Ok, kiddos. ‘Fess up. Anyone finding it a little hard to get to sleep these days? Are you waking in the middle of the night with nervous anxiety about the possibility of a coming apocalypse? Is your brain reeling and it just won’t settle into sleep patterns nicely like it used to?
I know mine is. I used to be the envy of the college dorm for how I slept, but these days at 3:30AM most mornings, if my toddler hasn’t woken me, the latest executive order has, and I’m awake. From the looks of who else is logged into Facebook, I’m not the only one.
We NEED sleep, though. Like water to a plant, it keeps us calm and focused during the day. Without it, we’re more likely to react strongly to an incendiary news article (you know the ones) or snap at that distant cousin who was a little thoughtless in their Facebook update. It takes a well-rested activist to have the hard conversations, find the energy to call your senators once again, to face the latest news update.
So here are some tips for good sleeping conditions and what to do when your eyelids fly open:
- Get regular exercise: Aim for 30 minutes or more most days, but not right before you go to sleep. This takes a few weeks for it to help, but we’re going to be doing this for months and months, so go ahead, get started! (not to mention, your body is your home, so take care of it!)
- Avoid screentime right before bed. Don’t watch TV or stare at your phone right before going to bed. The blue light from your screens confuses your sleep cycles. Try listening to music, knitting, or reading a book in dim light. Or at least use or install a blue light filter app on your phone.
- Avoid stress and stimulating situations. Avoid exercise, or big discussions. This is one more reason to turn off those screens! If you read the news right before you go to sleep, you’re more likely to have recurrent thoughts about what you just read. Unplug, unplug, unplug!
- Don’t keep electronics or a clock right next to your bed. Nothing is worse than waking in the middle of the night to an alarming FB comment or staring at the minutes tick by on the clock at 4am. Keep those devices away!
- Keep the bedroom only for sleeping and sex. No work. No TVs. No laptops. You want your brain to associate your bedroom with being relaxed. ‘Nuf said.
- If you wake in the middle of the night GET UP. That’s right! Tossing and turning just associates sleeplessness with your bed and makes you more anxious. If you’ve been awake for more than 15 minutes, go do something non-stimulating in dim light and then come back to bed to try again later when you feel tired again. In fact, researchers a growing body of evidence suggests that people didn’t always sleep a solid 8 hours. They often used that early AM time to get up and write, chat with their bedmate, visit the neighbors (!), pray, or have sex. So don’t judge yourself harshly. It’s actually completely natural.
- Make a note of it. Is your brain rolling around the same to-do or worry? Write it down! Get it out, and postpone thinking about it any more until the AM.
- Finally, avoid negative thoughts. Here’s some examples (how many of us have done these, amIright?):
- DON’T: “It’s the same every single night, another night of sleepless misery. vs. DO: “Not every night is the same. Some nights I do sleep better than others.”
- DON’T: If I don’t get some sleep, I’ll tank at work and jeopardize my job.” vs. DO: “I can get through work even if I’m tired. I can still rest and relax tonight, even if I can’t sleep.”
- DON’T: “I’m never going to be able to sleep well. It’s out of my control.” vs. DO: “Insomnia can be cured. If I stop worrying so much and focus on positive solutions, I can beat it.”
- DON’T: “It’s going to take me at least an hour to get to sleep tonight. I just know it.” vs. DO: “I don’t know what will happen tonight. Maybe I’ll get to sleep quickly if I use the new strategies I’ve learned.”
For more information and a great bunch of techniques to relax yourself check out: Insomnia Causes and Cures: What to Do When You Can’t Sleep