I have never been a good sleeper and my sleep hygiene habits are dismal at best. It runs in the family. My little brother is a terrible sleeper, my mom is as well, and from the time that I was a baby, I’ve always had trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. My mom would often come in to check on my crib in the middle of the night only to find me wide awake but smiling and happy to see her.
Little has changed in the last 28 years. I take a minimum of two hours to fall asleep once I’m in bed, and I wake up multiple times in an evening to pee or stare off into the darkness and wonder about the meaning of life. I’m a light sleeper as well, with the slightest movement or sound waking me. On average, I get about 5-6 hours of sleep a night.
Sleep and Depression
Sometimes I wonder if my lack of sleeping in my recent years is making up for all the sleeping I did in college and right after. During my most depressed years, from ages 19 to 22, I would sleep as much as humanly possible, sometimes 13-16 hours a day.
I remember days where I’d go to bed at eleven, wake up at eight, decide to sleep through class, and then wake up only to decide to sleep through another class. Then, I’d get up for a few hours to go to a class I couldn’t miss, and then I’d bike home to take a quick 20 minute nap before my next class.
It was a bad cycle.
Overwhelmed with too much to do? Take a nap.
Unable to focus and concentrate on the task at hand? Sleep a little.
Got a paper due tomorrow and only six hours left in the day to do it? Nap first, and then get it done.
I never got anything done, I was tired all the time, and even the smallest challenges would send me into a panic attack. All I did was avoid, avoid, avoid, until I’d pop and handle the feels by drinking into a stupor or sleeping a day away.
When I moved home after graduation, I continued to sleep as often as I could, even if it meant ten minutes here and an extra seven there. When I’d lament to my dad about how tired I was, he’d responded “It’s no wonder. With all the sleeping you’re doing, anyone would be exhausted. Try staying awake more so you get used to being awake.”
For some reason what he said stuck with me.
Thinking about how much I slept in those years now makes me anxious, and it’s no wonder that I can’t nap carefree now. Anytime I lie down to take a nap these days, I get a surge of anxiety that tells me I’m avoiding doing what I really need to do.
It’s funny how our past shows up in our present in ways we least expect it.
Anyway, I am a chronically tired person because of my bad sleep habits. I’ve tried just about everything, and haven’t done a great job at keeping a sleep routine.
I KNOW I’m supposed to turn off my phone an hour before bed.
I’m supposed to go to bed at the same hour every night and wake up at the same hour every morning.
Keeping a journal next to my bed to write down all my thoughts is supposed to help, and doing the same things every night before bed is supposed to signal to my brain that it’s that time.
I know light stretching and bed yoga is supposed to be helpful. Using my apex orthosis pillow for ten minutes while I meditate before bed could help, and I can stop looking at my phone for random notifications that don’t matter or bring any joy to my life.
I know not eating sugar right before bed would probably help as well.
The thing is, I can do so many things.
I’m not doing a very good job of doing any of those things.
Bad Sleep Hygiene Excuses
Would you like to hear my lame excuses?
- I have no good excuse for the phone use other than it’s a straight addiction and I’m not doing a great job of managing it at night when I’m tired and less vigilant about my self- care.
- Waking up and going to bed at the same time every night is not realistic. I have a different set of things to do every night. Sometimes I go to bed, but I lie there and can’t fall asleep. Plus, if I can’t fall asleep until 1 or 2 am even if I put myself to bed at the same time, I’m not going to wake up at 4:30 am to go to the gym. That’s crazy talk. And I’m not going to wake up at 4:30 am on the weekends if I stay out late the night before. The weekends are the only time that I get more than 5 or 6 hours of sleep a night, and I don’t want to take that away from myself. Got it?
- I don’t journal at night because a lot of the time I feel too tired to do it even though I can’t fall asleep.
- Same about the stretching and yoga and apex ortho pillow.
- And I like desserts.
Do I even have room to complain?
Probably not. But it’s less complaining and more just airing out my thoughts.
Writing this now though is making me realize how tangible those things are if I just put in a little effort. The word effort makes me tired though.
But if I do these things… even just two out of the four of them… I might be less tired all the time. And I might just need to stick to it until they start working.
A sleeping pill is not something I’m interested in for a thousand reasons, so my only other options are lifestyle changes.
Sometimes the easiest path is the hardest in the long run, and vice versa.
I read an article recently talking about the chores that makes our lives harder temporarily is often the stuff that makes our lives easier in the long run.
