How Sleep Care Is Replacing Self-Care

Self-care is a buzzworthy term now more than ever. Due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic and the rise in mental health complications associated with loss of jobs and uncertainty in life, people have finally started prioritizing their mental health more than ever. Everyday Health describes self-care as "taking care of yourself so that you can be healthy, you can be well, you can do your job, you can help and care for others, and you can do all the things you need to and want to accomplish in a day." It's not the same as "self-indulgence or being selfish." Self-care is taking care of your physical health by eating well, staying active, and seeing the doctor as needed. Life can be stressful, so it's also essential to take care of your mental health by taking a mental health day as needed before you burn out.

Self-care can be subjective, and what works for one person might not work for another. If someone benefits from being out in nature, another might want to stay in and do nothing or read a book. Whatever you choose, self-care has both short-term (less stress) and long-term health benefits (disease prevention), per Verywell Health. You can eat well, stay active, and spend time with loved ones, but the rest of the self-care techniques will fall short if you don't get adequate rest. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

There is no self-care without enough sleep

If you're always tired, how can you really take care of yourself or get anything done well? As noted by Healthline, sleep is as essential as eating well and staying active. Almost 35% of U.S. adults don't sleep enough. Most adults require seven to nine hours of sleep on average, but we often struggle to get that. Sleep can help "improve concentration and productivity, strengthen your heart, and improve your immune system," among others things. We feel the need to work hard to prove ourselves constantly, but if we don't sleep enough, it can increase the chances of depression or the possibility of more injuries or errors at work. It's impossible to be productive without enough rest, so we need sleep care.

Think of your body as a machine; you know how your cell phone is slow when it's low on battery and needs to recharge to work properly. The Sleep Foundation considers sleep the same recharging process for you, allowing you to refuel after a long day of working and using mental and physical energy. If you don't sleep enough, you won't be able to process your thoughts or concentrate throughout the day. You need to be able to do all that to live, work, and maintain healthy relationships.

You should therefore prioritize better sleep hygiene by going to bed at the same time each day, keeping your bedroom dark, skipping playing with electronics, and avoiding heavy meals, caffeine, and alcohol before bed, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Ultimately, just remember that you need sleep care for total self-care.