A Plan for Better Sleep in 2021

I spent the end of 2020 tossing and turning in my bed every night. This wasn’t new to the end of the year, or new to this specifically stressful year. I’ve had trouble going to sleep and staying asleep since I was a teenager, and even wrote previously about the sleep hygiene habits that I’ve learned keep over the past few years.

However, despite my best efforts, I’ve slacked in these habits, and my sleep has suffered for it dearly. This was especially true during that magical week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, when I didn’t have to be up early for work and I retreated back into my late-to-bed, late-to-rise ways.

As I transition back to my day job and a “normal” 9-to-5 schedule, I’ve decided to use the New Year as an excuse to fix my sleeping habits. I’m hoping that it will increase my general energy and help keep me focused on whatever I’m doing when the sun is out.

(I love the sun! I hate being tired and grumpy when the sun is out, OK!)

Stepping Away from Screens/Stress

I completely thought this said “Good night”… oops! (image from unsplash.com)

Two days ago, I naturally stepped away from my computer around 11PM. I cleaned the kitchen and picked some clothes off of the floor of my room before getting ready for bed, and was under the covers and reading at 11:45PM. And I slept like a baby afterwards! It was great!

Yesterday, at 10:50PM, instead of repeating my previous night’s routine, which obviously worked, I decided to stay on my computer until 11:50PM. I tried to reproduce some of the wind-down, including still doing the dishes and tidying up before wrapping things up, but I realized that the extra time away from my screen the day before had made a huge difference! I hate to admit it!

Moving forward, I’m going to force myself to be more strict about my wind-down period. I’ve proven to myself that it works, but I often don’t have the willpower to go through with it every single night and, without doing it consistently, it won’t stick.

To help motivate myself to stick with it, I’ve identified things that make me happy and am starting to save them for the end of the day – holding some long, juicy stretches; doing the dishes, because, while I hate doing dishes, I love having a clean kitchen; and writing in my journal, even if it’s just a page of things that I was thankful for that day. I’ve found that temptation bundling has worked for me in the past, so why not try again?

Melatonin

image from unsplash.com

I wrote about melatonin briefly in my last blog post. In general, I have a complicated relationship with over-the-counter sleeping aids, mostly centered around my fear of becoming overly reliant on them. In a perfect world, I’d use them as indicated on the label – for a few days, to adjust my circadian clock to a new bedtime – but, from experience, I know that it’s not always that simple.

Because of this, I’ve begun to be more mindful of my melatonin use. (That word again! Mindful! Meditation really does work guys, I swear!) I look at my schedule for the next day to see how “on” I have to be, and how early. I take stock of my general mood and sleeping patterns over the past few days. At the very least, I see how sleepy I feel that night and if I need any help.

In short, I have found taking melatonin to be extremely helpful in getting restful sleep, but don’t want to use it every night. I’m vowing to not go on autopilot, and re-asses my situation every night before taking it.

Humidifier

image from unsplash.com

As the temperatures drop, my sleeping environment changes, and as my environment changes, I need to make more adjustments!

Oddly enough, I never understood the point of adding more humidity into the room until I spent every waking moment in my apartment with the heater running every moment of the day. Especially within the past month, I’ve found myself waking up in the middle of the night with a dry throat and my nostrils and sinuses feeling dry as a desert. I would chug water to make the discomfort go away, only to continue tossing and turning until I inevitably had to go to the bathroom a few hours later. Curse you, hydration!

I got a small humidifier last weekend and have found that it has fixed this one, little problem for me. I’m grateful! Of course, owning a humidifier comes with its own set of worries – I swear, it needs more maintenance and care than most of my plants – but I am willing to take them on, especially now, with my abundant free time at home.

Alternate Sources of Caffeine

image from unsplash.com

I love coffee! I love the smell of it, the ritual of making it, the taste, the warmth (or the cold, in the summer), the buzz… I can’t give it up entirely!

However, I am learning that I can’t drink it every day, as much as I’d like to. I’ve been branching out to different types of teas – black, green, and matcha – on days when I can afford to be a little more relaxed but still “on.” This habit is still very much in the experimental phase, but I am excited to try different types of teas and how they affect my body. I’m hoping to fall in love with another type of beverage soon!

(If you had told me a year ago that I would be writing in my blog about the excitement of trying tea… I would not have believed you!)

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