“I think what most of us really want is an easier life, not necessarily a more wholesome one. We want less trouble and more enjoyment, probably more so than we want achievement and virtue. But what we often overlook is that embracing difficulty in certain places nets us a lot more ease than our usual “easy” ways. Putting in three hours a week at the gym is easier than being out of shape 24 hours a day. Studying is easier than sitting in an exam room not having studied. Doing a good job at work is easier than wondering when they’ll finally fire you.”Raptitude
But so freaking true.
Making all these excuses for why I don’t practice good sleep hygiene or why I’m too tired to do the things that will make my life easier in the long run, starting with sleep, is bullshit and another way I’m holding myself back from my “best self”.
I hate the term “best self”.
But maybe instead of “best self” I mean a more aligned self. More aligned with who I am internally with who I am externally. The how of how I see myself aligned with the actuality of who I am and what I do on a daily basis.
Now on to the purpose of this post.
My Sleep Pledge
I am making a sleep pledge to myself.
I’m going to start managing my sleep better and putting it first. And I’m going to start now. I meant to start in June, but I fucked up. So I’m starting it as I write it, on June 7, 2019 and I plan to keep it up until May 7, 2019, where I’ll then reevaluate.
I’ll report back, but here’s what I’m going to do.
Clo Bare’s Fall the Fuck Asleep Plan
1. Week One: Apex Cervical Orthosis Pillow
I want to lay on my Apex Cervical Orthosis pillow for at least ten minutes before bed, every night.
The Apex Cervical Orthosis pillow is a triangular foam pillow I use to help correct the curve in my neck.
Like most members of my generation, I have “text neck” which is pain and stiffness in my neck due to constantly looking down at my phone or computer because of the life that I live. Constantly looking down causes the neck to curve in the wrong direction and can lead to arthritis in the neck.
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you click on a link and purchase an item from this page, Clo Bare will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. I only recommend things that I actually use and believe in. I will never try to sell you something just because– only here providing recommendations on what I actually use.
How do you know if you have it?
Well, check out the back of your neck and see if you can feel a little hump on your back at the bottom of your neck. Got it? Likely you’ve got the text neck as well. Sorry to break it to you.
Using this pillow in combination with physical therapy, posture changes, and exercises to build back muscles is supposed to help correct the curve and get rid of the bump. It also makes my neck feel a crap ton better so I need to start being a little more consistent with it and that starts with doing it ten minutes before bed.
Check with your chiropractor before purchasing, but it’s been an awesome tool for me.
2. Week Two: Phone Habit
For week two, I’m going to include the habit from week one and add turning off the phone an hour before bed.
Well. Not turning it off but turning it on its screen so I don’t look at it and don’t check notifications. That’s been a huge learning curve for me, but I need and want to start using my phone more like a tool instead of feeling constantly glued to it. My phone makes me anxious and checking it before bed is a recipe for staying awake.
3. Week Three: Sugar
In week three, I’m going to do all the same things from week one and two and add no sugar within three hours before bed.
I don’t know why three hours. That’s an unscientific guess. Let’s just say no sugar after lunch maybe. Kind of like caffeine.
I am very anti-dieting to change how my body looks because of my history with eating disorders. I’m not sure if trying to avoid sugar in order to help with my sleep will trigger some eating disorder behaviors but I’m aware of it and going to keep a close eye on it. I’m desperate to start sleeping better so I’m willing to give this a try while making sure it doesn’t trigger any ED behaviors.
4. Week Four: Journal
In week four, I’ll do all the same things from the weeks above and add journal-ling to the mix. The number one thing that keeps me up at night is my thoughts, so I’m thinking a brain dump should help that situation.
Easy to do? Should be. I just have to make myself do it all.
Why Sleep Hygiene Is Important to Me
I don’t have to tell you why getting good sleep is important. I am not a health-care provider and there’s a ton of literature out there telling you all the millions of reasons that sleep is important.
For me, I want to figure this out because it’s driving me absolutely freaking mad being tired all the time. I’m so sick and tired of being tired, and it quite honestly makes me not a super pleasant person to be around.
I’m tired of feeling like I’m in a cloud as I through my day, and I want to be fully present and fully functional. With the way I’ve been sleeping, I’m ALWAYS foggy and unable to keep my train of thought.
It’s making me anxious and it’s also not helping with feelings of depression or overwhelm.
Figuring all this out, starts with doing the stuff that I can control. And I can control my sleep hygiene if I’m willing to put in the effort to make some changes.
What helps you sleep?
I feel like every time I pose the question “What helps you sleep?” I get a million answers– and I love it. I’m going to try these four things first over the next month, but I’d love to hear what helps others out there sleep. Things I’ve heard of– happy lights, CBD oil, meditation/visualization, melatonin, etc. What works for you when your brain won’t shut off?