Those Things I Do to Be Healthy and Productive (Part 2)
I start winding down around 9 PM, with plans to be in bed and falling asleep at 10PM. In other words, I start thinking about my sleep and the next day’s productivity and planning for it an hour before bedtime. This is really the best time for the ol’ beauty routine or to read a printed book (vs ebook). It’s time to relax or maybe get a few things ready for the morning when my schedule will be much tighter. That might mean getting my breakfast ingredients arranged in a bowl for quick cooking or laying out athletic gear to put on as soon as I’m upright in the morning.
Up until this summer, I could come home exhausted and needing a nap, grab a bite to eat way later than is good for me, exercise, and then at bedtime have caught my second wind and be wide awake. I discovered that what I was doing in the last hour or two before bedtime was keeping me awake. No matter how relaxing playing Lumositygames for 10 minutes on my iPad or picking out great new recipes online or finishing a chapter of my new novel or guiltily indulging in Orange Is the New Black on Netflix, I would wander off to bed and stare at the ceiling for the next hour or so, even after meditating a while. In the research I’ve done, I found I was making the same mistake as most of my friends: staring at an artificial sun right before bedtime and signaling my brain to “Wake up!”
I began reading about blue light and the natural cycles of light. To counter the artificial sun of an electronic screen, I began experimenting with amber shades to block out blue light. Yes, I know it looks strange to wear amber sunglasses in the house at night, but it made a big difference in how long it took me to quiet my mind and fall asleep. Here’s the pair of Blue Blocking Driving Wayfarers Sunglasses Amber Tinted Lenses I bought.
The next thing I did was monitor my last hour of electronic communications to make sure I wasn’t upsetting myself in ridiculous ways. You know if you’re going to be fighting with someone you live with near bedtime but sudden phone calls, texts, emails, and social media posts can make a good night’s sleep impossible. I have family and friends who are retired, are students, or don’t hold regular jobs so they’re often up late or throughout the night–and bored enough to start texting me. First, I’m gonna be pissed off if a guy I’ve had two dates with starts messaging me about what’s happening on TV at 3 AM because he doesn’t have to get up and go to work. In fact, I blocked a romantic interest for doing just that. His answer was that I could just turn my phone off if I didn’t want his messages to wake me since they could wait until morning. WIth my job and with elderly relatives, I need to keep my phone on all night…just in case.
But that doesn’t mean I need to keep it next to my bed. I’ve read that texts pinging all night is causing sleep problems for teens. Me, too! So I’ve set my phone to allow only certain people to get to me at night, ones I’m willing to let disturb my sleep with emergencies. With only 2-3 exceptions, I no longer take phone calls within an hour of my bedtime. Again, certain family members will call me at 11 PM, wake me up, and then tell me something upsetting that will keep me up all night. We all have family and friends who occasionally push our buttons, right? And know exactly the ones that will keep us up? So no more of that.
I’m also careful not to read social media posts or emails that will interfere with calming my mind for sleep. I definitely to not go cyberstalk an ex-boyfriend’s Facebook page or re-read his bazillion love letters…learned my lesson on that one.
In short, I intentionally prepare myself for a calm passage into sleep rather than allow someone else or someone else’s drama to steal my sleep.
Temperature plays a big part in my sleep hacking. One of my favorite things has long been to snuggle down in warm blankets in a cold room, even if it’s summer with a heat index of 115 degrees during the day. At my bedtime preparation time, I set my thermostat for cool enough to snuggle up in the covers and then to a warmer temp right before time to wake. These temps match what I’ve found in my lit-searches into temperature and sleep: we sleep better in a cooler environment with warm blankets and the warmer temperature helps us wake up as we become aware of the fluctuation.
Or, as my bff in college once told me, “I like to get really, really cold when I sleep so I can get really, really warm.”
A year ago, I changed from my old programmable thermostat to a Nest thermostat, which cut my electric bills in half. I just program it to the bedtime and wake-up temps and never worry about it again.