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Healthy Living > sleep

Sometimes You Have to do Less to Get More

By Sheryl Kraft

Created: 01/22/2010
Last Updated: 11/12/2018

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I recently came across an article written by Glamour's Editor-in-Chief, Cindi Levine, on the Huffington Post about a . Basically, there are hundreds in agreement that they just don't get enough. We all have our personal "enough's": - six hours may be enough for you, while for me? I'm miserable, tired and just plain grumpy with anything less than eight, although I very rarely succeed in logging in more than seven.

My head hardly ever touches down on my pillow until well after 11. Although I'm not exactly a night person, I resist settling down. I always have unfinished business of one sort or another - and just don't want the day to come to an end. No, it's not the television that keeps me wanting to stay up, but instead, all the things I fail to get through during the (always-too-short) day: emails, saved articles to read, an idea to write up, another chapter in my novel to finish, straightening up my office desk so I can work the next day, folding laundry….well, you get the idea. Seems there's always - no matter what - unfinished business.

And then of course, there are those self-defeating things we unknowingly do that might interfere with a good night's sleep – which is the point of this blog post. What Levine says is that we just have to learn to say "no." (Of course, this applies in all aspects of our overloaded lives, but let's just apply that "no" to the subject of sleep right now. I'd love to re-visit the "no's" we should put into our lives in a different post.)

So, I started thinking, wouldn't it be nice and refreshing to do this: instead of sitting down each night to write out a "to do" list for the next day (My problem #1: making this endless list right before bed stresses me out too much to sleep) we might want to try writing a "to don't" list to prepare for sleep. Levine says this involves giving things up, getting rid of certain obligations or even fun stuff.

Of course, there are those non-negotiables. I won't give up flossing my teeth nor will I give up spending time unwinding with my husband after dinner. But there are other things I will gladly put on my "to don't" list: phone calls after 9PM or even earlier; keeping the computer on past 9PM (big mistake – did you know that blue light that's emitted from computers can disturb sleep cycles and confuse your brain into wakefulness?) and having/picking a serious discussion/fight with my husband right before bed. (I made that mistake last week. Wanna guess? I was way grumpy the next day from not enough sleep.)

So, readers, what do you think? How about making your own "to-don't" list to eek out a few precious extra minutes or hours of sleep. What's on yours?

Here's more on sleep:


I'm pretty good about getting to sleep. I wind down at night and then read when I'm in bed and I usually conk out. I get into trouble when I wake up in the night though - that's when my mind gets going.

I'd put this at the top of my "to don't" list - turn off the computer and/or smart phone at least an hour before bed. And, don't EVER take the laptop to bed. All of that information just keeps my mind churning.

My problem with getting to bed on time is that I catch a second wind. I can be tired and dragging at 6:30 or 7:00 at night. By 8:30 p.m., I've caught a second wind and my mind is buzzing along. Drives my husband crazy.

I like the idea of a to-don't list, but I'm wondering if it would work in practice. Did you try it? I'm a "lister" too. Frankly, I'm thinking that if I didn't write out my to-do list the night before I'd toss and turn wondering if I'd forget something the next day. I'm interested to see what other folks have to say.

I have found a full night of sleep more elusive as one ages. My regular to-don't list includes drinking liquids now, since they make me wake up to pee.

I did not know about the blue light from computers. Thanks for that insight.

Ack! I am guilty of taking laptop to bed -- but only when my husband is out of town. Am certain it screws with my sleep cycle. (Interesting about that blue-light fact.)

Love the idea of to-don't lists. I think what Brette mentions is called "racing-mind syndrome." Oh, brother! Something else to worry about.

I have horrible insomnia, but I'm really trying to be better about powering down. One of my challenges is that my boyfriend is a night owl, so at midnight as I'm trying to fall asleep, he's raring to go: chatting with me, showing me random YouTube videos, wanting to play a video game, etc. I hate to quash his enthusiasm, but I need my sleep!

this comment will be brief...it's midnight...gotta catch some zzzs...and that blue light thingie you mention has me freaked!

Yes, sometimes you have to do LESS. I learned after years of taking care of my parents and dealing with their problems that life is too short. I was dealing with flying constantly back and forth from Denver to Florida to help them out. After my mom passed away, it was like i felt reborn , and I know that sounds horrible to say but it was true. I realized my responsiblities were over and I learned huge lessons from it. I make my life easy. I dont allow people to stress me out. If I want to stay up late and watch a movie, I do it. I refuse to let all the little things in life get to me. Make life simpler and you will enjoy it more!

Wow, I like this idea! But what would YOU put on yours (maybe your next post could be the list itself)? I'm not sure what should go on my to don't list but I'm intrigued by the idea!

I write about sleep a lot too, and am always amazed at all the new research showing how important it is and yet how many of us don't get enough. My latest tactic is a return to an age-old basic; once again, I'm trying to keep pad and pen by my bed and make a list of every "to do" or "I need to remember to..." or worry that goes through my brain. But this time I'm going further; as I write it down, I try to visualize emptying that thought out of my head, so it no longer has to churn around in there. Once it's on the paper, I'm done with it until I actually do it. This tactic is working really well for me!

I'm always looking for ways to improve my sleep. I never heard of a "to don't" list. It's at the top of my "to do" list now.

Wow. This is so appropriate for me. I suffer greatly--Dr. Oz just talked about this on Morning Joe this morning, too. I need to practice "better sleep hygiene."

My sleep is so bad that I can pick nights over the past 20 years when I did get a good night's sleep...there are not many.

DH's snoring doesn't help, either.

Sherry, you truly sound like you "get it" and are able to live the way you need/want to live. We should all follow your example. If only it were that easy...but we should absolutely try.

BabetteFeasts: That's awful - 20 years and a handful of good nights? Yikes. I'm with you on the snoring. Ear plugs. Pillow over head (mine, but sometimes tempted to put it over his). And when all else fails, separate bedrooms..

Melanie, Like your visualization technique - definitely going to try that after my list is done!

Jennifer, Definitely a "to don't" list is on my "to do" list - stay tuned~!

Even a "to-don't" list may stress me out, I'd keeping thinking about how often I've done those things! I only ever get about 5 or 6 hours before I have to be up and running. And if I ever oversleep I feel anxious and grumpy the entire day because of the time I've wasted. I think that's a problem for a lot of people, though.

Yes, Laurie, I agree. A to-do list is a double-edged sword, in a way.

At the top of my "no" list are two things:

- I boot the cats out of the room, because they fight in our bed or walk all over us in the night
- absolutely no phones in the bedroom, because people tend to text in the middle of the night for some silly reason (shouldn't they be in bed too?!)

I've found that these two things have been so helpful in keeping me a happy camper!

I need to do that with my dog, but somehow, I let her get away with so much more than I ever even let my kids get away with by sleeping my our bed..go figure.

And texting in the middle of the night? Bad, bad habit. You're smart to get your phone out of the bedroom.


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