Despite the fact that I only love my bed and my mumma (I’m sorry), my sleeping patterns have been bent outta shape lately. How can I tell? Well, I’m one micro-sleep-at-my-desk away from propping my chin up with a piece of wood, investing in those drawn-on-eye-glasses favoured by sleepy genius Homer Simpson, and employing a typing bird to do my job for me (another Homer Simpson hack—who said TV wasn’t educational?).
While my eyelids feel like they’re carrying around sandbags, sleep is one of my favourite activities. I love it. I recently joined the 27 club, and the first byproduct of old age I’m experiencing is the #need to hit eight hours of sleep every night. Whereas recommendations from friends used to take the form of cool bars and hot new jams, they now mostly revolve around the best books to read in bed with a cup of tea and the most dependable sleeping apps. Ah, life.
With the exception of social-heavy weeks and those accidental nights out when a casual drink with a friend turns into belting out Beyonce’s entire back catalogue at 3am in a dingy karaoke room, I generally hit my 7-8 hour target. Go. Me. Although, given my depleted energy levels, it seems my quantity is not matched by quality. As I do in times like this, I turned to my good friend, the internet for hot tips on how to right my wrongs.
Here’s what I found…
Go To Bed At A Reasonable Hour
I can see your eyes rolling back in your head all the way from here. But, while this seems like a perfectly achievable and straight-forward goal, it’s one I nary adhere to, and I’m guessing if you’re reading this, neither do you. There are more obstacles between awake me and asleep me than there is in a game of Mario Kart. As night falls, my mind floods with all the possible activities and life-changing pursuits I could partake in: watching TV, listening to podcasts, writing big goals and then breaking them down into smaller ones, going deep on a documentary about Putin, calling my friend in Amsterdam, flexing my hobby muscles, writing up a budget, cleaning out my wardrobe, etc etc.
Here’s an idea! Instead of fretting about all the things you could be doing, just pick one and do it. Here’s an even better idea! Read a book. Tucking into a novel has been the best thing to happen to my sleep since I bought linen sheets.
Curb Your Enthusiasm For Coffee In The PM
Go all Larry David on your afternoon coffee. I.e. curb your enthusiasm. I.e. PUT THAT CUP DOWN! As a lapsed afternoon coffee addict, I hand-on-heart know how sad (nay, heart-wrenching) it is to part with your arvo coffee, but that’s where my good mate tea comes in. Dandelion tea is perf if you’re after something that mimics the taste of coffee, chai is pretty much the snack equivalent of the beverage world, turmeric has a plethora of health benefits and tastes real good with almond milk, but the real MVP of the loose leaf world when it comes to catching Zs is chamomile. Get slurping!
Exercise Your Right To Exercise
Omg, have you heard the latest? Exercise is good 4 u. I know, right? Earth-shattering!
Aside from making me a much more palatable human to be around (in terms of mewd swings), exercise is great for: falling asleep more quickly, sleeping better, and feeling less tired through the day. Morning is the best time to do it, FYI!
Get Bougie About It
There’s a few fancy things you can do to make your sleep as restorative as a six week yoga retreat in the hills of Bali. In saving the best for first, buy yourself some nice pyjamas. My vibe at the moment is silk, with the reasoning being HAVE YOU SEEN THESE PYJAMAS?! Give your new pyjamas a lil’ play mate in the form of a SILK sleep mask for the most uninterrupted sleep of yo’ life.
Take A Nightly Vaccay From Your Screen
There’s nothing quite like feeling tired around 11pm, jumping into bed and firing up your iPhone, only to emerge from an Instagram binge-session at 1am. According to Dr Siegel, a clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA School of Medicine, ‘People are exposing their eyes to this stream of photons that basically tells your brain to stay awake and not go to sleep yet.’ Yikes. Turn your screen off no later than 9pm to avoid slipping into such a vortex. Your brain will thank you at work the next day.
Make Your Bed Every Morning
My friends helped me celebrate my twenty seventh lap ‘round the sun last week by coming for a sleepover, proving that late 20s really are the new early tweens. My friend, who we’ll call Gab because that’s her name, made the spare bed like the angel she is, and then further revealed that this is a daily habit of hers. Saintly behaviour.
Her reasoning was that it’s a good habit (tru), but DYK it can also help you sleep better? Going to bed in a clean, relaxed environment can make it easier to fall asleep. An untidy room and untucked sheets cause stress and anxiety that can keep us up at night. I can vouch for that!
Reduce Your Alcohol Intake
This one sucks. Although alcohol will make you nice and drowsy, and therefore the prime candidate for a snooze, after a few hours it acts as a stimulant, increasing the number of awakenings and generally decreasing the quality of sleep later in the night. Xperts therefore advise limiting your intake to one to glasses per day, and to avoid drinking within three hours of bedtime.
I will always look for a loop hole when it comes to any advice that stands in opposition to what my heart wants (in this case, a wine in the bath before bed), and luckily I have found one! Indulging in the odd nightcap isn’t so bad. Timothy Roehrs, director of research at the Sleep Disorders and Research Center of Detroit’s Henry Ford Hospital, told The Huffington Post that “usually it takes more than one drink to have any disruptive effects on sleep.” Phew!
Keep A Pen And Paper Next To Your Bed
If your mind is an anxious one, this is especially pertinent. Any time a to-do swirls into your brain, write it down. Write them all down, then finish with the words, ‘It can wait until tomorrow.’ If your mind is being especially frenetic, get out of bed—without looking at any of your devices—and head to another dimly lit room to write down all your thots.
Writing down worries helps to differentiate the hypothetical ones from the real ones. Try let go of the hypothetical ones, and over breakfast the next morning, you can make plans to work through the real ones.
Seize Your Sleep Opportunity
Sleep scientist Matthew Walker talks about ‘sleep opportunity’ in his book Why We Sleep. Basically, sleep opportunity means focusing on how many hours in bed you need to get enough sleep, not on how many hours of sleep you need. While I wish I could slide into bed and fall asleep the minute my head touched the pillow, not many people can. Instead, the focus should be on giving yourself the sleep opportunity you need, which means accounting for the time it takes for you to fall into a slumber.
Words, Madeleine Woon | Collage, Emily Gill