How I Learned to Sleep - Preparing for Daylight "Savings"
I’m no good when I don’t sleep.
I’m worse than no good.
My mental health absolutely plummets.
And, each year, there is an event that takes place in the U.S. that throws off my mental health and affects my sleep.
That special event is the springing forward component of Daylight “Savings” Time.
Each March, we lose an hour in the United States by turning our clocks forward. At one point in our history, it had a reason.
But now it’s plain dumb.
I try not to get too opinionated with this newsletter, but my sleep is an issue that I take very seriously.
The scariest mental health crisis of my life happened after 4-5 months of no sleep. It destroyed me.
After I recovered from that terrifying time, in which I also dealt with severe depression and anxiety, I vowed to figure out this whole sleep thing once and for all.
This is what I do now.
Restorative Sleep in 3 Steps
My three-pronged approach has now worked for a period of 4+ years.
Sleeping well is all about developing good sleep habits. The “cool” people call it sleep hygiene, but it’s really just about distilling common sense and putting it into practice.
Number 1 - I go to bed at a similar time every night.
That is typically around 10:30 PM. I’m not perfect with this, but I try my best. What starts to happen when you go to bed at the same time every day–even on weekends–is that your body adjusts to this normal sleep routine. You get tired around the same time each day, and you’re able to wake up around the same time each morning.
This is so crucial that I need to repeat it.
Do whatever you can to go to bed around the same time each day. This is a foundational habit that was finally drilled into my brain when I read the book Why We Sleep. It’s a phenomenal–and, at times, scary–book that explains why sleep is so important, and what happens to us when we don’t get enough of it. If you read one book about sleep, read that one.
Number 2 - I turn down the lights and start to move into a sleepier state preemptively.
One of the major problems with our modern lifestyle is that we are massively influenced by modern technology and other luxuries that our ancestors never had to deal with.
Yes, it’s great that we can send a message to Thailand in 1 second, but it’s not so great that using our electronic devices right up until bedtime can keep us awake for thousands of seconds longer than we want to be.
To combat this, I use a blue-light-filter app on my phone. I use Twilight, but there are others out there. What I’ve noticed is that I can still get tired when I read on my phone before bed. That being said, I usually switch to an old-fashioned book in the half-hour before bed, but if I simply must read an interesting article on my phone, at least I know that the unnatural light of my phone is not going to convince my brain that it’s still light out and that, therefore, I must stay awake for hours more.
Number 3 - I limit food and alcohol intake before bed.
Drinking alcohol during the hours right before bedtime is definitively not a good idea. It may make you sleepy, but it, without a doubt will wake you up hours later and lead to less-than-restful sleep. Read this for more information.
Food is also a sleep-stealer. When you eat right before bedtime, your body becomes active digesting the food. Sleep is a time for your body to shut down and restore itself–not have a wild, food fiesta in your stomach when you are trying to catch some Z’s.
This list is not exhaustive. It may not be perfect for you. It’s just my experience based on years of learning and trial and error.
It’s allowed me to sleep well for years straight, which, in turn, has helped me manage my anxiety and rarely get sick.
Sleep is like the foundation of a house. If you don’t have it, sooner or later the walls will cave in.
Make it a priority. Especially with the hiccup that is Daylight Savings Time happening early tomorrow morning.
You’ll never regret cementing good sleep habits in your life.