So my self-imposed ‘sleep challenge’ has started and one week in, it has exposed something I’ve never really paid attention to before – I don’t have a bed time routine.
My evening habits are both typical and mundane; dinner, television in the background whilst website-hopping and then straight to bed.
It’s a routine that represents 99% of my evenings – weekends are no different (aside, perhaps, from a little more website hopping. Don’t judge – we all do it!)
There is no switching from ‘on-to-off’; no transition, no signal to my body or mind that it’s time to power down. Which makes me sound like a computer but then, my routine suggests I rather behave like one so it’s kind of fitting.
It may not surprise you to know I do not sleep well.
I often wake in the night and struggle to get back to sleep, only to do so just before the alarm goes off. I also often have disturbed dreams which leave me tired, if not exhausted, on waking. My hope is that the sleep challenge will help to change that.
Sleep Challenge – Initial Thoughts
There aren’t many ‘rules’ – 60 days of establishing a routine and seeing what works, what doesn’t and what’s sustainable.
I plan to switch some elements in and out to ‘test’ what works and the success criteria is based on how well I sleep, how often I wake and how much energy I have in the morning.
Right now, I’m convinced that evening foot rubs and lavender oil pillow spray help, with the alluring promise of salt lamps and night-time supplements to come.
But the thing that has shocked me is how long it takes to go to bed. To properly unwind, mentally rest and feel ready to go to sleep.
I had thought 20 minutes would be enough, naïve young (ish) fool that I am.
It turns out that 20 minutes is what’s needed just to get the basics out of the way – wash face, brush teeth, massage feet (yes really it’s a thing – I strongly encourage you to give it a go) and perhaps listen to a song or two or read for 5 minutes.
It’s just not long enough.
But now imagine it’s an hour. 10 minutes for your face and teeth and 5 minutes for your feet (happy sigh)… and 45 minutes to allow your mind to prepare for the night ahead.
It’s important these 45 minutes are ‘offline’; reading, colouring-in, listening to music, journaling – whatever works for you as long as the phone/tablet/laptop/tv isn’t involved.
Setting Realistic Expectations
I won’t lie and say this is easy or that I’m even managing to achieve this with a 100% hit rate because I’m not.
I’ve already adjusted my ‘lights out at 9.30pm’ to ‘being in bed at 9.30pm and listening to music until I’m practically asleep’ which is a different thing but more achievable.
If I get home at 6pm most evenings (which I do), to get ready for 8.30pm just isn’t realistic for me.
9pm is better but I’m discovering my natural pattern is to wind down over 40-50 minutes so one week into the challenge and I’m already having to change my thinking.
I’m not hugely surprised by this – it’s one of the reasons for not having rules in the first place – they were only ever going to be broken! Supplements are no better because I keep forgetting to take them…
I’ll give a full update next week when I’ve had a complete two weeks and have a better idea of where it’s all going but in the meantime, it would be fair to say I’m really struggling to put a good routine in place.
I know many people will feel they simply don’t have the luxury of time to spend it so indulgently but my response would simply by to ask whether you view quality sleep as a luxury or necessity?
For me, it’s a necessity – without decent sleep, I struggle to function. I am lethargic, foggy-headed and generally find getting through the day a chore.
I firmly believe that good health starts with good sleep and that good sleep starts with a good bedtime routine.
I’m optimistic that I’ll discover the routine that works for me in the next 60 days as I know there are lots of things out there for me to try – I just need to discover them!
Is there a specific habit or practice that helps you sleep well or a routine you couldn’t be without?
I’d love to know what works for you and get your recommendations for things to try during the sleep challenge so let me know what they are in the comments below.