Bruno never has trouble sleeping. I’m a different story.
Several years ago, on my old blog, I wrote about my lifelong struggle with insomnia, and the frustration I feel over not being able to easily submit to an aspect of living that should be effortless. I can remember being 7 years old and lying in bed, unable to sleep, and starting to cry because I wanted to so badly. When I was in my late teens and early 20s, my insomnia was at its worst. I was working at a demanding full-time retail job (sometimes overnight) while attending art school full-time, and I was unable to slow myself down enough to sleep properly—there were periods of time where I would go for weeks on end without getting more than 2 hours of sleep at a stretch. It’s very hard to recover from poor sleeping habits; it took me years to return to normalcy after finishing college and starting to work regular daytime hours.
I thought I would share some of the things I’ve discovered really help me to just go to bed.
1. Get a white-noise machine. I have a Marpac Sleep Mate, and it has literally changed my life. Things I used to fixate on and obsess over (the furnace turning on/off, my own breathing, silence, you name it!) just get lost in the background now. It’s amazing. I can’t sleep without it on anymore! Neither can Evan—in fact, we now have two just in case he has to go on a business trip.
2. If you’re tired, just get ready for bed. I know this sounds obvious, but one of my worst habits is procrastinating when I’m feeling sleepy. I’ll fight my drowsiness just to avoid having to wash my face and put my pajamas on. When I’m tired, the simplest things seem like monumental tasks. If I don’t force myself to get ready for bed, I wind up staying awake for hours just avoiding washing up—to the point where I am absolutely dreading the whole thing. It’s ridiculous, but I suspect this is common among insomniacs.
3. Don’t start a project less than 30 minutes before your target bedtime. Yes, that includes doing laundry, organizing your spice rack, ironing underwear, writing a blog post, or refinishing your floors. Late-night projects are just another way to avoid going to bed, and getting yourself wound up in trying to complete a “job” is just going to give you an excuse to not sleep. Worse still, if you can’t finish the task, you’ll lie in bed and think about what a failure you are for not being able to finish. You might even be tempted to get out of bed and back to work!
4. Don’t sleep late on the weekend. Every article you’ve ever read about insomnia says this, and it’s true. Try to stick to roughly the same schedule every day of the week. It really does make a difference.
5. Get an alarm clock with numbers that aren’t visible in the dark. One of my biggest problems used to be lying in bed, staring at those numbers, watching it get later and later… and then, once I’d fallen asleep, waking myself up periodically and checking the clock to see how much sleep I’d gotten. UGH!
And with that, it’s time for me to wash my face, brush my teeth, collect my Chihuahua (Bruno is already in bed, Fritz is on the sofa with me), turn on the white noise machine, and get under the covers for the night. Sweet dreams!