Am I the only one struggling to sleep lately? This isn’t a new problem for most people, but during this time it can be worse. We already had plenty of stress and heartbreak inducing issues in this world; now we are all dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic on top of those things. I won’t get into anxiety here but if you can read my blog post, Treating Anxiety with Worship if you’re interested and think that might be part of what’s causing your sleep problems.
If you’re not one of this country’s “essential” workers and you’ve been self-quarantining, you may be starting to feel the physical and mental effects. You don’t have to be experiencing anxiety to notice the mental effects of this situation. I’ve been keeping myself pretty busy, but I usually have a much more physically active schedule. Working on my laptop all day every day is just not cutting it in the energy-burning department. Plus I keep eating more (because it’s here and so am I), which gives my body even more energy to burn. On top of all that, I’ve gotten out of my evening routine, which was much more sleep conducive. So my mind is feeling very — blah.
If you were nodding your head at any of that, maybe these tips will help you. A few months ago I started following a strict bedtime routine. I had gotten in a bad habit of staying up too late and it was messing everything up. Once self-quarantining started I fell right out of these habits. If you stay up late and your days go great and you feel amazing, that’s awesome! I’m glad that’s working for you! It does not work for me. If you suspect it’s not working for you either, let’s take a close look at what typically has a more positive effect on our bodies. Then you can see where you stand.
We tend to not see the domino effect that habits have on our lives. Our sleep routine — or lack thereof — is a huge deciding factor in the quality of our daily lives. These are the sleep-related things that made a positive impact on my life and that I am strictly implementing again.
Tips for Getting Better Sleep
A good night’s sleep doesn’t just come from what you do once you lay down in bed. It comes from a culmination of everything you do in the day leading up to bedtime. Exercise is important for sleep because we are made to move. Exercise burns off our excess energy and helps us fall asleep faster and stay asleep. Physical activity increases the amount of time you stay in deep sleep, which is the most restorative sleep stage. Meaning you’re going to feel so much better in the mornings!
Create and Stick to an Evening Routine
Eat dinner an hour or more before bedtime
Eating a meal right before you sleep might not be a factor in your issues with falling/staying asleep. But it might be. It only bothers some people, but if you’ve been struggling, it’s worth a shot to adjust dinner time for a few days.
Have a set bedtime and wakeup time
Yes, even though you might not have to be at work the next morning. It can even be a late bedtime if that’s what you want, just try to make it consistent. You might not be working on a schedule right now but your body always is; switching up sleep times is disruptive to your body. People thrive on different amounts of sleep. Typically anywhere from 7 to 9 hours. You may need to experiment with this. Personally, I found I feel much better when I sleep 6-7 hours. Anything more and I feel groggy and typically end up with a headache that lasts all day.
Also important to note, if you only do this Monday-Friday and then let it all go haywire on the weekends, you’re going to struggle to get back into it every single Monday. I feel the best when I stick to my schedule seven days a week. You might think you need to “catch up” on sleep but that’s actually not a thing. Don’t believe me? Read this.
If you’re following a sleep schedule during the week, that feeling of wanting to sleep more on the weekends is probably more mental and emotional fatigue from the stress of your week. Try some self-care that doesn’t involve your bed or the couch. Try going for a walk outside, meet a friend (virtually right now) for coffee and a nice long chat, or spend time on a hobby.
Turn off ALL electronics at least an hour before bedtime
Phone, tablets, TV, everything! I know this sounds insane to some people. What will you do for a whole hour before you go to sleep? I’m going to tell you in a minute. Those electronics delay your body’s eternal clock (that schedule we just talked about). That means if that artificial blue light is in your face then your body still thinks it’s day time, delaying the release of the body’s natural sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin. Then you’ll either stay up way too late because you’re super alert, or you’ll toss and turn in frustration. This also means you’ll spend less time in that deep sleep stage; so prepare to wake up and not want to get out of bed again if you don’t turn off those electronics.
