I think I should have a PhD in not sleeping, or at the very least an honorary degree. I often feel like I am the title holder of the worst sleeper in history. I am good at a lot of things (a jack of all trades if you please), and also very bad at others – but sleeping, well sleeping is that one thing I am the worst at, in life. Like my tone deaf singing sounds like like an angel serenading someone compared to how badly I stink at sleeping. But I feel like it’s something I can’t actually complain about, since I feel in order to complain you need to place blame, have a reason or have a semi decent story to tell — my usual story “UGHHH I was up all night just thinking about not sleeping, and thinking some more” sounds so beyond lame, though true. When my kids were newborns, the never sleeping made sense – like I was already prepared and seasoned for it – and I suddenly had my reason. I’ve been trying to find ways to reduce my waking hours for like ever, I’ve found a few (and I’m always still searching) but maybe some of my tricks will help you.
DO NOTHING BEFORE BED.
1 hour or so to be exact, no electronics (no phone, tv, computer, nothing) and maybe even no to talking about anything heavy. It’s the ‘eliminate any extra stimulation’ train, you should get on it because it helps to calm the mind and prep for sleep. Also avoiding any blue light, like from a computer screen, smart phone or tablet will be hugely helpful in calming and prepping you for sleep. Rather then jumping into bed all ramped up and then tossing and turning till you finally calm down. Also a bath or a book (or both) help to calm yourself down, so create yourself a new bedtime routine that has a calming routine built in – personally it’s something I have been working on for years, since it requires more foresight then “oh I’m tired, I’ll go to bed now”.
NO EATING FOOD.
They say you should stop eating food after 6pm, but let’s be honest with kids sometimes you don’t get to sit down till after they go to bed. So let’s just say try not to eat 2 hours before bed and avoid all sugar and caffeine at all costs – unless you want to be fighting caffeine and a sugar high in bed.
A BIT OF YOGA.
Seriously this works, and it’s usually the most basic poses that make a bedtime sequence great, so no worries. Some days I practice twice in a day, because I do a short bedtime routine. I like this free video a lot, it’s a bit rushed and the music is odd – but if you slow it down, it gets thumbs up. *Keep your hands facing down in the seated postures, hands up tends to energize and hands down calms.
MOVE CLOCKS AND TURN ALL LIGHTS OFF.
I actually also hide my phone, usually in the drawer beside me so I can still grab it to turn off the alarm int he morning. I find when I don’t know what time it is when I wake up mid night and I can’t track how long I’ve been awake for, I’m not causing myself any extra anxiety. Being in total darkness helps remind my body it’s actually bedtime, it’s too easy for the eyes to adjust to light and if they do, I’m awake and there is no turning back.
For me, I have found (through some very scientific testing) that even one beer or a glass of wine, just messes my sleep right the heck up. Don’t get me wrong I still enjoy some drinks some nights, but I just mentally prepare myself for a less then stellar sleep on those nights – because it’s pretty much guaranteed.
CHANGE YOUR SLEEP DIRECTION.
This is getting a little feng shui / hippy dippy, but I swear the direction your body is facing makes a difference. They say that people who face their head SOUTH and feet NORTH while sleeping, having longer REM cycles as compared to people who sleep with their head facing EAST and feet WEST have shorter REM cycles. Through the years I have tried all poles of sleeping and find that having my head facing SOUTH or EAST is best, try it yourself if you don’t believe me.
Some people say the opposite works for them. For me, if I nap it’s a 100% guarantee that I will have a crapola sleep. Though it’s almost always still worth it, since most nights my sleep is pretty junky anyways.
IF YOU CAN’T SLEEP, GET OUTTA THE KITCHEN.
Okay, you get it. Usually if I can’t sleep, I get up an go lay on the couch, sometimes a change of temperature and setting can put me back to dream land. I’ve always read not to toss and turn for more then 20 mins (but how do I know it’s been 20 mins, if I’ve hid my phone and clock?), and if you can’t sleep to get out of bed and read, then go back when you are sleepy again – but for me that’s a hard one to follow.
Put some in your bath, or spray a little on your pillow. Whatever the method, it does work at relaxing you a little extra, it may not help you stay asleep but it’s definitely a good addition to a newly improved bedtime routine.
DRINK CHAMOMILE TEA.
AKA sleepy time tea. Okay it doesn’t make you sleepy, but it really does have a natural calming effect. Go for a stronger loose leaf like David’s Organic Sweet Dreams then the classic sleepy time tea.
But do this early, like morning early or several hours before bed. Exercise will help relive stress and tension but if you do it too close to bedtime you will literally be too wired to sleep – all hopped up on adrenaline. No matter how little I slept I still wake up to my 6 AM alarm and practice yoga, some days it’s haaaarrrd (like this morning, I woke up after 3 hours of sleep) – but I find getting that practice in gives me so much more energy then the extra 30 mins of sleep that I might have gotten if I had stayed in bed.
Okay don’t eat it, but adding extra magnesium rich foods to your diet can help sleep issues (but I’m not a fan of supplements for this, just eating more rich foods). Since a magnesium deficiency can cause bad sleeps, anxiety, cramps and irritability – it just makes sense. So eat extra: dark leafy greens, seeds, legumes, black strap molasses, almonds, cashews.
CALM YOUR ANXIETY.
This is a whole other post in itself, but long story short – don’t (or try not to) go to bed feeling anxious. This is probably the number 1, reason why I deserve an honorary degree in non sleeping.
There are a few herbal or holistic supplements, I’m no expert in this area at all and I’m also not the biggest fan of the type of sleep that comes from supplemented sleep. It sorta ends up being like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get – so the above tips works better in my opinion.
For me, many times it’s not falling asleep that’s my problem. It’s waking up too many times, or waking up way too early and not falling back to sleep. Many of the above things will help a little for that as well, I try to follow my own tips as best as possible – I still sleep horribly most nights but it’s a step above zero sleep and that’s something. Sleep is the worlds best medicine around, I’m pretty great at taking care of my body and mind during the daylight hours – but I’m still fighting my natural tendencies at night because boy could I use some sleep.
*Of course the day I plan to post this, also happens to be one where I started my day at 3 am for no reason at all – I probably jinxed myself.