I don’t know about you, but my sleeping habits vary somewhere between those of a teething baby and a college kid home for the holidays. I either sleep very little, or way too much, and I have tried literally everything in order to catch those Zs. So let’s talk about sleep, and how we sabotage ourselves sometimes, and other times sigh and relent, knowing there’s nothing we can do about it. After all, we all sleep, so we’re in this one together.
The reflection on sleeping started when I got a FitBit (I bought it off a bored tween who had lost interest in it) and saw that there was a sleep tracker included in the app. Well this was interesting, I thought, so I was eager to see what my sleep habits were. And I found that right now, I sleep like a hibernating grizzly for about four hours, then I wake up, then I doze, which is counterproductive, I know. Listen, the snooze alarm is one of the greatest inventions ever, and I take full advantage of it. I take SUCH advantage of it that I will set my alarm an *hour* early, just so I can have the satisfaction of hitting it over and over. No, it doesn’t make any sense. Yes, I’m robbing myself of an hour of sleep for no reason. But you have weird sleep habits too, don’t you? Of course you do. It’s okay, you’re not alone.
Another habit I have is listening to audiobooks or music as I am falling asleep. Some people need silence, but I’ve lived in enough city centers that I need noise if I’m going to nod off at night. Right now it’s one of Jim Gaffigan’s stand up specials, but I’ve gone through many books and albums through the years. It’s easy with your phone, all you have to do is set the timer and the playback will shut off within the hour, giving you plenty of time to fall asleep. Just another quirk of mine, but I can’t imagine bedtime without that noise in the background. Maybe if you’ve never lived in the middle of a busy intersection you would think this is crazy, but to me, it’s soothing.
Then there is the question of the covers. Everyone has their own rules of the covers. Off? On. On? Off. One foot poking out? Definitely. Do you fight with your partner or spouse for the covers? Do you win? Are you resentful and frozen stiff in the morning due to a blanket stealth steal? The covers war can end relationships, it’s that serious, but not unheard of. If you don’t sleep for too long, you can be considered mentally unbalanced. Remind your partner of this next time they sneak all the covers, leaving you with a sad, napkin sized corner over your hip.
And of course there are the distractions. Kids are REALLY good at this. Waking up at 5 AM on a Saturday to a five year old’s face a nano-millimeter from yours is one way to get the blood pumping I guess, but it’s very unpleasant. Pets are also superb at distracting you from sleeping. I don’t care if you’ve got the most well behaved animal on the planet, they are always way more excited to be awake than you are, and have a disturbing lack of understanding regarding personal space. If you’ve got kids AND a pet, well…I hope you got a lot of sleep when you were a teen, because you’re not getting it again for a long, long time.
Now that I think about it, it’s a wonder any of us get any sleep at all. With the stress of a long day, plus kids, plus pets, plus PLUS everyone’s own idiosyncrasies regarding the “right way” to sleep, we just don’t get enough of the good stuff. So what to do?
There are, of course, many things we have no control over. Unless you bolt your door from the inside, you’re going to have kids and pets coming in your room at all hours of the night. And insomnia is a real and very infuriating thing. But there are a few things you can do. No caffeine after noon is one. Relaxation exercises can help with deeper sleep. And of course there’s the one thing I know you all don’t want me to say, but I’m going to say it anyway. Put down your phone. Put it on sleep mode, turn in face down on the nightstand, and leave it there when you get into bed. If you don’t depend on it for an alarm clock, leave it in another room. See? I knew you wouldn’t like that. But it’s true, scientists have documented that the screen glare alone can mess with your head and make it more difficult to sleep, much less the rapid fire information that is bound to keep your brain awake way into the early morning. See? I told you that you wouldn’t like to hear that one. The truth hurts sometimes.
What it comes down to is getting enough sleep can be incredibly challenging. But it’s the best self-care we can do for ourselves, and probably one of the first things we neglect. Be better to yourselves regarding sleep, okay? You deserve it.