We are probably living in a generation whose daily non-catastrophic lives are more stressful than it has ever been. Everything makes a difference: our work, diet, health, fitness, sleep.
I have always been a light sleeper, which is why I try to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night, knowing that my quality of sleep tends to be quite poor. I have never been very sensitive to my own body the way people know how they will feel if they do or do not get enough sleep & exercise, or even if they change their diets. As I age and started getting sick more often, to the tune of one flu per month, plagued with nightmares, I finally began to pay notice to the quality of my sleep. Frankly, it was literally getting exhausting having to show up at work drained from 8 hours of very crappy sleep.
Sick of being sick and weak, I turned to my mom and asked her to take me to her Chinese doctor whom she’s said so many good things about (she’s the chair of a Chinese herbal medicine education & training board, apparently). This time, I humbly asked her questions I wanted to ask instead of acting like an exasperated teenager being dragged to yet another appointment by mom. I was told that in Chinese herbal medicine there’s a saying: 藥療不如食療、食療不如睡療 (sleep remedy is better than diet remedy, which is better than medication). I was all, “yea, ah, okay, cool. So, do you think my health is affecting my sleep?” And she was all, “let me say this again…” Basically, my crappy sleep is the root issue.
While her prescribed herbal tea did knock me out, I knew I needed to do a few more things to make sure I get quality sleep consistently:
- Exercise – We’ll start with the obvious stuff. Tiring yourself out the healthy way during the day is an easy way to understand why this will help with sleep. Exercise has also been proven to reduce stress and anxiety, so you’re much more likely to sleep better at night.
- No TV before bed – People say no phones as well because the blue light suppresses the body’s production of melatonin which helps regulate your circadian rhythm (read the smart people’s version here). My glasses are slightly tinted and I use night mode on my iPhone so I don’t always care about this. Having said that, TV/movies can be very stimulating and it can affect your sleep (I knew one night I had a crazy dream because I was watching things blow up on TV before bed). As for phones, like my friend suggests, there’s endless content to link to once you start scrolling, which revs up your brain, so that’s also bad news for quality sleep.
- Switch to reading – We need to wind down, I know. I do too. For some reason, while I could stay up for hours reading Harry Potter, now that I’m reading what I deem non-fiction “intelligent” books, I can barely make it through a chapter before I start dozing off. If you’re able to stay up that’s still good! This is a quiet activity that helps you wind down without too much stimulation before bed.
- Lavender – Light some lavender candles, spritz some on your pillows or even get an eye mask with the scent on it.
- Eye mask & earplugs – These are the magic props that create your own personal vacuum. I didn’t realize that small noises around the house or my cats deciding crazy-cat-hour is in the middle of the night was going to affect my sleep so much. Once I started using my earplugs again I started sleeping like a baby. If you are worried about missing the alarm, move it closer to you, or do a test run on a day off. Still paranoid and worried? Time to play the friendship card and ask someone to call you as a backup alarm to start with. I use the orange foam ones I get from airplanes, which can also be bought in pharmacies.
- No water before bed – I mean, why set yourself up to pee in the middle of the night? Drinking lots of water before bed will make your face more puffy in the morning anyway. If you’re thirsty, just take small sips. If you’ve been heavy drinking, screw that and pound lots of water and electrolyte (sports) drinks.
- Have a to-do list – Are you a little neurotic, the type who wakes up in the middle of the night thinking about that thing you need to do tomorrow? I find I’m a lot more paranoid when I wake up in the middle of the night because I’d be obsessing over a small thing that I can’t deal with right away. Have a to-do list handy. I use Todoist and whenever I think of something, I write it down right away. In the middle of the night, this gives me the comfort of knowing I won’t forget to do it the next day.
- Check your alarm – Again, neurotic people know what it’s like to stress out about missing alarms, so check it! Check it twice or thrice if you need to, until it registers in your brain that you don’t need to worry about it.
Have you tried any of these tips, and how did it work out for you? What are your recommendations for getting some quality snooze?