Do you know of whom I am jealous? Those people who possess the magical ability to fall asleep easily– the people who can sleep on planes/buses, the people who can sleep sitting up, the people who can sleep through anything. I am most definitely not one of those people, and the older I get, the worse it gets.
Over the years, I have (unintentionally) made it worse. I have created such an elaborate bedtime ritual that were I to actually fall asleep at 10 p.m., I would have to be in bed by 8:30. Jojo calls it, “The Leigh Vandiver Beddening Process.” I do my evening ablutions, floss my teeth, stretch my hip muscles, read my Kindle, turn on the sound soother, make sure the fan is on, and fluff both my body pillow and my regular pillow. I cannot sleep without doing all of these things. I wouldn’t consider it compulsive… but it is quite elaborate.
I have always been an avid reader… and 95% of my recreational reading is done before bed– that has always been the case. Normally, it soothes me and takes my mind off all the day-to-day garbage. Generally, I read until my I can no longer keep my eyes open and then I go to bed (having to re-read the previous page the next night). Here lately, though, I am noticing that I am having an increasingly harder time falling asleep due to the suspenseful nature of my reading material. This never used to be a problem, but now I can’t sleep if the main characters are in peril. I just keep reading and reading until it’s 4:00 a.m., or later. I have had to cut myself off of certain types of books and find that reading Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series is about the right speed– nothing super exciting happens, there are clever turns of phrase, and it is mildly entertaining; “mildly” being the operative word.
Since I’ve been funemployed, it has gotten worse– for the obvious reasons. Without a set schedule, and with horrible self-discipline, the problem has gotten worse. I keep odd hours and frequently watch as my East Coast friends check-in on Facebook having woken up for their day while I am still up from mine. I have many friends with unconventional jobs and therefore unconventional schedules. I know how wack-a-doo abnormal sleeping habits make you. I’ve tried to re-establish a schedule– going to bed when Josh does. [You could set a clock by that kid and his sleeping schedule. He is one of those lucky ones. I even joke about how even when we would throw parties, he would fall asleep on the couch in the middle of a conversation if it was after 10 p.m.] I’ve also tried setting the alarm clock progressively earlier each day to ease myself into a better sleeping schedule. But, there is nothing more frustrating than lying in bed in the dark being unable to sleep– especially if the person next to you is sleeping soundly. And the more determined you are to fall asleep, the harder it becomes. Math is definitely not my strong suit, but I am a whiz when it comes to figuring out to the minute how much sleep I will get if I fall asleep at that exact second. How many times have you looked at the clock in frustration and thought, “if I fall asleep right now, I will get four hours and twenty seven minutes of sleep”? And the sad thing is, no one EVER falls asleep right then.
And although I strive for good general hygiene, I guess I have poor sleep hygiene. “Sleep hygiene” is the term the medical community uses to describe the habits people have to fall asleep. Here are some “Good Sleep Hygiene” practices, according to the National Sleep Foundation:
- Avoid napping during the day; it can disturb the normal pattern of sleep and wakefulness.
- Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol too close to bedtime. While alcohol is well known to speed the onset of sleep, it disrupts sleep in the second half as the body begins to metabolize the alcohol, causing arousal.
- Exercise can promote good sleep. Vigorous exercise should be taken in the morning or late afternoon. A relaxing exercise, like yoga, can be done before bed to help initiate a restful night’s sleep.
- Food can be disruptive right before sleep; stay away from large meals close to bedtime. Also dietary changes can cause sleep problems, if someone is struggling with a sleep problem, it’s not a good time to start experimenting with spicy dishes. And, remember, chocolate has caffeine.
- Ensure adequate exposure to natural light. This is particularly important for older people who may not venture outside as frequently as children and adults. Light exposure helps maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle.
- Establish a regular relaxing bedtime routine. Try to avoid emotionally upsetting conversations and activities before trying to go to sleep. Don’t dwell on, or bring your problems to bed.
- Associate your bed with sleep. It’s not a good idea to use your bed to watch TV, listen to the radio, or read.
- Make sure that the sleep environment is pleasant and relaxing. The bed should be comfortable, the room should not be too hot or cold, or too bright.
It’s all pretty much common sense. I guess I’m just a rule-breaker: I love naps, reading in bed, and there is a t.v. in the bedroom (though it really only gets used when I am folding laundry). Naps and reading bring me such joy– but are they worth the weird hours? If anything, it’s that I love sleep too much. I know once I get a job again, that things will even out and return to normal. Or maybe it is one of those things where if you love something, you have to let it go… and if it was yours to begin with… etcetera etcetera etcetera. I’ve taken all the pills, had my sleep studied, but still this lingers. I guess I come by it naturally as many members of my family are weird sleepers.
What do you think? Do you have good sleep hygiene? Do you have any tricks or thoughts? Isn’t hygiene a weird word? It is when you write it several times! As always, let me know!