Up all night stressing about your list tomorrow while watching The Office? No? Just me? Sounds about right.
If you're like me, you've been a bad sleeper since you were a small child. I can still remember listening to my mother while she was listening to me to see if I had fallen asleep; then watching her slowwwwlyyy attempt to creep out of bed before I would say, "MOM, I'M NOT ASLEEP YET!" At which point I would hear yet another exhausted sigh. Even as a child, it took me around an hour to fall asleep every night, and I would get up to pee several times (still do that sometimes, ugh).
Working nights, and working unusual hours in the food and beverage industry put me on a bad schedule for years. I'd sleep till noon, go to work at 4, work till 1 AM, commute home, sleep 4 hours, get back in the car to work the hell-on-earth-that-is-brunch, double shift into dinner that night... you get the picture. By the time Tuesday (my former Friday, as the industry people say) rolled around, I was not only depressed (and rich) but completely dead. I would sleep all day sometimes, and then try to go to sleep earlier so I could do things during the day (like my second and third job at the time), and I would yawn while laying awake for hours.
I'm not one of those people that can get by on no sleep, or only a few hours. I need 8, and really 9 hours of rest to feel good. I'm not sure how most New Yorkers survive. They just don't sleep. Ever. I've had to do my fair share of that too, of course, but I have to make the time to get adequate rest as much as I possibly can, for my own survival and well being. If I don't sleep much for weeks on end, I get sick. It's SO FRUSTRATING, but very easy to predict at this point in my life. So I sleep, as much as possible, as often as possible. Give me my BEAUTY REST DAMNIT. If that makes me a diva, I guess I'm a diva. Keep reading if you want to be more high maintenance like me:
1. Go to bed at around the same time every night. Routine is very important for most of us to feel sane, balanced, and to be able to sleep. If I'm used to going to bed at 3 am every night, guess what's going to happen on my 5 am wake-up call day? I won't be able to sleep until 4. I think the formula is: Your regular bedtime + 1 hour of stress that you're getting up super early= Ability to sleep on a night before a huge, early day. If you have to get up at 6 during the week, sorry kids, you probably shouldn't be sleeping till 1 PM all weekend. You're going to spend all week, every week, trying to get back to an earlier schedule, and then you'll fuck it all up again all weekend. It's cyclical. If you're thinking, "Oh that's bs, I can fall asleep whenever," THIS ARTICLE IS NOT FOR YOU. GOOD NIGHT.
2. Exercise or get some physical activity every day. Even if that's stretching for 15 minutes in front of the TV, or walking to the grocery store, DO IT. Your body needs to be tired in a good way (not just pain and brain fatigue from just sitting at a desk all day and nothing else), in order to help you feel sleepy before bed. Have you ever had a lazy day off and done LITERALLY NOTHING on the couch all day? If I do that, I won't be able to sleep until 2 or 3 in the morning. Guaranteed. Even if you're super busy, try to fit in just a little time for some kind of physical activity that you enjoy. It'll pay off in good sleep, and it'll pay off in other areas as well.
3. NO NAPPING. I'll make an exception every once in a while if I have a 3 AM wakeup call for a flight or if I'm sick. Otherwise, I do not not not recommend allowing yourself to nap. Especially after 5 pm. It's very unlikely that you'll be able to sleep early if you take a long afternoon nap, or even a quick nap at 7 or 8 PM. Force yourself to get up and do something. Go run an errand, do a light workout, clean the house, do something until 9 or 9:30 and then just go to bed super early. You'll thank yourself the next day.
4. Stop drinking caffeine past noon. And really, ideally don't have any at all (I'm not going to stop having at least one coffee a day though, sorry). I choose the moderate approach, and if I'm doing really well, I have one coffee around 8:30 AM and I don't allow myself another one. The half life of caffeine is 6 hours, which means that if you you drink a coffee at noon, you still have 50% of it in your blood stream at midnight. It takes a full 24 hours to get it out of your system. Caffeine inhibits your ability to get the right kind of REM sleep (thanks brain), which will leave you exhausted and foggy, no matter how many hours you get. Alcohol does the same. Cut back. If you're seriously anxious and suffer greatly from insomnia, give it up entirely. It's a sacrifice that will give you better quality of life in all areas. Real talk.
5. SUPPLEMENTS! If I made serious dough I would be spending half of it on all the supplements in the whole wide world and giving it out to all of my friends who need them.
THE BIGGEST thing you can do, besides limiting or cutting out caffeine, is taking supplements. My two favorite supplements are: Calcium Magnesium powder, and Sleepytime Extra Tea. They're both gentle and non-habit forming, which you cannot say about any prescription medications or melatonin supplements (in any dosage, it inhibits your body's ability to make your own with habitual usage, see article below). When I take melatonin, I generally wake up a few hours earlier than I want to when it wears off, and then I'm very likely to feel depressed the next day. I urge you to do your own research and follow your gut on this, but be careful! Read this article first. I don't drink the tea every night (especially during the summer), but I do take the cal-mag powder every night, mixed with fiber powder, both of which ensure a GREAT morning poop in the morning, let me tell you what! I like to take what I call a "poop shake," every night, about an hour before bedtime.
6. Be careful with screen time. We've all heard about the blue light coming off the screens can be bad for our eyes, and for our ability to produce melatonin. You can use certain apps which limit the blue light (DON'T GO SHOPPING FOR CERTAIN COLORED CLOTHING WITH FLUX ON), but I find it's best to limit my phone and computer time right before bed, if not just stopping entirely 30 minutes before I pass out. I'm not a purist about this; for me it seems to be fine to have a small lamp on while I watch TV before bed. It helps me to feel like I have a bit of special time to do pretty much NOTHING while I start to get sleepy. I get entirely ready for bed, watch something not TOO bingeworthy, and lay on the couch in low lighting while I chillllllll the fuck out. If I've followed all of the other rules on this list, I will be getting veryyyy sleepy after about 15-20 minutes. Probably earlier.
7. Rub one out. If I wake up too early, or drink a late coffee on a long day, or can't sleep for whatever reason, you know what I do while I watch the office (or something else ;))? I rub one out. You're not too tired to do it, I promise. Invest in a little toy that will give you an extra hand. It'll help knock you out. Don't believe me, try it!
Photo Source: Google, property of Celestial Seasonings.