So after four blog posts about my insomnia problem, you’re probably as sick of my lack of sleep as I am. The good news is that now I’m going to talk about my recent sleep solutions. Experiments, if you will.
Many sleep books and articles recommend better sleep hygiene to address insomnia. You can probably list the rules as well as I can:
- Go to bed around the same time every night.
- Wake up around the same time every morning (no sleeping in – not even on weekends!).
- Limit naps.
- No screen time within an hour of bedtime – and throughout the rest of the night.
- Avoid heavy exercise and caffeine late in the day.
- Avoid alcohol before bed.
- Sleep in a dark, cool room.
- Only use your bed for sleeping (and sex).
You get the drift.
I was not thrilled about being more disciplined with my sleep hygiene. It seemed like giving up all the things I loved to do at night (watching movies on my smartphone in bed, doing social media in bed, reading on my smartphone in bed). Even though I craved better sleep, I wasn’t sure it was worth it.
But I tried. I made the following changes to my evening routine:
- I set 10:00 p.m. as my “lights out” goal.
- I made a point of putting down my smartphone at 9:00 p.m. every night. (I even set an alarm on the phone to remind me.) I mostly succeeded at this.
- I enjoyed a leisurely, warm bath before bed.
- I kept the lights dim in my apartment after 9:00 p.m.
- I read paper books or my Kindle (on the lowest backlight setting) or did quiet, calming activities (like stretching and restorative yoga) before bed.
- I kept a notebook and a flashlight beside my bed, for writing down all the random thoughts that wouldn’t stop, that kept me from sleeping.
The hardest part was giving up movies, TV shows on Netflix, and social media in the evening. I found myself cramming in as much smartphone use as I could before the 9:00 p.m. cutoff. (The screen time was even more precious because most nights I’m at aikido, and don’t get home until 8:30 or 9:00 p.m. So yeah, a big adjustment.)
I more-or-less resigned myself to the regimen, though. I wake up at 6:30 a.m., so a 10:00 p.m. bedtime was theoretically giving me at least 8 hours of sleep, depending on how quickly I nodded off.
I noticed that I became really intolerant of anything that disrupted my new evening routine. Like the networking event I went to, that went until nearly 10:00 p.m. It just got a lot easier to say, “Sorry, it’s past my bedtime,” to any invitations for late-night fun.
Too bad the new routine (and the enforced fun deprivation) didn’t really help, though. I still kept waking up (sometimes for several hours at a time) in the middle of the night.
This is the fifth in a series of posts about changing unhealthy sleep habits. Future posts will include:
- White-knuckling the early morning hours without sleep aids
- Fitbit, my friend
- The sleep plan that finally worked
Michelle Lynne Goodfellow works in nonprofit and small business communications by day, and also enjoys writing, taking photographs, making art and doing aikido. You can find more of her work at michellelynnegoodfellow.com. Michelle has also written about her breast cancer journey on her blog, Kitchen Sink Wisdom.
Photo: Michelle Lynne Goodfellow, barn in the Niagara Region