If you know me well you might be confused as to the title of this post. Friends of mine know me as someone who likes to have fun but also someone who gets to bed at a reasonable time. I admit I never pulled an all-nighter in college nor am I one to close a bar down on the weekends. I did stay up a little later than usual last spring when I visited Spain but even there once midnight rolled around my less than comfortable hotel bed and pillow were calling my name.
I do love the nightlife though, especially when I’m able to sleep really well. For as long as I can recall I’ve been a poor sleeper. I remember resisting naps as a kid and recall being the one wide awake while the others were napping in the afternoons at my babysitter’s house. My mom even wrote in my baby book “struggles to take naps, maybe 1 hour a day” on one of those “what’s your child doing at age 2” pages. Even as an adult I usually toss and turn several times before falling to sleep at night.
So what’s a girl to do? I used to dread going to bed because I knew it meant staring at the ceiling, waking up every few hours and feeling pretty sleepy in the morning. In the last few months I’ve tried to make some changes and have been relatively successful. If you are a poor sleeper consider modifying some of your before bed activities to see if you notice a difference.
- Go to bed when tired instead of at a certain time. For several years I thought if I went to bed at the same time each night (10:30) and woke up at the same time each morning (6:30) my body would get into a pattern where it recognized tiredness and wakefulness. While that might work for some, it didn’t work for me. I decided to ditch my adult bedtime (it’s ok if you’re laughing out loud) and instead go to bed when I felt tired, which in all honestly wasn’t terribly far off the 10:30 mark. Now when I feel tired I go to bed instead of making myself go to bed only to stare at the ceiling for an hour or more wondering why I can’t fall to sleep. I’m still getting up at the same time every day because of my work schedule but I’m now going to be anywhere between 10 and 11 PM which still gives me plenty of rest.
- No eating before bed. For most of my life I was reliant on a bedtime snack. I don’t think I even paid attention to how hungry I was but instead just assumed I needed something to hold me over for the night. That’s pretty silly, I know. It’s really tough to break habits that have been ingrained since childhood but last winter I set my mind to it and was successful. This has helped me sleep better as my body is no longer trying to digest food late at night.
- Avoid having a to-do list for tomorrow. I think everyone goes to bed with some kind of acknowledgement of what is happening the next day but I try to eliminate as much of that as possible by getting things ready before I go to bed. Not only does this help my mornings be less stressful but it means I think about those pesky to-do items less when I’m trying to fall to sleep. The only things I really make sure are ready for the following day are: what I’m wearing if I have to dress up and getting my bag and my lunch packed for work. It only takes about 10 minutes to do all those things the night before when sometimes it takes 30 in the morning.
- Unwind with quiet time. I try to shut down technology and TV about 30 minutes before I think I’m going to bed. My favorite way to unwind before bed is reading a book or magazine. I try to avoid reading things on my phone late at night because I find it stimulates me more than relaxes me. Grabbing a book or magazine and reading is not only a favorite hobby but I find it very relaxing which is what I need before bed. I’ve also noticed I have fewer nightmares if I give myself at least 30 minutes between Breaking Bad or Dexter and when I hit the pillow. Fans of those shows understand what I’m talking about. True story.
- Lose track of time. The clock in my bedroom is not visible from where I sleep. Based on my lifelong struggle to fall to sleep and stay to sleep, I find that tracking the minutes ticking away only adds to the problem.
- Say yes AND no to technology. Most people have phones with all sorts of settings that can either enable them to be very distracted or allow them to avoid those distractions. If your phone has a do not disturb mode use it! There’s really no need to be getting Twitter notifications in the middle of the night. I find that using technology to help manage my notifications has helped me be less distracted. I also have a rule where I don’t use my phone after I’ve gone to bed unless it’s a call or text that needs to be answered.
What do you do to ensure a good night’s sleep? If you’re one of the lucky ones who falls to sleep within a minute and doesn’t wake up until morning, consider yourself lucky!