My Journey with Sleep

I’m just 1 person who loves sleep yet can’t ever seem to get enough of it. I envy those people who wake up the same time each morning without an alarm, feeling rested and ready for their days. I have never been one of those people. I’m a night owl who also has to be a morning person because of school or work, which means I frequently burn the candle at both ends. If I give my body the option to sleep as long as it wants, I could easily sleep an entire day away (and have done so in the past).

I go through life pulling myself reluctantly out of bed, nodding off throughout the day, and wishing I could take a nap. However, when I get through my long day and it’s time to go to sleep, all I want to do is stay up! The nighttime is when I feel most energized and creative. It’s the time when I can write or watch shows or read undisturbed by emails or phone calls. Nighttime is when I can introvert and enjoy life, which means that no matter how tired I was at 6am when I woke up or how tired I was at 3pm when my day felt like it was dragging along, by the time 10pm hits, I no longer want to sleep. If I don’t make myself to to bed (which has been the case lately) that means I stay up late and wake up feeling exhausted the next morning, tempted to hit that snooze button repeatedly.

There were times in my life when I kept vampire hours, staying up until 7 or 8 in the morning before crashing for a handful of hours of sleep. I was highly productive and loved being able to spend a nice writing or working, but it probably wasn’t the healthiest for me and might have contributed to a significant bout of depression.

There were also times in my life when I slept at every available chance. Waiting for someone I was supposed to meet? Nod off for 5 minutes until they arrived. Got to class early? Lie down on the floor outside the classroom with my head on my backpack and trust a classmate to wake me up when it was time to head in for the lecture. Heading somewhere on public transportation? Doze off and wake up after a couple of stops to make sure I didn’t miss my stop (I happen to be at the end of a Subway line, so there’s usually an end of the line announcement or chime that will wake me up).

I am one of those lucky people who can usually fall asleep within seconds, probably because I don’t get enough of it and also because I don’t tend to go to bed until I’m absolutely exhausted. According to my Fitbits, I have good sleep patterns as well, not waking up often or waking up and falling right back to sleep again immediately.

However, there are times when the events of my day weigh on me or worries about the future take hold and prevent my mind from shutting off. Lying in bed and not moving is good rest, even if it’s not as good as actually sleeping, but every minute that passes when I want to sleep and cannot feels like an extra failure to me. My solution most times when this happens is to turn on the home improvement channel and watch one of those house hunting shows. 49 times out of 50, I’m asleep before the buyers make their choice and I wake up feeling rested yet unresolved. I will never know what house they selected or what design decisions they made. I’m okay with that, though, if it means I got to sleep.

I know a lot of people who refuse to have a television in the bedroom, and that’s a valid choice. I don’t turn mine on often, but sometimes I need it. I used to sleep with the television on all night, the soft glow from the screen and noise was soothing and nice. However, I found I was far more restless, waking up in the middle of the night to sounds on infomercials or other unsettling paid programming choices of whatever station my television was tuned to. When I didn’t have a television package, I would put on a VHS tape of a show I liked and wake up in the middle of the night to the sound of Buffy or Star Trek: the next generation ending and the tape automatically rewinding, whirring loudly in the VCR.

These days, I try hard to have a good, healthy sleep pattern, which starts with a mindful bedroom routine. Some days I’m better at observing my bedtime than other days, but I am aware of where I need to make improvements. I am hoping that this month’s challenge will give me an excuse to better develop healthy sleeping habits. Here are some things that have helped me:

  1. Set an alarm to remind me when it’s time to start winding down for bed
  2. Set an alarm to tell me when I need to stop what I’m doing and go to bed
  3. Have a bedtime routine that helps me end my day, including cleaning up so my house is tidy in the morning and including journaling
  4. Not bringing my computer or cell phone into the bedroom
  5. Reading or journaling before bed but not watching TV
  6. Using a weighted blanket
  7. Figuring out the right positions and number of pillows I need to be most comfortable when falling asleep

I will go into more detail about my bedtime and morning routines in future articles this month.

Getting enough sleep has always been one of the biggest challenges in my life. I have a constant drive to do, to create, to achieve. I could get so much more done in life if I didn’t have to sleep. But even though it appears that I am superhuman and do the work of 3 people, I really am human and just 1 person. I need to prioritize my sleep because of the numerous benefits of quality sleep. I look forward to many restful nights and sweet dreams in my future.

Do you struggle with sleep like I do or in another way? Or is sleep one of those things you have easily mastered?

Photo by PhotographyCourse on Unsplash

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