I have been a night owl as long as I can remember. I recently decided that its time to make some changes and think about my sleep habits throughout the day instead of only thinking about sleep when I haven't gotten enough. This blog post has taken me forever to write because I kept getting inspired to write while laying in bed trying to sleep!!
I think about what I eat and how much I move my body but sleeping and resting is equally important and an aspect of my health I have ignored for far too long. Sleeping, eating, and moving all work together and if you don't have a balance they all will suffer. So for instance if you didn't sleep well, you might not feel like exercising. If you don't exercise you might feel restless and not be able to sleep well. See what I mean? All connected. I personally have to work at sleeping well. It has been a planned out proactive endeavor but fun too. Here are some of the things I have adopted into my better sleep plan for perfecting my sleep skills.
During the day:
I think about the next nights sleep as soon as I wake up. Some days its nice to sleep in but not too late or I will find it hard to fall asleep that night. If I didn't get enough sleep, like last night when one spawn had an accident and about half hour after that another one had growing pains in his legs, I remind myself that I can't control everything and its ok to take it easy on those days. Sleeping well is a skill to be worked on.
A tolerable or even happy alarm. I despise a blaring obnoxious alarm. I think that having an obnoxious alarm is what has caused the crappy mood to take hold in the mornings I have struggled with for many years. I have a mellow guitar riff set on my phone and it is much more tolerable. If you are woken up in a happy way then you are set on the right path and you are less likely to bite somebodies head off for saying good morning when you are still pissed at your alarm!
Natural light during the day for normal melatonin production. As soon as the alarm goes off I open the curtains to let the light shine in. Throughout the day get some sun or bright light exposure. We are working on a whole system change and nurturing a natural circadian ryhthm.
Energy drinks. Resist the urge to consume more and more energy drinks including coffee. It can create a viscous cycle. We are a chronically tired society and you can see this by how many energy drinks are mass marketed to us and increasingly younger ages and how often we rely on them just to get through the day. They are not necessary and can be detrimental to a healthy lifestyle.
Napping. Its ok to nap. I am not a good napper but I have learned that some days its what I need. Not, however, after 4 p.m. And during the winter months, not after 3:00 p.m. since it gets dark earlier. It doesn't have to be a "nap" it can be a 15 minute lie down with some deep breathing and thinking relaxing thoughts or listening to soothing music. Think of it as regrouping or taking an awake break.
Deal with your stress during the day. Journaling helps or talking to a friend or spouse but don't let stress keep you awake at night. Stress has a way of snowballing. The best plan of attack is to deal with it before you lay down to sleep. If it is a lingering stress allow yourself a set amount of time to worry and then choose to let it go for now. If you do wake in the night have a plan to distract yourself from stressful thoughts that can wait until morning. I have a book right by my bed as well as on those really rough nights I play Angry Birds. Silly but it keeps my mind occupied but not too occupied to pass those tough nights. We all have them. Don't beat yourself up about it.
To do list. Get the most important things crossed off so you won't be tempted to stay up because blah blah blah need to be done. We all agree that there are not enough hours in the day but you have to stop at some point and prioritize. Its a choice. At a certain time of night, be done. Choose to stop and let the day end. Stop the glorification of busy!!
Make your bed an inviting place. A comfortable mattress and pillows is worth the investment! I stayed at a friends house and she graciously let me use her bed and she camped out on the couch. She had some Lavender sleep spray from Bath and Body Works for spraying on your pillow and it was so lovely. It set a relaxed mood. Her bed was incredibly comfortable and I didn't wake up with any aches.
To do list before bed. Make a list of tasks to do before bed. Things like brushing and flossing, covering the bird cage, set out clothes for the next day, or preparing a lunch for the next day are on my list. If I don't follow the list I will inevitably get up a couple times or more to do the things I forgot to do before laying down to relax. I set a reminder on my phone to check this list each night at a certain time so I don't forget.
Chamomile tea. I like tea but it also makes me have to get up to pee in the middle of the night if I drink it too close to bedtime. I like it more in the winter months when I start drinking it at around 7ish when its dark earlier. It does help to get in a relaxed mood.
Magnesium Supplement. Most people are deficient in magnesium. Not even touching on the benefits of getting enough for nutritional reasons, it makes you feel relaxed and sleepy. Before bed, take a warm bath with Epson salts to absorb magnesium into your skin and take a magnesium supplement. I use Magnesium Calm and can feel its relaxing benefits about 10 minutes after taking it. Combine that with reading and I am super relaxed! This is probably my biggest piece of advice for better sleeping.
Make rules on using a computer in bed. And stick to them! This one is hard for me. I get inspired to write while I am laying in bed. I allow myself to take a few notes but then let it go. If you do like to lay down and surf the web or read your book on your device, turn the brightness down.
Are you hungry? Are you too cold, too hot, need a fan, etc. All of these things make it hard for me to fall asleep. The little annoying things seem amplified when I am trying to sleep. I find that a small snack about an hour before bed is just right. Take stock of how you feel and how you need to go about finding your happy place.
Yoga in bed to relax. I love my bedtime yoga routine! Lots of leg stretches and deep breathing. The theory behind doing some leg stretching and even some air squats before bed is that it diverts blood flow to your lower body and allowing your mind to calm down. I haven't tried doing squats but I sure feel relaxed and can tell a difference in my state of relaxation on the nights that I do and don't do yoga. Its something I try and do every night. Check out this video for some ideas. The great thing about this is that it is done in bed so you can just lay back and bask in the good feelings right away.
Reading. Don't work out your brain too much before bed. I adore reading fantasy and SciFi books and they are not complex material I am trying to figure out or memorize. Just enjoyment. Whatever genre you prefer that makes you happy. Studying in bed is a recipe for disaster. I think maybe going over some notes is ok but not trying to absorb new material.
Don't beat yourself up if you can't sleep. Screw "should". Maybe you think you "should" be asleep but that won't make you sleepy! Relax and accept the situation for what it is and distract yourself with something else. Everyone sleeps and everyone has trouble sleeping at one time or another. Its going to be ok.
Look at sleep as a way to perfect your skill of being healthy from the nocturnal perspective. It takes practice and work just like eating healthy, managing our relationships, and getting movement every day. Life is a 24 hour a day event and all 24 hours count.
Let me know if this helps you to perfect your sleeping skills and if you have any tips to add or just want to share your sleep story.