from these devices can suppress the sleep promoting hormone melatonin.

Change your nighttime eating habits. Don’t eat too close to bedtime. Avoid caffeinated beverages after lunch. Caffeine can cause sleep problems even 10 to 12 hours after drinking it. Avoid drinking too many liquids in the evening. I’ve also found that having sugary snacks too close to bedtime interferes with the quality of my sleep.

Snuggle with your cats. What better way to fall asleep than listening to a cat’s purr? And while some people suggest that you should lock your cats out of the bedroom so you can get a good night’s sleep – well, that’s not going to happen at my house. I’ll gladly sacrifice some quality sleep if that’s the price to pay for having them sleep with me.

Do you have trouble sleeping? What helps you get a good night’s sleep? Readers Choice awards

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15 Comments on Sunday Purrs: The Value of Sleep

  1. I agree with all of your suggestions except the no reading in bed. That will often times just put me to sleep-it is my way of relaxing. Lately in the winter I have taken to having a warm bath and hopping into bed all cozy. The Pumpkin is my early bed sleeper and she will come with me right away. Magellan stays up much later-like last night at midnight we could hear him purring and making noises and the bells on the toys being smashed into the wall. Here in CA we do not need to heat our bedroom at night and sometimes I feel too warm with both of them sleeping with me.

  2. Nominated you on, good luck.
    Ironically my cats had something to do with me not sleeping much last night. Amazing how such small creatures can take over so much of a bed…& who wants to disturb them when they sleep so well.

    • I don’t think I would be able to sleep without cats, Layla. In fact, whenever my cats aren’t in bed with me, I get up and look for them because I’m convinved it means something must be wrong!

  3. I do ALL the wrong things on your list – coffee(with lots of sugar) and candy before bed, TV on and monitor screen always on, the bed is always heated and I go to sleep at 1:30 to 2 am and am up at 5 to let the critters out. And I sleep great. Pumpkin is on me always when I go to bed and that purr relaxes me. No kitty will ever be locked out of the bedroom.

  4. Thank you Ingrid<3 I have always felt the best learning is from our pets…and chilldren. The innocents. Clean Slate. Basic "Instincts." I have always loved to watch my kitties sleeping. So soothing and relaxing for me! I have a new adopted kitty, 4 weeks now. She is slowly adjusting to me and my home. Past few nights, she is coming on my bed and sleeping with me. Not a cuddle kitty, but maybe later. But feels so good to have her close and to pet her head and purrrrrrr. And I find listening to CD's w/headphones puts me in la la land so soon. Mostly Buddhist, Pema Chodron. Belleruth Naperstek so soothing. Btw, when are YOU going to produce a soothing CD? Pet Loss? Yes!! Just a suggestion ~ ~

  5. I don’t have trouble sleeping. . . except when I have too many cats in bed with me as I did last night. Then I do wake up frequently for (usually) brief periods, but I don’t want to lock the cats out. Part of it is the “too much warmth” factor when there are four or five furry bodies up against me — one reason that I have to keep the heat in my bedroom turned down to 63– and part is that a couple of them like to lie right on my legs. I’ll wake up when I try to move. Elmer is 14 pounds and is totally oblivious to any hints that I’d like to turn over or shift my body. (I have had cats who would immediately get up and wait for me to reposition before lying back down, but not Elmer! He’s a dead weight.)

    • I know what you mean about being too warm, Jeanne. Allegra and Ruby usually have me wedged in (they’re on top of the covers on either side of me), which makes it hard to throw off the covers when the occasional nightime “power surge” hits me. After all, I’d rather suffer than wake them up…

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