What one thing has made the biggest change in my sleep?
There is no ONE thing that will cure insomnia and bedtime anxiety.
Improving your sleep habits involves making several small shifts in your daily routines. And at the same time, there is no guarantee that what works for one person will work for another. It will most likely take some trial and error, an open mind to trying a few new things, and loads of patience.
Well, today I’m going to force myself to choose one thing.
If I HAD to choose one change in my life that has made the biggest difference in my sleep habits, and if I could only tell YOU one thing to do to improve yours… it would have to be this:
Learning to LOVE sleep was the single most important thing I did to transform my sleep habits. If you do nothing else, make it your new goal to make sleep your new best friend, no matter how difficult your current relationship with sleep actually is.
THE FIRST REASON
We naturally avoid doing things we're not good at. Our attitude towards improving a negative situation is going to be, “MEH. WHY EVEN BOTHER.”
For example… I am an awful bowler. My hands sweat a lot, and holding on to a heavy bowling ball with only my fingers while sweat pours from my palms does not a bowling champion make. I am forced to go bowling by a large group of my in-laws every couple years, and although I LOVE spending time with said in-laws, I HATE bowling. It’s embarrassing bowling a 27 as an adult, and having the guy behind the desk ask if I want the gutter guards installed is not great for my confidence. Because I’m such a terrible bowler, I avoid it. Ask me what fun thing we should do on a Friday night, and I will NEVER suggest bowling.
I do KNOW for a fact that if I was a good bowler I would want to go more than every few years. If I were naturally great at throwing a ball down a lane with wet hands, I would want to do it often. It’s fun to do something well and have everyone around me cheering me on and giving me high-fives.
If I wanted to be laughed-at for over an hour by a room full of people I would go back to 8th grade gym class!
If you sleep terribly, you will most likely not be spending a healthy amount of time in bed. Why would you if your experiences there are negative!?
I was a night owl for most of my life, not because it was working for me, but because I was avoiding going to bed. Time in bed meant time alone with my thoughts and worries, and meant waking up exhausted every morning.
THE SECOND REASON
The second reason why learning to love sleep is a good idea - When you don’t enjoy doing something that you must do, you’re going to go into it with a negative attitude.
Mind over matter on this one, people.
You’re invited to a wedding that you don’t want to go to. You know there will be guests you don’t get along with that you will probably have to sit with. You just can’t wait for this whole evening to be over. Do you have the time of your life and consider it the BEST WEDDING EVER!?
Mm, probably not.
So what can we take from this, besides never asking me to join your pro bowling league?
If you’re approaching sleep as though it’s the enemy, you’re going to approach it aggressively, or at the very least, with a negative attitude.
LEARNING TO LOVE SLEEP AS IT IS
If you’re waiting until you sleep perfectly every night to actually love sleep, you’re going to be waiting a while. Those negative attitudes toward sleep (no matter how justified) are hurting your chances of achieving happy, healthy sleep habits.
Now remember that I truly believe it takes more than one single action or attitude to change your sleep, but this episode is about the ONE THING, so I have to stick to the rules here.
It’s time to bury the hatchet. It’s time to fake it til you make it, and start over with your emotional relationship with sleep. Because let’s face it - you can’t avoid it forever. You will spend a third of your life sleeping, and sleep is vital. It’s time to move on.
There are a few ways you can do this, and they involve changing your words, changing your thoughts, and changing your actions.
CHANGE YOUR WORDS
Stop telling people you “sleep horribly,” stop labeling yourself as an insomniac (because there is nothing good about that word), and stop complaining about how poorly you slept last night. I promise you, your coworkers are not going to miss your daily story about how many times you got out of bed for a drink. Nobody but your doctor cares about the play-by-play. When you hear yourself speaking negatively about your sleep, change the subject. If a friend who’s used to hearing about your crappy sleep asks how you slept last night, tell her, “Fine” and talk about something else.
If you have nothing good to say, don’t say anything at all.
CHANGE YOUR THOUGHTS
List the good things that sleep brings into your life, and focus only on those things.
Let’s make a list right now…
Sleep gives you a chance to lie down in a soft, quiet place. Do you like being cozy?
That’s a positive point.
Sleep gives you energy for the busy day ahead. Think of sleep as your battery charger, no matter how little you sleep, your time spent in bed is restoring your energy. That’s another positive point.
How about alone time, or quiet time with your partner? Niiiice.
So, we’ve got being cozy, recharging our batteries, and quality time with ourselves or someone we love. Modify as needed, and add your own, and focus on those things! When bedtime approaches, that’s what I want you to think about. You CAN flip the switch in your mind to focus on the good.
CREATING AN EVENING RITUAL
Another way you can turn your relationship with sleep from MEH to YAY is by creating a before-bed ritual that you look forward to every night.
An evening ritual will be different for everyone, and will involve a peaceful transition that prepares your body and your mind for sleep. Any calming and enjoyable activity would make a great bedtime ritual, like going for a walk, taking a bath, doing gentle stretches or yoga, reading a book, knitting, playing guitar, anything you love to do that eases anxiety and prepares you to shut it down for the night.
When you think about going to bed, it should be a happy thought. I want you to think of your bed and immediately look forward to being cuddled under those blankets. It should be like fantasizing about your favorite vacation spot.
Feel the warmth, and the inner calm, and the pure bliss of not having anything else to do but lie there...Can you picture that?
Let’s recap! If you approach sleep as the enemy, you’re not helping the situation. Make your words, thoughts and actions surrounding sleep positive, no matter how negative your past experiences, and work towards repairing your relationship with sleep because of all the good it brings into your life.