(This is Part 2 of a three-part series on what worked for me to cure my chronic insomnia. Read Part 1 to learn the one lifestyle shift I made that dramatically impacted my ability to get to sleep and stay asleep.)
How sad is this? I used to dread getting into bed.
Because every night for 15+ years, I did. Not. Sleep. It routinely took over an hour to fall asleep. And then I’d wake up constantly. And my regular 3am wake up call was more regular than the atomic clock.
But that’s (mostly) all over now.
I won’t say I’ve perfected the art of sound sleep just yet, but I’m deliciously close. For the last six months, I’ve been waking up most days refreshed and utterly amazed at how well I slept the night before.
Once I decided that enough was enough (and learned that insomnia is correlated to obesity), it was just a matter of shifting some old habits, adding some things and taking some things away and voila!
Sleep so good it’s naughty.
After taking the first big step on my journey to naughty sleep (and having that one shift make such a huge impact), I did more research and more experimenting on myself.
Here’s what else worked for me (aka The Sleep Hacks).
Let’s do the bad news first…the things I loved that I now have to limit…the buzz-kill list…
1. I stopped the drinking of the wine (and the beer and the bourbon, too).
I experimented with a lot of other hacks before I finally gave up my nightly glass (or two or three) of wine. And I definitely did this imperfectly, in fits and starts, because me and partying go way back to the hey-day of Blondie and the Violent Femmes.
But now that I’ve been saying no to alcohol, my sleep has been spectacular. One thing that helped make this stick was joining this 30 Day No Alcohol Challenge. Community helps. Even a bunch of strangers on Facebook striving toward the same goal helps.
But what really helps me say no to the wine now is feeling so good every day without it. Who knew?
2. I limit screen time after dark.
Sigh. This sucks, too. Because I love my iPad. But facts are facts and the fact is that we didn’t evolve staring into little screens and all that light, especially the blue light of tech screens, screws with our brain’s ability to put us into a blissful coma at night.
I’ll talk about some options next week when we do Part 3 in the series. Thats’s the fun list, things you’ll do instead. For now though, just consider putting your iPad to bed an hour earlier than usual and resisting any urge you might have to check your instagram feed if you do wake up at 3am.
3. Finally, I eliminated egregious lighting.
(i.e. fluorescent lights, those ubiquitous toxic twirly light bulbs, blue lights from computer screens, LEDs).
A few months ago, my husband and I went to Traveler’s Rest, SC, an adorable little town in the upstate close to good hiking.
We rented a “cabin” from AirBNB which turned out to be a shop converted into a man-cave converted into a studio.
But they forgot to change the lighting. We could either deal with four giant florescent shop lights strong enough to be seen from Mars. Or we could light the candle they added for a touch of decor amongst the camo curtains.
We chose the candle.
It’s surprising, once your eyes adjust, how much light and conversation and closeness can come from one candle.
Again, our brains aren’t adapted to deal well with these modern lights. They mess with our sleep because they mess with our sleep hormones (melatonin, specifically). Also, florescent lights, and their kin, do nothing for intimacy.
Replace those icky bulbs with incandescent bulbs. Light candles after dark. At least occasionally.
The fringe benefits may surprise you.
So, that list, thought short, was a bit of a buzz-kill, I know. Giving up things you love always is.
Until you realize how much you gain in the giving up.
Next week, well move on to the party part of this 3-part series on overcoming insomnia. I’ll share what you get to add in order to have sleep so good it’s naughty.
Until then, why don’t you leave a comment and share your sleep story…what works, what doesn’t, what change do you most resist making even though you know it will be good for you?
(For me it was the drinking. Straight up…I had a problem and was likely a good candidate for AA.)
Thanks for sharing, Sweet Pea. See you next week.