More often than not, by the end of the day, I’m downright exhausted. I feel like I could fall asleep as I brush my teeth, and on really extreme days, I feel like I could rest my head on my dinner plate for a little snooze.
I change into pajamas, slip into bed, try to close my eyes, and… BAM! There are no fewer than 45 things trying to get my attention in my brain. Can’t forget to send the check to my accountant. Oh, need to remember to call the vet tomorrow. Shoot, did I email that person back or not? What blog posts do I have lined up in the next two weeks that I still need photos for? The list goes on and on and on and on. Suddenly, I’m not tired anymore. I’m downright amped up. Pretty sure I could hop up and sit at my desk for five hours cranking through my to-do list. Instead, I toss and turn until I eventually fall asleep.
This used to happen to me regularly. But I’ve been implementing one particular change (in addition to what I’ve always tried to do) and it’s made a huge difference in my sleep. Not only do I fall asleep so much faster, my sleep feels deeper and more peaceful. (I’m no sleep scientist, so that’s just how I feel about it, not sure if it’s actually accurate or anything, but I do know for a fact I fall asleep faster and I wake up feeling so much better.)
ONE // Create a routine
Getting into a sleep routine is a huge thing for me. As I go through each step, it’s like my brain is realizing, “Oh, okay! It’s bedtime.” At this point, my routine is pretty second nature and not rocket science. Double check my calendar for the next day, get my to-do list started, (walk the dogs if Gar’s at work), brush teeth, wash face, moisturize, pajamas, phone on silent, read for thirty minutes, sleep.
TWO // Do a brain dump
I’m circling back a little bit here since I mentioned it in the first step, but getting into the habit of “brain dumping” will change your life. (Or at the very least your sleep!) This is such a game-changer. For me, glancing through my calendar for the next day is key for knowing what exactly I have to do to prepare. Either tonight (if I forgot something) or tomorrow. Sometimes I’ll send a follow-up email to confirm a meeting, but it’s generally pretty quick. After that, I’ll get a to-do list started for the next day. Then I don’t have to lay in bed reminding myself of things I have to do or freaking out that I’m going to forget something. It’s on the to-do list and I can deal with it in the morning.
THREE // No screens
While I get ready for bed, I eliminate all screens. My phone goes into sleep mode. The television goes off. My laptop is shut. Screens are so bad for your sleep because it tricks your brain with the light (plus other bad stuff). This is also huge for me since I work from home, it’s a major signal that the work day is over!
FOUR // READ
Even if you aren’t a huge reader, I’d recommend picking something up (hard copy) to read before bed. (A printed newspaper article or magazine for example.) I love to squeeze in a few pages or a few chapters, depending on the night. It’s the best way for me to wind down and it’s something I really look forward to. I feel like it also helps bring on some drowsiness if I’m not naturally feeling exhausted.
*FIVE* // Relax, starting with your toes
This is the “trick” that I’ve newly been implenting and it works like a charm. It’s actually not new to me; I remember my dad used to walk my sister and I through it if we couldn’t fall asleep. But basically, you start to relax from your toes all the way up to the top of your brain. Once I’m in a good sleep position, I start trying to relax my toes. It’s a mental thing, but for me it feels like everything starts to get heavy where it almost feels numb. Then I start to move up to my ankles, and my shins, and my knees, etc. Instead of going one-two-three, it’s more like a wave… where I’m still focusing on my toes while I relax my ankles… and then I’m relaxing my shins while still thinking of my ankles. The first time I did this, the last thing I remember was relaxing my hips. But now by the time I get to my legs, I’m already asleep.
It feels a little bit like meditation, but I still have something to focus on. It helps keep unwanted thoughts out as I focus on the “task at hand.” Seriously try it. And then let me know if it works for you too!
(As I wrote this I tried to Google what I was doing because I started to think I sounded crazy but it turns out that it’s actually legit. It’s more intense than my method, but try searching “progressive muscle relaxation” for better details and instructions.)
Do you have any tricks or tips for getting a better night’s sleep?