“Sleep can be a form of emotional escape and can with sustained effort be abused” – David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest.
I particularly like this quote from David Foster Wallace’s book. I also agree with it but … I’m not sure about you guys but as I get older it gets harder to sleep well. I will be honest I used to like my sleep, I may have at times put a lot of effort into sleeping more than I should. Falling asleep was easy, it was a form of leaving your worries behind and escaping from everything. Not anymore though.
I have come to realise that my worries, stresses whatever you like to call them mess with my sleep. I sleep badly, I have bad dreams or I wake up in the middle of the night worrying about my to do list. When it’s bad I actually avoid going to sleep because I know that when I’m exhausted I will sleep sounder and I will be most likely too tired to wake up in the middle of the night and unable to go back to sleep. Sounds familiar?
Many people go through the same problem. Taking sleeping pills can make this bad situation even worse. Sleeping pills do not take you into the REM stage of sleep (REM is the deep sleep where we start dreaming and our body relaxes, this stage of our sleep aids consolidation of memory). One more thing about sleeping pills they can be very addictive and it can be hard to stop taking them once you star. Overall it is best to use more natural ways of getting a good night’s sleep. What are they? Introducing sleep hygiene, meaning maintaining a schedule for your sleep routine (just like when you were a kid and had a night time routine of bath, bottle and story). This is more of a grown up routine and if you see your General Practitioner (doctor) and talk to them about sleep problems they will most likely suggest that you introduce a sleep hygiene practice.
Here are some good sleep hygiene habits that could help you sleep better:
- go to bed and wake up at the same time every day;
- avoid naps in the daytime;
- don’t eat big dinners just before you go sleep;
- make sure your bed is comfortable and your surroundings are soothing;
- make your room dark, adjust the temperature and ventilation;
- avoid drinking caffeine, tea late in the afternoon;
- avoid “screen time” before bed;
- avoid stimulus before bed;
- avoid dealing stressful things before bed like checking your bank account balance 🙂
It is also worth mentioning some things that could help you drift of to sleep easier like a warm bath, meditation or listening to relaxing music before bed.
I understand implementing all those points may be easier than done. You may also think you are not ready to let go of your phone before sleep or waking up at the same time on the weekend as you would on work week but there is a reason the sleep hygiene comes recommended by health professionals. It does help.
However, don’t take my word for it have a read and research for yourself. If you think you may be dealing with more serious issue please have a chat with your doctor, sleep can really make us or break us. No wonder sleep depravation is used as a form of torture. Sleep affects what happen in the daytime and sometimes you may not realise you are not actually sleeping well until you try harder and try some of the practices above.