Self-Care Really Means “Sleep Enough”

What does “self-care” really mean?

Everyone will agree that taking care of yourself is important, but how do you really know you’re doing a good job of it?

There are certainly indirect indicators that can be observed.

Blood pressure, cholesterol levels, weight, and other similar metrics can be a good gauge of how much attention you’re paying to your own well-being. Whether or not these readings are the result of self-care is another story, but you can still use them to understand your overall health.

There’s only you and the way you feel.

Trying to take care of yourself can be complicated

You’re obligated to do it mostly alone, by yourself. You can hire personal trainers, and physicians, and they’ll give you their input and share their ideas, but they’re with you for an hour or two here and there. You’re with yourself 24/7. For better or worse, you have the option of taking their advice or not. You’re in control.

There’s no physical paycheck for pursuing it. There’s no grade. There’s no leveling up, no fancy title. Usually nobody is likely to praise you, saying, “Good job on taking care of yourself.”

If you’re going to hear any praise for taking care of yourself, it’s going to be the sound of you talking to yourself and your ears hearing. Absolutely nobody who’s grown past five years old is ever going to hear, “I like that you brushed your teeth today.” It’s expected of you by your body and everyone else.

Yet that doesn’t mean for a minute that your body, friends, family, and the situation in your life aren’t ever going to put demands on you. Sometimes they’re going to force you to prioritize whether you need to take care of yourself or whatever else is pressing for your attention.

If our society really valued self-care, especially among the young, methamphetamine abuse wouldn’t be a thing. Alcoholism wouldn’t exist. Stressed-out people would be uncommon. Sleep and rest would be part of the calculus of everyday life. You’d have certain rights other rights at work, like the right to take a nap when it didn’t affect your job. It would look different in a lot of ways.

Chances are, unless you’re buying a new mattress or getting massages at a spa, you’re not spending much money on self-care. Many of the most important elements of self-care can be had for little or no money. They don’t have to be expensive; they can be had for free. Outside of the mattress companies, there’s little economic incentive for any entrepreneur to promote many of the most important aspects of self-care.

Not only that, it’s unlikely to ever change. It’s not sexy. From the outside, self-care looks pretty boring. You’re not seeing anything new. You’re not doing anything fun.

Everyone is prone to take their health for granted. You don’t know what you have until it’s gone. That goes for all kinds of good things from relationships, to cars, to just about anything of value.

If you’re going to value self-care, it’s going to be because you’ve got some perspective. You’ve realized its importance. You’re probably older. It’s one of those things that only become apparent over time.

Outside of experiencing the effects of a lack for yourself, the best way to appreciate its importance is to look at the effects of its lack on other people.

Dimensions of self-care

Part of the problem is self-care is it’s a nebulous concept. There are many different ways you can pursue it. It can be classified into physical, social, mental, spiritual, and emotional dimensions. Many health writers have put forth self-care tips like:

  • Eat healthfully.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Nurture relationships with friends and family.
  • Get mental stimulation.
  • Engage in spiritually fulfilling practices.
  • Do things that make you feel recharged.
  • Process emotions in a positive way.

These tips can be broken down further with concrete actions.

Yet, the more elements a plan has, however, the harder it is to carry out. The more elements a plan has, the more complicated it becomes.

Sleep, rest, and recovery is the cornerstone of self-care

Sleep and recovery is the base concept, the root, of many of the dimensions of self-care. It’s the one thing you can do to take care of what you have and to get back to your baseline.

  • It gives you a mental break from stress.
  • It helps you keep your head clear and your brain working right. A lack of sleep dumbs a person down, making them forgetful.
  • It protects you from accidents. Tiredness is the same as driving drunk when it comes to effects.
  • Sleep helps a body regulate itself. A lack leads to cardiovascular problems, diabetes, and being overweight.
  • It can cause emotional depression.
  • A lack leads to premature aging and death.

It needs to be the priority in any self-care plan.

If self-care seems overwhelming, focus on getting enough sleep. It’s the one thing you can do, the start of any self-care plan.

For further reading:

How to stop someone from snoring.

How to make caffeine leave your system.

Bedtime rituals say time for sleep.

Four ways to count sheep to fall asleep.

How to sleep less at night and stay healthy.

Those articles only scratch the surface. Try the search box above.

Don’t worry about being perfect.

Everyone is going to have a rough night once in a while. It’s not worth getting worked up about. Things come up. The key is to avoid it whenever possible. Don’t worry about being perfect. Stay sharp.

Remember, all of the indirect ways sleep helps avoid problems. It’s valuable. It’s a contribution to a great life is not to be underestimated.


James Cobb, RN, MSN, is an emergency department nurse and the founder of the Dream Recovery System. His goal is to provide his readers with simple, actionable ways to improve their health and maximize their quality of life. 


The Dream Recovery System features affiliate links in the banner ads. What this means is that if you click a banner ad and you make a purchase, the DRS receives a small commission from the purchase. Despite this arrangement, our opinions remain our own. 

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