Sleeping Well

I am not the kind of person that thinks that they can go for an all nighter and I never have been.  I hear people say all the time that they used to be able to do that in college.  No, I was never able to pull an all nighter.  Most of the time I’m not able to pull half a nighter.  I like my 8 hours of sleep and honestly, after 10 pm I get kind of grouchy! 

Part of our culture is that hustle, productivity, that if you aren’t doing something, aren’t producing something, if you take time to rest, you are being lazy.  If you say things like no I need to rest, that you can’t take on another project, that you just need the weekend to rest, you are not being a functioning member of our hustle culture.  Look at my schedule though: I am on a training plan, I cook my own food, I take pottery classes, I have an etsy shop and that’s all around my nine to five.  So hearing that I’m lazy because I want 8 hours of sleep is ridiculous. 

I don’t know when sleep was vilified but I have never been ‘with it’.  Luckily rest is starting to be prioritized across the board from sports to kids (School aged children INCLUDING teenagers are supposed to be getting the suggested nine to ten hours of sleep a night for proper cognitive development) yet I still see posts about pulling all nighters or backhanding glorifying insomnia.  Meaning I see them saying things like “Oh I have insomnia so I haven’t slept more then 5 hours in weeks” or “Must be nice but I’m an insomniac – giggle, giggle-“.  I don’t know why, maybe its like runners who tell me they run with broken toes?  Suffering physically is like a badge of honor and always has been in some ways but not sleeping is actually worse long term then some of the physical injuries that I’ve run through.  Forget getting grouchy, it can mess up you very brain chemistry.  I’m not a doctor so I wont quote you the million articles that talk about thinks like it is impairing your driving like alcohol, how kids brains don’t develop, how it can cause physical stress…most of us intellectually know these things already.  What we don’t know if how to get out of the cycle of not sleeping. 

I consider myself a sleeping aficionado.  I love to sleep.  I have cousins that are late nighters but then there are people like myself and my cousin Tina who would not only take naps as teenagers, but still be able to fall sleep by ten, annoying the shit out of the night people in our family but you know what?  It annoys me when people sleep until ten when they are 30. Personally, I feel like the biggest helper in the world when I am able to give people sleeping suggestions. Because if there is something that we all need its sleep.  Not caffeine, not an herbal energy drink.  Sleep. 

My first tip for sleep is to figure out how much you want. Like I said I have to have 8 hours to be a happy camper the next day and be as productive as I want to be.  That means knowing and being honest with myself.  If you complain about being an insomniac but aren’t willing to try and figure out why you can’t sleep at night, that’s the bigger problem.  Identify what makes you grouchy and when you start fading.  Figure out how you feel the next morning and why you feel that way.  Pay attention to when you are starting to feel that afternoon slump, what you do to just start yourself and how that effects your sleep at night.  Write it down if you need to.

My first suggestion is always to ask people when they fall asleep.  If they say ‘oh when I’m tired’ that’s the first hint.  Having a sleep schedule is important.  I know that I’m in bed by ten most nights.  That means I actually start my sleeping routine at around 8:30 or nine pm.  I make sure that I do it every night for the most part.  Having that time lets me set myself up for success.  Okay if I go to bed at ten and wake up at six am, that means I get 8 hours of sleep.  If I want to start waking up earlier that means I need to go to bed earlier.  Its that simple.  Identify when you want to and need to wake up and count backward.  That makes it sustainable.  If you fall off once or twice that’s fine.  But have the routine and knowledge. 

Once you identify your bedtime, you can start putting together a routine.  A routine is important not only to make sure you are comfortable and get your teeth brushed, start your humidifier ect, but because it signals to your body that you’re getting ready.  It starts the process of making melatonin which will help you sleep properly. Making sure your room is the right temperature and that it is as dark as possible does huge things for your sleep.  I do everything I can both for sleep and for other things to make my room as relaxing as possible.  For me that means lots of plants, comfy bedding, black out curtains, and a humidifier. Find the things that work for you, but darkness and temperature are pretty much something that we can all relate to.

