My sleep is very much affected by what and how much is going on in my life. It seems that everything I successfully suppress during the day manifests when I close my eyes and has given me quite a few episodes of insomnia and sleep paralysis in the past. Most recently, I seemed to dwell in a half awake/half asleep state, in which I write emails and send tweets which I know nothing about the next day. They’re properly worded, though; full responses to other people’s emails and tweets, which means I must read and understand them before I send a perfectly worded response of which I have no recollection whatsoever. It creeped me out, quite frankly.
Then, one night, after I’d had night after night of broken up sleep and very early mornings, I had a lovely catch up with my housemate and went to bed without checking my phone or laptop. I slept for seven hours and only woke up once.
It showed me that this problem is, in fact, solvable and I decided to implement a few simple changes to ensure that my sleeping pattern gets more regular and less tiring. Obviously we all know the general tips floating around the internet – don’t spend too much time on your phone, listen to relaxing music, meditate, do yoga, put lavender oil on your pillow – but I didn’t want to set myself any expectations I wouldn’t be able to stick to. The aim for this experiment wasn’t to put myself down even more by setting myself challenges I was prone to fail but to make sure I improved the quality of my sleep little by little. Here’s what I did.
Non-screen activity every night. Whether that’s reading a book, flicking through a magazine or painting my nails whilst listening to music, I made sure I did one activity every night which didn’t involve staring at a screen. Screen-staring is essentially what I do for a living for hours and hours every single day, so I really wanted to dedicate a time window to an activity in which I wouldn’t do it.
Organising and planning. Well, what can I say – being organised and knowing what the day/week ahead brings calms me down and relaxes me. I started colour-coordinating my diary and started actually filling it in, too – I’m terrible at buying notebook after notebook and never using it. I made sure I wrote deadlines, tasks and meetings down and had a look every evening what I needed to do the next few days, which left my brain organised, prepared and calm.
Happy thoughts. Every night, I made sure to think of the things that made me happy. Sometimes, it would be the same thoughts every night for a few days in a row, sometimes I would struggle to even come up with one, but I did it. Ending my day on a happy thought was a lovely little note to add to my new routine.
Suppress less. Whilst I made an effort to concentrate on the happy things in my life, I also tried to not suppress my worries anymore. Desperately trying not to think about them during the day simply meant that they were unleashed the second I lost control by going to sleep, so I made an equal effort to recognise what was bothering me and either trying to think of a solution or accepting it as best as possible, if there wasn’t an immediate solution in sight.
Less multi-tasking. Some nights, I would watch a film or YouTube playlist on my laptop whilst playing a game on my iPad and checking Instagram on my phone. What the heck? This is the definition of what will give you a bad night’s sleep, so I made sure to ban multi-tasking from my bed. I didn’t set myself the challenge of not using my phone in bed, because I knew I would fail, or of not watching a film before bed, because I knew sometimes I’d just want to watch something rather than read. But when I watched a film, I put my phone away, and when I scrolled through social media, I made sure I had my lights dimmed and silence around me.
Take time. I am terrible at being very hectic, especially when I’m stressed or feel like my to do-list is neverending. Consequently, my cups of tea were horrible because I never let them steep enough, my lunch didn’t taste very nice because I had rushed making it and then wolved it down, and my skin wasn’t looking great because I never took the time to fully implement my skincare routine. For the last few weeks, I really tried to take my time with the little things and I feel like this made all the difference.
I’ve been doing all of the above for just over three weeks now and I can honestly say that they improved the quality of my sleep. I go to sleep easier, I wake up less during the night, and I wake up in the morning feeling less anxious. I’m not at a stage where I feel perfectly rested every morning and I sometimes still fall asleep at 8:30pm, only to wake up confused at about 11pm, but I think I’m on a promising road here.
’til next time x