This Post Contains Affiliate Links. The opinions and strategies here are my own and what I used to improve my sleep.
If a person is angry because they are hungry and we call it “hangry,” what do we call it when a person is angry because they are not sleeping well? Slangry? Pardon my strange musings, but if you think you might be “slangry” let me help you there.
You see, I have pretty chronic trouble sleeping and when I started taking medication for my ADHD, that problem got a whole lot worse. I’ve also noticed that, when I don’t get enough sleep,
There were nights my sleep was so light, I couldn’t be positive I actually got to sleep. Other nights, I’d wake up 2 hours after laying down and be up for the rest of the night. The next day, my emotions would feel like they were on a hair trigger, my anxiety would run haywire, and my ADHD symptoms got so bad, I ended up–on a few occasions– another town before realizing I missed a turn on my drive.
That got old, so I started experimenting with sleep strategies. Lucky you, I found some that work.
Stop Using Your Bed for Entertainment
I love reading and watching TV in the bed. It feels so luxurious. It was a bummer to learn that using my bed for entertainment had taught my brain that bed=fun, not sleep. This realization helped me understand why I could be so tired but get a fresh burst of energy as soon as I laid down. Cutting it out felt painful but I will say I fall asleep a lot faster now.
Cut Out Your Screen Time Before Bed.
The blue light of a phone, TV, or computer mimics sunlight and disrupts your circadian rhythm, causing you to be more awake. It’s better to step away from the screen for at least an hour before you go to bed. This one was the hardest for me. I often do my best work at night. Sometimes I didn’t have a choice and had to work up until bed time. I found that turning on the night light setting on your device is helpful if push comes to shove.
Relax Your Mind and Body
During this hour where you are hopefully avoiding screens, it’s helpful to do something relaxing. I experimented with taking a bath, reading a *real* book, writing on *real* paper, meditation exercises, talking with my spouse, drawing/coloring, and drinking hot tea. From there, I chose the activities that worked the best for me and practiced them nightly.
It’s even more effective if we end up making these activities part of a routine. If every night you write in your journal with a hot cup of herbal tea, then brush your teeth and go to bed, your brain starts to associate that journal writing and tea as a cue to start preparing to sleep. Over time, you’ll notice that you get very sleepy just by starting your routine.
Improve Your Sleeping Environment
▶Science indicates that humans sleep best when the room is cold and we are covered in blankets, so turn temperature down. There is something almost heavenly about this arrangement and I did notice that I got my best sleep when I made this little change.
▶I found sleeping with a weighted blanket to be really helpful as well. Studies, though limited, have shown that weighted blankets really do benefit sleep. And mine definitely did. If you are looking for one, I highly recommend mine. It’s affordable (as far as weighted blankets go) and great quality. Find it here.
▶Use a diffuser with a calming essential oil. Studies have shown that smells have the ability to interact with our emotions and body responses. I don’t think essentials oils can cure cancer or anything but there is evidence that they can help us with sleep. I found a diffuser that doesn’t have a light.
Use any delicious smelling, calming oil you like. I used this one.
▶Block out light and sound. Both of these interfere with sleep. I have been known to use ear plugs but I also don’t like the way they feel in my ears. I found a sound machine or a fan works better.
Use Mental Calming Strategies for the Flight of Thoughts
▶When my mind tried to go in a thousand different directions, I had to find a game plan. When it started the long list of reminders of all the things I needed to get done, I kept a notebook beside me I wrote them down. This prevented me from worrying that I’d forget them in the morning.
▶For other random thoughts, I used this container exercise. /it helps to contain distress or overactive thoughts. It’s best to listen to this recording before you need it at night so when you are laying in bed trying to turn your mind off, you don’t need the recording, you can simply imagine putting things into your container and leaving them there.
▶Sometimes, I would direct my mind to think of something a bit mundane, similar to the old strategy of counting sheep. That particular strategy has never worked for me but trying to play out the first Harry Potter movie in my head worked like a charm.
Not that Harry Potter is mundane but I’ve seen it enough times that thinking about it isn’t going to cause my mind to be over active. In case you need it, this is a helpful strategy to combat anxiety too. Try quoting line by line your favorite movie the next time you can’t get your mind to stop stressing out about whatever is making you anxious and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
If You Wake in the Middle of the Night…
Try not to move. Even turning to your other side increases your heart rate and can wake you up more. Don’t look at the clock. Definitely don’t obsess about how much sleep you are losing. If those thoughts come up, put them in your container, use deep breathing, or go back to your mundane thought activity. Stressing about not falling asleep will keep you up longer than you’d otherwise be up.
Things to Avoid that Interfere with Sleep
▶This probably goes without saying but for most people, caffeine will keep you awake if you drink it too late. That includes soda. Experts recommend stopping caffeine intake 6 hours before you plan to go to bed. Even if you don’t think it bothers you, you might experiment here to see if it actually does. It’s a good idea to avoid sugar before bed, too.
▶Exercise during the day. Don’t do it too close to bed time or you’ll have trouble sleeping. Exercise is one of the most helpful ways to regulate your sleep. A good rule of thumb is to avoid exercising within three hours of your bed time.
▶Don’t get engaged in a project that you are super engrossed in before bed. It’s easy then to stay up too late and then have trouble turning your thoughts off when trying to go to sleep.
Natural Sleep Enhancers
▶On bad nights, I sometimes take this melatonin blend. Always check with your doctor before taking a new med or supplement because sometimes they interact negatively with other medicines or foods and for some people it has the completely opposite effect. So, just in case, talk to your doc
▶Stick to a sleep schedule. I found this the most difficult of all. I don’t have a regular schedule by any stretch so having the same sleep and wake times was incredibly challenging. When I managed it, I found it helpful as it further trains your brain when to fall asleep and helps you stay asleep.
I’ve never been great at routines so this was the biggest struggle for me. If you have kids, I imagine this will be the major struggle for you, too. And yet, if you can endure the struggle of getting them into a sleep routine too….better for all of you, am I right?
Nothing Worth Having Comes Easy or Without a Price
These steps aren’t easy to maintain. Life happens and things try to interfere with the ability to prioritize and focus in on your sleep. I realized through this process that getting your sleep regulated can mean having to make sacrifices.
It may mean having to cut off social engagements at a certain time to ensure you maintain your scheduled. It can mean not going to a late movie or watching the premier of your favorite show. It may mean struggling more as you try to get your family on a routine that they fight. It takes sacrifice.
We’re often okay with making sacrifices so long as we believe the reward is worth it. We delay instant gratification for the promise of something better later….like not renting the most expensive house you can find so that you can save up money to purchase a house one day. So the question is, if you make these sacrifices, will they be worth it?
For me, definitely. Getting good sleep helped stabilize my mood, bring my anxiety levels down, and decrease my stress. I don’t feel as tired, I’m not irritable, so I don’t snap at people (which my husband REALLY appreciates). I’m better at my job, more creative, and have better stamina to do the things that are important to me in life.
Not getting enough sleep is the equivalent of trying to run a car on empty…it will go for a little bit but sooner or later it’s going to break down. Your body is the same way. Without sleep, sooner or later, you will break down. You will turn into the ‘Slangry’ Monster…😒
And there you have it; Everything you will ever need to know to get better sleep. Truthfully, if these strategies don’t work, it’s time to visit your doctor to find out if something is actively working against your sleeping needs.