I have a lot of little things that I do that are important in my routine.  Before anything through I close my blinds and curtains, most of all during the summer when the sun is still out.  Our body follows light cues more then we think it does.  Darkness tells me that its time.  I also change the color on my lights to something calmer.  I have those Sengle LED bulbs which are really cheap long term and can change colors.  I put it onto a nice lavender color that isn’t going to remind me and my body of daylight.  I Also make sure that I have good bedding.  This is more then a mattress unlike what all of those mattress adverts are telling you.  It means good pillows for your neck, soft, cool and clean bedding and for me, a heated mattress pad when it gets cold (My room does not get good heat for some reason so in the winter its freezing and in the summer its sweltering, prompting me to invest in a very very powerful fan which Iove).  There is nothing I love more then the room being cool and me being cozy.  Not hot because that’s bad for your sleep too but….comfy.

I also pop a CBD gummy because while I no longer have a problem falling asleep, staying asleep is a bit harder.  I have learned that a low dose CBD gummy helps me with that.  I

Next, I get into the normal night time things: Wash my face, brush my teeth, take my medication ect.  I grab a book or journal and read or write for about 30 minutes.  When I’m doing this, I make the conscious decision not to use any screens.  No TV, no tablet, no computer, no phone.  Blue light does the opposite of what we are trying to do when we close the blinds.  The blue light that is immitted by screams wakes out brain back up and halts the production of melatonin.  We need that for sleep so not having the TV on is actually very beneficial. 

While I do this, I tend to have a nighttime tea too, most of all when it starts to get cold out.  Nothing caffeinated but something nice like lemon grass or Cinnamon are great go tos.  I’m not a mint fan but if you are there are a lot of teas that most of us have probably seen in just about every grocery store called “Sleepy time” tea. When I can find lavender, I grab that too.  Find what works for you but no caffeine. 

In general, I am also a very big fan of my nighttime meditation app. 60 second breathing exercises help me relax and calm my mind.  It centers me to hear a guided sleep mediation.  I use headspace because I like their sleep scapes but Calm and just about every other mediation app has a sleep meditation section- testifying just how big an issue this is for so many people. 

Things you can do during the day to make sure you are getting a good sleep is just as important as the things that you do right before bed. Working out is a good way to make sure that you are ready for bed at night.  Doing this at night actually isn’t as helpful because working out and raising your heart rate will actually make you more alert and keep you up at night.  But working out in the morning or during the day is obviously going to tire you out.  Avoid this close to bedtime though.  Before bedtime, you might want to add some gentle yoga, stretching or breathing exercises but the point is to shut down, not stimulate.

Another thing that is really important to talk about is our cultures dependence on Caffeine.  I am super guilty of this.  I used to be a barista so I would drink five or six espresso shots a day.  I would drink them when I was starting the machine (You have to, but you can split it out.  I didn’t), I would drink dead shots during the day and then when started to get tired around the end of the shift I would have a drink.  Clearly too much caffeine but when you wake up at 4 and go to bed at 11 because you took a nap when you got home and had a caffeine crash that’s what you feel like you need to do.  Drink more caffeine when what you should be getting more sleep.  Caffeine is not a substitute for sleep, and we need to teach people that its not.  I only drink one cup of coffee in the mornings now and while I love tea, I only drink herbal tea after 11 am. Cutting down your caffeine is a hard task, and you don’t need to go cold turkey.  One cup in the morning is fine, as long as you’re not doing it at night. When you drink coffee at night or in the afternoon and can’t sleep its because your mind is still going, your heart rate night be up too but your body needs sleep.  It’s a band aid on the hoover damn. 

The key here is to create a routine.  Yes, all of these thing’s individuality have their uses but combine them together and do them over and over and over again and you are creating a habit.  Your body will eventually know what it’s getting ready for and act accordingly because it knows what you need.  It wants to sleep after a long day. While as a college student we wanted to go out and do crazy and over the top things, what our brains and bodies really want is routine.

Don’t ware your exhaustion like a badge of honor.  There is no honor or prize for being the most tired and having to force yourself through your days.  Sleep and enjoy your sleep. 

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