Friday, September 19, 2014

Tips for Getting Better Sleep

We all know that sleep is vital for a healthy, happy life.  For years I deprived myself of sleep to finish exams or just because I didn't value sleep.  Finally dawned on me what sleep means to my body and how it could be doing more damage than I imagined by not getting enough quality sleep.  We put in so much effort during our waking hours to improve our brains and bodies, but without sleep, we'll never obtain the results we want.  When we sleep, our bodies repair our muscles, consolidate memories of whatever we learned that day, and release hormones that affect our appetite.  After realizing the true importance of sleep, I focused on how to maximize my sleep.  Here are my tips for getting better sleep.

 Admittedly, you'll look like a complete nerd wearing these wayfarer blue blocking glasses a few hours before bed, but it's absolutely worth it.  Humans are animals that evolved on a planet that revolves around the sun and we developed circadian rhythms, our biological clocks, in that natural environment.  The invention of electricity, television and iPads is awesome, but it's completely wrecked our circadian rhythms because of the blue light that they emit. Blue light blocks serotonin, the sleep inducing hormone, so your body doesn't realize it's time for bed.  You may have read that you should avoid all electronics for a few hours before bed, but with these glasses, you can do all your television watching and iPad surfing without fear!

It's best to sleep in a completely blacked out room.  At first I tried sleeping with a sleep mask, but that didn't work so well.  It's uncomfortable and your body actually absorbs light in your skin.  The mask just won't cut it.  You need full on blackout curtains to block any light from coming into your room.  You may be able to get away with regular curtains if you live in the country, but I live in the city and there's light coming in no matter what time it is. 

Do your legs twitch at night and wake you up?  I found that taking this supplement before bed helped my muscles relax.  The raspberry lemonade flavor is the best flavor. 

Sleeping in a cold room under the covers is like being on vacation because it's so awesome.  Set your temperature to 68 degrees.  I try to save on energy and set it to 70, and it's not as good.  68 is the optimal sleeping temperature. 

If your brain is full of a to-do list or stress, you need to empty it to relax into sleep.  Some people suggest meditation, and while I'm sure that would help for relaxation, I prefer a more tangible way of handling this issue.  Make an Evernote list of everything that's on your mind.  Then you can trust that you won't forget something on your list, and you can sleep peacefully. 

Note that this is not a sponsored post, and that I personally purchased and recommend each of these products. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Reality Check: Retirement

Today I received a swift kick in the gut about how much money it actually takes to afford to retire.  On a whim, I decided to use Merrill Edge's retirement calculator.  I could not believe how far behind I am. Take a look at my "Personal Retirement Number" according to the calculator.  I'm a mere 33 years and now I'm completely stressing out about how to afford retirement.

 Yes, you read that right, that's over TWO MILLION DOLLARS!!
Merrill Edge suggests that I dedicate 85% of my current salary to retirement.

Unfortunately, I'm not alone in being unprepared for retirement.  Today CNN published an article on a study done by Fidelity for CNN Money addressing relinquishing 401(k) funds by generation.  Perhaps unfairly, Millenials are nonetheless known for a lack of loyalty.  We switch jobs more than generations before us.  That's a great idea, because chances are you will not obtain a raise of more than the normal COL raise each year at most companies.  However, if you leave your job early, there's a chance that your 401(k) investment may not have vested.  If your 401(k) has not vested and you leave the company, you lose any matching contributions from your employer.  If you switch jobs frequently, that can have a huge impact on your retirement.  For example, "Let's say you forfeit $1,700 in company matches three different times early on in your career, for a total of $5,100. By retirement, the overall loss could be worth as much as $36,000..."

Luckily I'm only 33 and I have time to come up with a strategy to afford retirement.  I won't rely on Social Security - it may very well be gone when I hit an age I can finally retire.  My only chance is by being financially intelligent and proactive.  While it was hard to come to terms with the fact that I can't afford retirement, I know that I'll figure it out - or die trying!