As I was typing that last paragraph my mind flashed to something my younger sister said about getting to sleep. She’s a mom of three and works from home (even before COVID-19 self-quarantining times). She usually works on her computer late into the night because she needs to work after the kids go to bed. When we were talking about our sleep schedules a while back, she mentioned she has zero problems falling asleep because she’s exhausted. Even if that’s the case, she’s probably not getting restful sleep after using her computer before bed. Among other reasons, like her kids waking up all hours of the night and normal mom life stuff. If this sounds like your life, it’s still important to do everything currently in your power to ensure the best night’s rest you can get in this season of your life.
What I do in the hour before I go to sleep
- Spray our entire bed with lavender mist. Some people only spray their pillows, I like it everywhere! Just a few sprays, don’t soak your bed. I use distilled water with drops of lavender oil in a glass spray bottle. The ratios will differ depending on the size of your bottle. Just google it. You can also just buy some premade. Do your research and make sure they use 100% pure essential oils. It’s calming and helps us fall asleep faster. For real, it works!
- Drink bedtime tea. After my lavender mist dries, I hop in bed with some hot tea. I have several different kinds. My favorites right now are in this bundle of Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime teas — Sleepytime Extra, Sleepytime Echinacea Complete Care, Sleepytime Green Lemon Jasmine. These also really work! P.S. don’t get up to take your teacup to the kitchen when you finish. Just relax and leave it on your nightstand.
- Read a book. If you’ve checked off all the other tips for getting to sleep easily and staying asleep, this one will work like a charm. Even the most interesting book can’t keep me awake if I’ve really prepared to sleep well. It’s the best segue into sleep (for me).
When it’s time to go to sleep
- Make sure your room is cool. Studies show that cool temperatures seem to facilitate deep sleep, while warm temperatures may make sleep less restful.
- Make sure your room is dark. Some people (like my husband) love to have a little light in the room while they sleep. Some people (like me) cannot sleep with light. Hopefully, you and your spouse don’t differ on this because it can be frustrating. The National Sleep Foundation says a dark room facilitates better sleep. Again, artificial light can mess with your body’s internal clock and disrupt the distribution of the hormone melatonin, which helps us sleep. The darker the room, the easier you’ll fall asleep and stay asleep.
- Try a sound machine. When Chad first introduced me to his sound machine I was…annoyed. I was convinced there was zero possibility I would be able to sleep with all that noise. Fast forward 15 years and I literally cannot fall asleep without one. Want to know the one thing I would choose to take to a deserted island? A solar-powered sound machine. I kid you not.
- Don’t freak out of you can’t fall asleep! This one is a big one and happens to probably everyone. It’s like the harder you try to fall asleep so you can get up with our alarm, the more you stress yourselves out and the longer it takes you to fall asleep. It’s pretty much inevitable the first couple of nights. Just try not to have any expectations about how it’s going to go. Don’t worry if you struggle to fall asleep at first and don’t decide it’s not going to work for you after the first night. Just follow your routine and go with the flow of what happens. You’ll start to see a difference if you stick with it.
Wake Up on Time (No Matter How You Slept)
Getting yourself on a good sleep schedule can be challenging. It will take time to get yourself to be able to go to sleep at the same-ish time every night and get up at the same time every morning. Remember, a sleep schedule doesn’t have to mean going to bed early and getting up early. It’s more about the number of hours your sleep. Like I said earlier, for me, seven hours is optimal, six is fine too. When I’m sticking to my schedule, I put my phone on ‘do not disturb’ mode at 9PM. Then I put it on the dresser across the room from the bed, with the alarm set for 5 AM.
I don’t actually try to go to sleep until 10PM-ish, but no matter how long it ends up taking me to fall asleep, I still get up (usually, ideally) when my alarm goes off at 5AM. If I go ahead and get up I will be sleepy at my next bedtime and that will help me get/stay on schedule.
Share your better sleep tips with me in the comments!
I hope these tips will be helpful to you and I hope you start getting better sleep soon! I would love to hear about any must-add steps to my routine.