I've never been a good sleeper. In high school I was a full on insomniac, frequently spending entire nights wide-awake, typically rearranging my bedroom furniture. And in times like these – changing seasons, holidays rapidly approaching, and [ahem] starting a new business – I'm especially inclined to stay up past my bedtime. I’m out of my regular routine and working on finding a new one that fits my changing priorities.
Sleep is the first thing to go when I’m feeling crunched, excited, or anxious, but one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that self-care is at the core of living the life I want. I'm not my best self when I’m lacking sleep, so despite the feelings of productivity I’m really not moving myself forward by staying up late to get shit done.
During sleep your body rejuvenates, replenishes, and rebuilds. The hours that you sleep give your digestive system a break and allow elimination processes to catch up, which ultimately keep your body free of toxins. Unfortunately for night owls like myself, the most healing and detoxifying time for sleep is between 10pm and 2am.
Lack of sleep can really throw off an otherwise healthy lifestyle, or make it difficult to maintain. Sleep regulates hormones that affect mood and control your appetite. Lack of sleep can lead to increased appetite, and cause you to crave sugary foods and carbohydrates. Because insufficient sleep also depletes valuable resources for healing and coping with stress, you may be more likely to succumb to these cravings.
So if you find your mind is racing, or you partake in a stubborn-kid-at-bedtime routine like myself, I encourage you to put yourself back at the top of your priority list. Begin to set yourself up for a night of restful sleep a few hours before bedtime...
· Start to dim the lights to ease yourself into a restful state.
· Write down your worries or to-do list so you’re not still thinking about it when its time to sleep.
· Avoid bright lights; the blue light in our TV’s, computers, and smartphones is stimulating, keeping us awake. If you must use your computer before bed, download an app called f.lux, which adapts the light of your screen to the time of day.
· Bring the temperature in your bedroom down, and dim the lights. Even the light from our charging phones can disrupt sleep, so plug it in outside the bedroom when it’s time for bed.
If you still find yourself tossing and turning, don’t get too stressed about it, and try some of these tips to beat the insomnia:
· Do a muscle scan: mentally scan your body from your toes all the way up to your head, relaxing each part as you go.
· Hide your alarm clock to avoid anxiously glancing at it, which typically leads to calculating how many hours of sleep you can still get, causing stress.
· Create white noise – you can download an app on your phone if you don’t want to buy a noise machine, or turn on a loud fan.
· Get out of bed after 30 minutes of sleeplessness. Try reading, meditation, deep breathing, or gentle yoga, only returning to bed when you actually feel sleepy. Staying in bed when you can’t sleep may lead to a wandering mind, and begin to associate your bed with lying awake instead of sleeping.
· If your mind is reviewing your worries or to-do list, try some journaling, or just jotting down these thoughts. Identify some time in tomorrow’s schedule (while riding the train, or going for a run) when you can come back to these thoughts. By assigning this “worry time”, you can free yourself from feeling like you must think about them now.
· Most importantly, be gentle on yourself. Let go of judgements, like “Why did I need to watch that 3rd episode,” and negative thinking, “If I don’t get eight hours of sleep, I’ll be useless at work tomorrow.” Try not to convince yourself that you'll feel like crap tomorrow (maybe you won't!), and focus on the silver lining: perhaps you’ll get to see a gorgeous sunrise :)