I suffer from stretches of insomnia, and I have been trying to keep track a little bit to see whether there is anything that I can do to improve my odds of a good night of sleep. I have also learned that being tired leads to an intense emotional cycle for me. The other day, I was so depressed and lonely, but intellectually I knew that it was really just being tired that was getting me down. If I can tell myself that, over and over, I can curtail the other bad choices that might follow the bad emotions — some of that has come from watching an over tired child just not be himself all day and knowing that the only thing that is going to reset the behavior is a good night of sleep, or several!
Okay, so here is what often works for me:
1. Don’t drink coffee after noon. When you didn’t sleep last night, it is tempting to cling to caffeine all day long, but you are just setting yourself up for another poor night. Have one or two cups of coffee earlier in the day and then just push through the tiredness. Chose water as much as possible for pick me ups later in the day.
2. Don’t go to bed at 8 pm. When I am exhausted, I am so tempted to do this, but it leads to waking up at 4 and being up until morning, so again better to just push through a little bit and get a real, regular night of sleep.
3. Start quieting the house at least an hour before bedtime. If the TV is off and the lights are lowered as I do my last few chores around the living room, and then I move into my bedroom and take my time washing my face, etc, I am more likely to fall asleep and stay asleep.
4. Stay away from the computer late at night. Even when I am overtired, if I think I can do a “quick email check” on my way into bed I will get sucked into the computer for much longer than I planned.
5. Kneel and pray, even if just for a few minutes. This is a new habit for me, as my night prayers used to be said while drifting off to sleep, but I think I would try to stay awake for them, which was confusing my body. Now, I kneel at the foot of my bed, pray 3 Hail Marys and make a very brief examination of conscience and simple resolution for the next day, then ask the Lord to help and bless my sleep.
7. Get my spouse “on board.” He needs to know that sleep for me can be a desperate situation, so I can’t talk to him or be affectionate very late at night — if he wants my attention, he has to get it before 10 pm, and if he wants to read in bed after I go to sleep he needs to use a very low light.
8. Don’t despair during restless patches. Someone told me to remember that I am still resting my body, which is good, even if I am not sleeping, and I can’t beat myself up while lying awake at night.
9. Keep the bedroom at a good temperature. Especially because I am pregnant, if I wake up feeling hot and sweaty I cannot fall back to sleep, so I have set the air conditioning to turn on if our room is above 70 degrees at night. It is just not worth the “savings” of delaying the AC until August if I am not able to sleep.
10. No matter how the night went, get up in the morning and make the bed. This sets you up for a good night the next night (isn’t it easier to fall asleep in a clean, well made bed?), and also avoids the gross, guilty feeling of looking at an unmade bed all day and just being tempted to curl back up into it.