Have Your Cake and Enjoy it Too

You’ve likely heard the familiar phrase, “You can’t have your cake and eat it too.” It’s often used when faced with two desirable alternatives that cannot coexist. For instance, you can’t go on vacation and be homebound, or you can’t paint the living room sea green and keep the original Victorian wallpaper.

These are simple examples, but the dilemmas we face are often more complex: you can’t get married and retain your single status; you can’t move to a new city and work in the same office; you can’t cut out sugar from your diet and binge on sweets every night.

While we may not always be able to achieve the best of both worlds, I’d like to propose another option: you can have your cake and enjoy it too.

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The Power of a Good Night’s Sleep

Counting Sheep

For many, a good night’s sleep can be hard to come by. We toss and turn, count sheep, fall asleep in front of the TV, snooze our alarm clocks, and struggle to rise and shine when morning comes. Some may turn to white noise machines or even sleeping pills in the hopes of catching some sound shuteye. But often, in order to harness the restorative powers of a full night’s sleep, we have to rethink the daily habits that may be interfering with our nightly rhythms.

In this post, we’ll consider what might be robbing you of your hard-earned zzz’s and how you can get your body back on track. So settle in, dim the lights, and get ready to revolutionize your sleep routine.

How Much Sleep Do I Really Need?

The National Sleep Foundation lays out the following guidelines:

School-age children (age 6-13): 9-11 hours

Teenagers (14-17): 8-10 hours

Younger adults (18-25): 7-9 hours

Adults (26-54): 7-9 hours

Older adults (65+): 7-8 hours

Note: sleep becomes more fragmented after age 60, so people may effectively sleep in two shifts. In that case, napping can be normal and healthy.

What Gets in the Way of Healthy Sleep Patterns?

There are a number of culprits that may be wreaking havoc on your nightly slumber. Here are some of the most common:

Light at night: Too much light in the evening can disrupt the production of melatonin, a hormone primarily released by the pineal gland that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. Increased nighttime light exposure has also been linked to health concerns including obesity, diabetes, certain types of cancer, cardiovascular disease, neurological diseases, and gastrointestinal ulcers. You can help program your body to produce melatonin for sleep at the right time of day by getting exposure to daylight during the morning and afternoon. Take a walk outside or sit beside a sunny window.

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A Bright Young Year

With the new year in full swing, many of us are thinking about how we can improve our lives. Whether you want to volunteer more, change your diet, or cut back on screen time, January provides fertile soil for forming new habits and ditching the old.

This year I have some exciting goals in store and am eager to see where they lead. These aren’t radical, life-changing, knock your socks off new directions. In fact, they’ve been brewing for some time, long before the clock struck midnight on January 1st.

These are my soul goals, new ways of living out my values day to day. They’re personally meaningful, achievable, fun, challenging, and intimately connected to the person I want and know myself to be.

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The Wisdom of Our Elders

This article originally appeared on Baltimore’s Child.

What do those in their 60s, 70s and beyond know about living a fulfilling life that too often escapes the understanding of younger minds? Hoping to tap into this wealth of wisdom, I surveyed men and women ranging in age from 60 to 83 years.

What follows are insights from their joys and sorrows, mistakes and triumphs, and decades of witnessing the delicacy of each moment and impermanence of each change.

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