Moxie: A Series on Self-Care (Sleep)
Growing up, I had no problem sleeping. Playing competitive sports trained me to fall asleep anytime, anywhere. The first time I remember not sleeping was after hip surgery. Pain woke me up in the middle of the night and I distracted myself by playing dozens of games of Minesweeper on my laptop. From then on out, sleeping was challenging. By the time I got married, I was getting up 5-6 times every night. A while back, one of my doctors asked me about sleep. When I told him I hadn't slept through the night in years, I quickly learned that this wasn't a normal or healthy behavior. Enter the trial and error process of getting good sleep. Here are the things I've learned over the past six months.
1) Throw out what doesn't work.
My husband LOVES tracking his sleep on his Garmin Fit. It's a delight for him to check his app every morning to see the hours of deep sleep he got. I did this for two months only to wake up discouraged when my phone showed only 2 hours of good sleep. Going to bed got me riled up as I worried about the coming night. So I threw out the watch. (not really, I still wear it during the day) If something is bothering you about the sleeping process, git rid of it. Uncomfortable pajamas, air that is too warm, a lumpy mattress- toss it.
2) Cut off your liquids.
After 8:30 pm, I stop drinking liquids. Minus a little sip of water right before bed, I'm on hydration lockdown. Fewer liquids at night = fewer bathroom breaks during sleep. Pretty simple.
3) Make some patterns
Remember as a toddler creating patterns with shaped blocks? Time to do it again. I have found that creating a strict routine before falling asleep has helped wonders. Every night I was my face (a post is coming on the Korean skin care method. get excited), brush my teeth, put my hair in a bun with a scrunchie, put on chapstick, put on socks, crawl into bed, and watch a 20 min show on Netflix. Yes, screen time. I'll get to that. Honestly, it doesn't matter what your routine contains. Reading, praying, braiding your hair, removing throw pillows, listening to music, whatever the shape block, the important thing is to repeat it. It creates a signal for our brains to wind down. Are we basically using the pavlovian technique to get ourselves to fall asleep? Absolutely. Don't fix it if it ain't broke.
I've tried tons of natural sleep aids. Melatonin, z-quill, golden milk, lavender essential oil, you name it. And, as a result, I've had all sorts of wierd dreams and woke up feeling drugged more than once. By far the best thing I have found is Magnesium. Magnesium is a natural anxiety suppressant, meaning it relaxes you instead of tiring you. Plus, it's great for your bones, heart, and overall health. #winning
5) Keep what works
Listen, I get it. Screen time before bed will probably cause me all sorts of horrific issues later in life. However, it relaxes me and helps me fall asleep so I keep it in my routine. I also keep two small additional blankets on the bed on either side of me. It drives my man crazy but it feels like a warm knit cocoon. Maybe you love to sleep with a stuffed animal or hate brushing your teeth before bed. Maybe you have to sleep with your feet facing your headboard or need a nightlight. If it's weird but working, keep it. Being comfortable and relaxed is priority number one.
Sleeping will most likely always been a struggle in our house. My dad, grandfather, and great-grandfather all exist on very little sleep. Vividly, I remember spending the night at my grandparents and hearing noises in the middle of the night. When I peeked into the living room, my Pa would be sitting there, eating a banana and watching old westerns. A few months ago I stayed there and nothing had changed. I got to their house close to 1 am and crawled into bed. Not long after, I heard my Pa sneak out of bed. I pushed open my door to see him go to his office to read his bible.
While I may not have that level of insomnia, I'm always a little wary about how much sleep I am truly going to get. So I'm working on it. Step by step, night by night, I'm making an effort to sleep well. Health and self-care start with sleep, so I'm getting as much shut-eye as I can.
Let me know if you have any brilliant tricks that work for you. While your typing, I'll be over here taking a nap and getting excited about which episode of 30 Rock I'm going to watch tonight right before bed.