Since I was a kid, people have been saying “Hi Jean”, and then chuckling when they realize it sounds like “hygiene”. So let’s get that little joke out of the way first.
Okay. I’m not actually talking today about cleanliness. Most of us have that down pretty well. But the (I think underused) term Sleep Hygiene is an important topic. With the ever changing and growing stresses we all face, proper sleep of 7 to 9 hours in each 24 hour period can seem elusive and luxurious. I’ve also sensed an undercurrent of status among people who almost brag about being tired, but too busy to rest. I gotta say, this is a pet peeve of mine. Time to make it uncool to zombie your way through the day.
Some of you are now saying, “What does she know? I want to sleep, but can’t!” We’ve all been there. This piece is not about the truisms of being sleep- deprived. To those excuses I say - all the better reason to make sleep a priority!
Here are just a few examples, for clarity.
Just had a baby, work stress, spouse snores, going through menopause, can’t fall/stay asleep (no particular reason), too much to do, caretaking a loved one, financial woes, only have late night time to myself, shift worker, side effect of medication..…did I miss any?
So now I am on a soapbox and, as such, better come up with something that is not in your basic Google/Bing search result. I am not a doctor or researcher, most of this information IS anecdotal. But a lifetime of considering sleep sacred may have yielded something you can use.
-If you’ve ever put a child to bed, you know that a routine leading up to bed time is invaluable. Consider what you do the two hours before sleep. Whatever you decide is appropriate, keep to it as much as possible. Your body will grow to think of these things as “sleep triggers”, just like a child.
Note: Hot shower or bath is great. However, our bodies require a drop in temp to become drowsy and fall asleep. Do all hot stuff a good two hours before bed.
-Your bedroom is for sleep and intimacy. Make it dark, cool, quiet and uncluttered. Even a small amount of light can cause you to wake for seemingly “no reason”. Do you have a computer in there? Charging your phone, with a glowing cord? TV….really? I’ve even put a piece of tape over the fan I run in the bedroom. It has a little yellow light on top. Oh, that reminds me, a fan or other form of “white noise” is a must to drown out little noises.
-This is a very personal point, but during difficult sleeping periods, it may be helpful to have a retreat. If possible, have a separate space to go to for rest. Your significant other will understand! Being able to turn on a light, read and move about freely will at very least make time awake more comfortable for you both. It’s okay to leave the wrapped-up-in-the-sheets scenes for the movie screen sometimes. No, really, it is.
-As Homer Simpson once said, “Alcohol -the cause of, and solution to ALL of life’s problems.” A drink or two may help you fall asleep, but even if you haven’t made the connection, is a common cause of middle-of-the-night wakefulness. This is primarily due to a drop in blood sugar from the pure sugars of booze. If you do wake from this, a sensible snack can make you drowsy again. Try a small bit of cereal with milk, toast with butter etc. Also, eating a pure protein with dinner can help regulate the blood sugar overnight.
- Keep realistic goals. Even 20 extra minutes per night can make a big difference. We need less sleep as we age, too. I’ve noticed that some nights, 5 hours is plenty. Other times I get 8 and feel pooped. Who is to say what our body’s rhythm is?
-Finally, if you have a bought of truly unexplained insomnia, be the willow and not the oak. Consider it an opportunity to enjoy some quiet time. Experts recommend if you are awake for more than 20 minutes, you should sit up and do something else. Lie down again only when you feel drowsy.
Hope you found something here that is helpful.
Please make sleep a priority. Crabby is never a good look.