I usually sleep well once my head hits the pillow, but until I started my happiness project, I would often stay up late to read, answer emails, watch TV, talk to my sister on the west coast, or cruise the internet. I had to wait until my children were asleep before I could start my real leisure time.
I was fine at night, but I suffered the next morning. I feel crabby when I’m jarred out of sleep by the alarm, and I dislike racing around on weekday mornings, with no time to spare. I realized that to have more energy and more calm, I needed to go to sleep earlier (and also to wake up earlier). I looked for ways to prod myself to turn off the light and to get better sleep:
1. Set a specific bedtime for yourself. Many people have no idea what time they “should” go to sleep in order to feel well-rested. Be realistic! If you have to wake up at 7:00 am, staying awake until 1:30 am each night is unlikely to be sufficient.
2. Get ready for bed well before your bedtime. Sometimes, paradoxically, I feel too tired to go to bed. I try to wash my face, take out my contact lenses, and brush my teeth well before I plan to turn off the light.
3. Make your room very dark. Shut the blinds, block out the lights from your computer, clock, phone, etc. Even the tiny light from a digital alarm clock can disrupt a sleep cycle.
4. Stretch. A study showed that women who were having trouble sleeping fared much better when they stretched four times a week.
5. Keep your bedroom a little chilly.
6. If your mind is racing with worry, make a list of everything you need to do the next day. This really works for me. I can make myself crazy fretting that I’m going to forget to do something important; if I make a list, I can relax.
7. Tidy up your bedroom. It’s not restful to be surrounded by clutter.
8. Exercise. Studies suggest that people who exercise fall asleep faster and stay sleep longer – and this is particularly true for people who have trouble sleeping.
9. An hour before bedtime, avoid work that requires alert thinking. I try to stop myself from checking my emails before I go to bed, because it wakes me up. I made this mistake just last night, in fact. I got some emails answered, but I was so wound up that it took me forever to go to sleep.
10. My personal sleep-inducing innovation: Slather myself with body lotion. This feels good and also, if I’m having trouble sleeping because I’m hot, it cools me down.
11. My other sleep-inducing innovation: Put on socks if my feet are cold. I feel frumpy, but my husband won’t let me use his legs as a foot-warmer.
13. Tell yourself, “I have to get up now.” Imagine that you just hit the snooze alarm and in a minute, you’re going to be marching through the morning routine. Often this is an exhausting enough prospect to make me fall asleep.
14. Give up, and re-frame your sleeplessness as a welcome opportunity to snatch some extra time out of your day. If I wake up and can’t get to sleep after 4:00 a.m, I get up and start working. Instead of starting the day feeling annoyed, I have a wonderful feeling of having accomplished a lot before my usual wake-up time of 6:00 am.
What other strategies have worked for you -- to get yourself to turn off the light, or once in bed, to get more restful sleep?