Updated: Oct 9, 2019
Great sleep can help you feel on top of the world but poor sleep can be the most frustrating thing! Continued lack of sleep can exacerbate problems or cause them, especially in relationships as our emotions and patience become strained.
Eurgh, sleep for me used to feel like a waste of time, it would annoy me because it felt as though it was interrupting all of the other fun things I could have been doing with my time. I have spoken to other people who have felt like that at one stage and I don’t think it was a good step up to me appreciating how crucial sleep actually is.
I had to find a reason to want to sleep but being plagued by near constant nightmares every night made it a daunting task (think Freddie Krueger). It wasn’t until I came across lucid dreaming that sleep actually seemed as though it might be interesting. Learning to lucid dream presented me with the ability to actually face my fears in the dreamscape and turn into my own superhero (Buffy inspired). This was a gateway to getting me interested in sleep and understanding what happened in the brain and body during it (the chemicals released, sleep cycle, brain activity) but also dreams, why we had them and whether they meant anything.
Despite my blossomed interest in sleep, I still struggled to either wake feeling rested (spending too long in light Stage 2 sleep), actually fall asleep, sleep through the night, or wake after definitely not enough sleep (less than 7 hours for me).
Like most things, the solution was patience and a combination of actions that did help through informed trial and error learning. It didn’t help that this learning was yearlong because what I would need to do to sleep successfully changed with the seasons.
Committing to learning about yourself in enough depth to actually understand how you can sleep well is not an easy task, but for anyone who actually wants to sleep and wake feeling rested and energised, the work is most definitely worth it!
Those annoying people who fall asleep as soon as hitting the pillow (<3) won’t be able to appreciate what I’m writing about unless they live with someone who struggles and they can see the detrimental effects of lack of sleep for themselves.
For the sake of providing what could be a starting point or an example for people who want to sleep well, here is my run down of how I personally know I can achieve the best sleep:
Do some form of exercise or yoga in the day (even if it’s just 10 minutes of cardio)
Have my last caffeine drink by midday in the summer and 4pm in the darker months
Speak with loved ones, about them and their day, and me and my day and the fun things coming up or allow them to help me problem solve through some worries I'm having
Have done at least something for my environment that day e.g. cleaning, putting a picture up, making a repair
Go to bed with a light heart – journal about any issues, make a plan for the next day
Meditate for at least 15 minutes
Do something in line with my spiritual practice
Hug my family members and show love (including my cat bambinos!)
Bed is cosy, comfortable (I’ve got the right pillow) and the bedroom is neat, tidy and clean
Have a bedtime drink at least 2 hours before I want to sleep
Have a wash, brush teeth and get into comfy PJs
Husband’s stuff is ready for the next day if he is going somewhere
Set sunlight lamp for the next day if I have a morning appointment
Read a few chapters of a novel until sleep at 11:30pm
Above does illustrate how much my mental well-being and my environment impact on my ability to sleep well. Sleep isn’t just about lying down and shutting your eyes, it’s about the state of your mind too.
For the sake of transparency, it’s probably worth me highlighting that my mental health wasn’t at a great point before I got a handle on my sleep and I wasn’t able to put the energy necessary into learning about how I needed to operate in order to actually sleep well due to my emotional and psychological resources being tied up with mental health and keeping a float.
It goes without saying that there can be a vicious cycle in that – if I slept well I would have more capacity to focus on problem solving the other things. Therefore, I would encourage others to seek support and help wherever they can, rather than try to struggle along alone like I did. You’ll certainly get wherever you want to be a lot faster. That could be in the form of a sleep coach or a therapist to help you through your mental health problems.
Occasionally you may have a bad night’s sleep but know that it isn’t the end of the world and it doesn’t mean you have fallen into old unproductive habits again. If you commit to keeping on top of your environment and understanding your mind and body, you will be doing the right thing by yourself in order to sleep well as often as possible.
Good luck on your sleep journey,