Welcome to the next instalment of my “living your best life” series. I mean, there’s no official title but that’s the loose theme I am going with! You may have caught my previous posts on keeping your eyesight and dealing with money! I know these topics aren’t particularly sexy but I figure I spend enough time researching these parts of life that they’re probably of interest to you also. Today we’ll look at getting better sleep!
I’ve gone through periods of my life of insomnia and other periods where I couldn’t get to sleep for HOURS but then would be in a deep sleep (and stay conked out through every alarm in the morning). These days I’ll occasionally struggle with both of those issues, but for the most part I get decent sleep and when I mentioned this on twitter a few weeks ago everyone was keen to know the “secret”. There is no real secret and you’ve probably heard a lot of those points before. But in case you struggle like me, I thought I’d share them for you guys in case you struggle in the same way that I do!
Having a full bathroom routine has become a nightly ritual for me. The main point of this is psychologically it slows you down. Obviously, the added bonus is looking after yourself! Mine goes like this:
Brush teeth (including interdental brushes and flossing)
Hot rub eyes
If I do all of that correctly it takes maybe 15-20 minutes which is quite a large chunk of time to not be doing anything else. I don’t have music on and by this point my phone is off somewhere so it’s just me and the mirror!
My social media usage is ridiculously low already so my apps are barely open, but if you are a (smartphone) screen queen then this is a biggie! I’m operating on the assumption that nobody is still using notifications, but one additional thing I started doing last year is moving all my “trail” apps onto a second page of my phones main screen. 2-3 hours before bed, I close all my apps and only use apps on the front page. This made literally an overnight change in the way I sleep and I would really recommend- especially if you’re somebody who frequently can’t remember their dreams. (More on dreams later!).
I mentioned this in my last post as it’s also super-beneficial for your eyes! Turning on red screen/night shift/f.lux really helps your brain to turn off. The blue light generated with screens really stimulates your brain, whereas switching to a red light has a calming effect. Most devices come with a red light filter, but you can also download apps for this purpose. (I have been using f.lux on my computer for years).
“Stop Working” should be obvious but if you’re anything like me your brain is just constantly on overdrive! I’m a taskmaster, so the way I stop the working part of my brain is to just change all the tasks over; my brain is still subconsciously ticking off things but instead of actual work tasks it’s “getting ready for bed” stuff. It takes me a good 2-3 hours to stop my thoughts firing off on all cylinders. Instead I sort of “reprogram” my to-do list so that instead of work-related tasks, my evening tasks are stuff like “do all bathroom shit” or “write diary”. Having this kind of routine has really helped me knock off my workaholic tendencies. You can do the same routine every night or swap it up. Examples of mundane evening tasks I do are: set out clothes for the next day, journal, put laundry away, meditate, drink hot water, prayer, sort out my plants/pets and so on.
I think this is an important one because I know a lot of people wear pyjamas for most of the day. Having clothes that you literally only wear to sleep in is super important! If you’re wearing your pyjamas basically from when you get in from work until you actually go to bed, psychologically those clothes aren’t just associated with sleep. They’ll also be the clothes you wear for chilling out and being comfy and so on.
The number one thing that helped me to start remembering my dreams better was not relying on alarms. Now, of course, there are still days I need to set an alarm and on those days I’ll set 5-6 alarms to make SURE I’m up. But for days where I have a bit more leeway, I try to avoid setting an alarm and allow on waking up naturally at a decent time; this is a much more peaceful start to the day plus I remember all my dreams in vivid detail.
The worst thing you can do is start stressing about the sleep – charting it down and forcing yourself to make drastic changes to try and sleep better. Sleep should be a time your body can relax, not be under pressure to perform well. (Even if the performance is sleep itself!). If you’ve got loads of residual stress then I don’t think any of the above things will help. No matter how hard you try, your brain will be processing the stress. The easiest way to get rid of the hormone that causes stress is through physical exercise. In the long term however, addressing the stressful areas of your life is probably a better way to go to affect sleep. It’s very easy to say “don’t stress about it!” but in reality it can be hard work! I managed to get rid of my insomnia but it took a LOT of life changes beyond the tips I’ve written above. If you’re not sleeping at all then there’s a lot more to address and that’s a whole other post for another time!
I hope these were helpful! Next month’s installment: How To Make Friends As An Adult!