Sleep…(precious, elusive, rarely satisfying precious precious sleep)
This post is all about sleep, did you catch the clues in the title?
No seriously, sleep is precious.
I never knew how precious until I had babies (hah!). And even then, with a just turned 3 year old, an 18 month old and a newborn…even then…I didn’t really know exhaustion. I thought I did, but nope – turns out it actually is possible to be more tired.
When I first got ill, I was tired-fatigued-exhausted all the time. Despite the English language having more words than any other in the world, there’s still a lack of words in the “jaw-achingly-tired-right-through-to-the-bones” exhaustion category. And to add insult to injury, I couldn’t sleep hardly at all (I know I started a sentence with “and”…sorry).
So what is it with ME that leaves you so tired you can’t even remember your own name, and yet at the same time causes you to lie in bed awake and utterly shattered? Not fun. Not cool.
It was through the Optimum Health Clinic that I first heard it described as “tired but wired” and I began to understand a bit about calming the nervous system down from its constant state of high alert. Although my body was knackered, my brain wasn’t trusting enough to relax enough to sleep. I started doing a bit of meditation (really just lying in bed listening to someone talking) and read a bucket-load of information about how to sleep better.
Turns out all the information is pretty much the same (unless they’re trying to sell you something), and it’s all stuff we know already.
- Keep your bedroom just for sleeping
- Make your bedroom as dark as possible
- Turn ALL screens off at least an hour before bedtime
- Stick to the same bedtime as much as possible
- Get daylight on your face, especially in the morning
- Make a bedtime routine and stick to it
- No caffeine (if you’re lucky enough to tolerate it) after 12
- No emotive input in the evening
This is my sleeping space (I promised you honest, no Insta-worthy bedrooms here!)
There are a couple of things that made a huge difference to me: sticking to a lights-out at 21:30, and turning off screens at 20:30. If I glue myself to that, I sleep a lot better. I also read the news in the morning and refuse to discuss news or politics or anything heavy after dark, no matter how much the other person wants to.
I’ve been bedbound in the past and I realise that when your bed is your whole life, you can’t just keep it for sleeping. In that case, maybe you could try and work out a simple bedtime routine, even if it’s just doing some slow stretches, deep breathing and then sleep.
I really recommend Dr Rangan Chatterjee’s book – The 4 Pillar Plan. It’s a very simple, easy read and I found it useful. One of the 4 pillars he writes about is sleep.
In case you’re interested, this is my bedtime routine:
2100. screens off (this has slid from 20.30 as the children haven’t been sleeping so well and everything’s a bit later…). Most days this doesn’t matter as I’m not a huge TV watcher anyway.
-simple Tai Chi sequence (I’m no expert, just one I found online that’s very gentle)
-read 20 mins
-set clock to sunset mode and lights out by 22.00
It doesn’t have to be complicated, just be consistent with it and try different things if you’re not getting into bed in the right frame of mind to sleep!