Sleep well? Can I sleep at all!?!

I have been reading a book called The Happiness Project from Gretchen Rubin, and in it she presents 12 themes for 12 months to improve happiness.  I love the book and wanted to sort of do my own but without the progress chart and month organization she has.  So I wanted to write through some of my own experience as I do some of these things.

The first month she plans to work on improving her energy, and she has some specific and different pieces of improving energy: sleeping earlier, tackling a nagging task, exercising better, and act with more energy.  (I can’t remember her 2nd of the 5 right now)

So if you see, I created a page on my blog that has my versions of improving “energy” and in my blog I can write through the challenges and fun and thoughts of each.  I thought about my possibilities and what would be truly practical for me, and I thought about sleeping better, spending time in prayer daily, tackling a project every week, exercising regularly, and acting more energetic (this one is truly intriguing to me and maybe the most important of all of the ideas for me).

The first up: sleeping better. Well, I’m a parent of 1 year old baby and stepfather to an almost 7 year old.  So, yeah, I find myself all the time wondering what sleep is, rolling different definitions around my head at 2am while Ryan cries or at 6am on a day off when the home fire alarm blares at stadium level decibels there are flames somewhere in the world at the moment right?  I was reading this book and intrigued at her attempts at going to bed earlier, and then Ryan got terribly sick with his first illness, a blistering fever with loss of appetite, irritability, and of course no sleep though extremely overtired.  Yes, sleep seems elusive.

In addition to this, our family moved to a suburb and so a commute adjustment made sense.  So instead of work at 8-4:30, I do 7-4.  It’s a better commute, helps the hospital, allows me to be home for more than an hour of Ryan and Aidens days, and I get morning time to myself.  But there is a slight problem: I’m not a morning person!!!!!  I hate waking up at 5:15am.  I don’t want to jog, walk, eat breakfast or just plain exist at 5am, let alone prepare for work 5 days a week.  Often, I find that on the weekends I am waking up voluntarily at 6am ish.  Sheesh. And as a true blooded night owl, it’s almost impossible to go to sleep earlier.

So the task is clearly daunting, but one that everybody deals with and is one of the most common for the lack of energy.  So how do I sleep better?

First thought, I have worked on removing technology from right before bedtime.  No iPhone to put me to sleep.  I will say this has been effective in one sense, and has helped me make a good transition.  However, I have been a little poor at doing it consistently.  Some nights is good, others I am studying baseball box scores or reading thoughts about the architecture of segregation.  I thought about an alarm on my phone, which I tried for a week or so but all that did was point out the phone and made me wonder if there were any new emails so I could go to bed with nothing still hanging. However I will still give this credit- it has pushed me towards actually reading a book or sometimes wanting to go to bed earlier because I just have that realization- my wonderful iPhone can suck the life out of me (and my wife and step son too who use their iphone all the time!). Spending a bunch of time on my phone feels similar to eating a wonderfully blah leftover lunch at work. It’s numbing.  The worst part about the phone before bed is that as a newlywed couple (2 years…but still!) communication is the most important and yet challenging piece of our marriage.  That is good time for talking, listening, playing a game, or other things couples do at night 🙂 But it is otherwise a missed opportunity and leads to the struggle to fall asleep because of a less than satisfactory mood.

So how do I continue to work on this piece of sleeping better?  I think I need to set my alarm not to go to bed, but to have a plain cutoff time for the phone, and leave only needed texts for those after 9pm times.  It leaves space to realize how tired I am or to initiate something worth spending time on.

A second piece I have changed to sleep better is to not pretend that I am an early riser or that I can just adjust because I am so flexible.  I can’t wake up well at 5am.  Not gonna happen. Tried a run. Tried a walk with my dog.  Tried gym.  Tried making nice breakfast, reading bible, praying watching news….you get the point. If it hasn’t happened yet, it’s not gonna happen.  So I have gone to settin my alarm for the latest possible time to take a shower and eat breakfast without getting to work late.  So 5am became 5:15 became 5:30 becomes 5:40.  It’s only 40 min and still an hour before my preferred wake up time.  But it has helped a little. And I notice it when I am unable to fall asleep sooner than later. In fact, one morning I woke up at 5:30 but felt exhausted as I left home, but not long into the morning felt more energetic at work than usual.  Perhaps I need to keep in mind that the effects may not be so immediate but yet be better later in the day! As I continue to adjust my schedule, this is going to have good potential I think.  

Some things will certainly begin to change soon and the sleep will be better.  Ryan will sleep more through the night.  Aiden will start school and have an earlier bedtime.  My wife’s phone might die earlier in the day (lol) so she might not be able to stay on the phone all the time.  My work schedule may or may not change.  Nonetheless, sleep will get better, and so some of this is waiting.  But in the meantime, there are some small practical things to do to work on my sleep habits:

  1. No email or reading on my phone after 9pm.  (Checking a score or texting my mom seems okay!)
  2. Wake up later- it’s okay to rush in the morning if I am slowing down for the same time at night.
  3. Get comfortable. Use more pillows.  Go back to my preferred blanket. Spend on a nice pillow! Cuddle with my wife and use that touch for a calming comfort.
  4. Let it go.  Don’t go to bed angry, frustrated, and clutter less.  I tend to try to declutter and clean everything before bed, but perhaps as a family man now that is not practical and I have to practice clutter or mess to relax.  I can’t get perfection! 

On that last note, some questions for you all:

  • What rituals, if any, do you use to clear the mind before bed?
  • What helps you sleep better?
  • What is your favorite way to get comfortable?

 Yep, that’s Ryan waking up in the background. Good luck sleeping well. I know I need it. 

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