In early January, I was having trouble falling asleep at bed time. I was in the habit of sleeping in on weekends, but then forcing myself to get up at 4:30 am on weekdays. Bed time starts at 8 pm and I try to be in bed and ready to sleep before 8:30 pm. I’m not good at going on less than 8 hours of sleep, so if I have trouble falling asleep, then I end up with less than 8.
My husband first suggested going to bed earlier, to which I laughed derisively. But I knew that I needed to do something about my sleep so that I could stop obsessing over falling asleep to the point where I couldn’t fall asleep because I was worried that I wouldn’t fall asleep on time… Not a great cycle to be stuck in.
I decided to try to reset my sleep schedule. And that’s going to mean not staying up late or sleeping in on any weekends for a while. Since January 11th, I’ve been getting ready for bed at 8 and up at 4:30 am, no matter the day of the week. It is not my favorite thing, getting up at 4:30 am on weekends, but it will be good if I can get it done consistently enough to convince my body that 8:30 is sleep time and 4:30 is awake time.
I looked to the internet for tips on getting to sleep when one’s mind is racing, and a lot of them are things that I’ve tried and failed with. I used to be good at the progressive muscle relaxation thing, but nowadays I’ll get halfway through and get an itch and then I get off track and next thing I know it’s 10 pm. I have finally tried getting out of bed after 20 minutes if sleep doesn’t seem to be happening, but I’m still not sure what the best thing for me to do while waiting to get sleepy is.
One list recommended putting the TV on a relaxing show and watching with eyes half closed, but that sounds like a recipe for falling asleep on the couch, which is not the goal. Also, I live in a studio apartment, and we already put the TV on at night for ambient sounds like rain, waves or wind.
Another recommendation was to go somewhere with dim lighting and write in a journal, finishing with something like “and that’s tomorrow’s problem” so that your mind can leave those things for another time. I do sometimes write when I’m trying to fall asleep because I come up with a thought that I like so much that I need to write it down lest I forget before the morning. But this would be a bit different, writing away from the bed area.
I turned on the blue light filter on my phone. I thought I’d already done that, but I hadn’t. Also, my phone calls it ‘eye comfort shield’ which confused me the first time I saw it. That should help a bit with my melatonin production, in theory.
My husband says when he has trouble falling asleep he will get on his computer until he feels tired, but I know myself. If I start working on my computer, I’ll probably stay up all night. Maybe some Solitaire on the computer would work, but I’m not sure I’d be able to break away from that easily once I get sleepy.
What I have tried so far is reading on my Kindle, which doesn’t have blue light. I’ve read for a bit – only comfort books that I’ve read before – and then gone back to bed. It works, but I hate missing out on the sleep I could have been doing.
Another recommendation was to develop a routine. I already have a pretty solid before bed routine, but I’m trying to add one step. Before bed, I’m rinsing my face with warm water. Not washing, because I don’t use any soap, just a little rinse off that I hope will train me to be ready for sleep when I do it. At least, I’m doing that when I remember. It hasn’t gotten solidified into the routine yet. I don’t know if it will at this point, but I’ll keep trying. It does feel nice.
I started this program on Wednesday January 11th, but both that night and the next I took cold medicine to help me sleep. However, I didn’t wait until I was restlessly in bed to take it, so I actually got decent sleep and even went to 5 am CrossFit on Friday morning.
The night of the 13th was my first opportunity to sleep without cold meds and without worrying about wrecking myself for the next day’s work. I stuck to the same routine, but no medication. It worked, but I do miss having the apartment to myself for a few hours in the late evening on weekends. I rarely get to be alone or even “alone” in my apartment, and I think that’s what I miss most about this sleep routine.
I’ve been falling asleep better in the last couple of weeks. I’m not sure if this is in spite of the fact that I’ve been having a lot of IBS related pain, or because I’ve been taking pain medication for said IBS pain. Perhaps, there is something to this whole “stay in a routine” thing. I’m not sure how long I’m going to keep it up. Or how long until I give myself a “cheat night” where I can stay up late and sleep in just one night…