What To Do When Your To-Do List Trumps Sleep

Do you get enough sleep?

If you’re a woman, you just said no in some varying degree from nodding your head sadly to laughing out loud.

From career stress to housework to waking kids to snoring mates to hormones to fill-in-your-own answer here, women today are simply not getting enough uninterrupted sleep.

Doctors say most women need a minimum of seven hours each night to be happy and healthy, while sleep deprivation makes us more susceptible to illness, accidents, depression and weight gain. It also doesn’t help with productivity on that never-ending to-do list.

“Many women don’t get enough sleep because they are trying to do too much,” says Dr. Virginia DePaul, Glenview. “I will sleep over cleaning my house.”

Becky Beaupre Gillespie and Hollee Schwartz Temple (pictured above) interviewed over 100 working mothers for their upcoming book, “Good Enough is the New Perfect” (due out Spring 2011 by Harlequin Nonfiction), and discovered that the happiest women were those who created balance in their lives.

“Many of the women talked about hitting utter exhaustion,” says Beaupre Gillespie, Chicago. “We found that the most satisfied women had found their success—at work and at home—by refusing to believe that they had to do everything. They reached stunning heights by letting go and defining success on their own terms.

“For many, taking control of their lives in this way was empowering and less exhausting.”

So, it’s about prioritizing. If sleep isn’t a priority, you have to give yourself permission to let something go and make it a priority.

“Some days I’m too busy with work and the house to get the sleep I need,” says Alyssa Weller, Glenview. “I need to just stop what I’m doing and tell myself the work can wait.”

That’s easier said than done. Ever had a night in which you tried to put the work aside only to find that your active mind isn’t on the same page with your exhausted body?

“I just can’t stop my brain at night,” says Paige Wiser, Inverness. “It’s ridiculous, I get stressed out about not getting sleep, which makes it harder to fall asleep. It’s like sleep-performance anxiety!”

Many women say they have used medication like Tylenol PM or prescription Ambien to get over a bad sleeping hump. Others say exercise, limiting caffeine and a consistent routine help to put the day away.

“I have a three-hour unwinding ritual,” says Nili Yelin, Wilmette. “When the routine gets upset, it makes me a little crazy and I get in a bad cycle. Then I go Google a list of geniuses who couldn’t sleep, either. At least I know I’m in good company.”