My poor sis Beans was having some trouble sleeping the other day, and it made me think about how many “sleep advice” columns I’ve read online. They all discuss things like not having too much caffeine during the day, and having a bed time routine to help your brain realize it’s bed time. It seems to me that they fail to address the causes of wakefulness. You can ask Beans, I generally sleep fine, and lots, but there are times I can’t sleep. I love sleep, so when things are keeping me up I get rather irritated (and by “irritated” I mean filled with white-hot rage).
When you’re laying there trying to fall asleep, try to analyze what exactly is preventing you, then try to fix it. Usually once I’m already in bed I don’t want to get up to fix stuff, so I’m going to offer you a quick-fix and a long-term fix.
1. Room is too bright – Temporary fix: put a pillow or blanket over the upper half of your face. Don’t smother yourself. You may need to cover or turn your clock if it’s too bright. Long-term: depending on the light source, you may need to block it different ways. Make sure as many lights as possible in your home are turned off before bed. If it’s coming from outside, hang up thick curtains, or hang a bed sheet up inside the curtains you have to block more light. You can hang curtains over doorways as well, if light is penetrating the cracks.
2. It’s too hot/cold – Temporary fix: if you’re too cold, try to fold your blankets double over you, and tuck them in all around. Also covering the top of your head should help. Too hot. throw blankets off and sleep as spread out as possible. You may have to turn on a fan, turn down the AC, or get your hair wet to cool off. Long-term: figure out what temperature makes you most comfortable for sleep. If you are consistently cold throw a bunch of extra blankets on the bed, and use flannel sheets. If that’s not enough consider getting a space heater or electric blanket. If you’re always hot, cotton sheets and blankets should keep you cooler than synthetics, and you might need to invest in a box fan.
3. It’s too noisy – Temporary fix: scream at whoever is making the noise until they shut up. If that’s not feasible, try putting a pillow over your head. Long-term: if this is a constant problem try to talk to whoever is creating the noise to see if they can cut it down. If that’s not possible, like for road noise, you have a few options: ear plugs, a white noise machine or a fan to drown out the noise, or hang thick curtains to block noise. You can even hang up quilts, which will help insulate against noise and temperature.
4. Racing thoughts – Temporary fix: I get this problem a lot usually when we’re about to go out of town. It’s usually along the lines of “I need to remember to make coffee, get the bags, pack my toothbrush, grab that book just in case, and the snacks in the fridge…” etc, etc. I have found that it helps me to list the things I need to remember, then just concentrate on remembering the number of items there are. So in the example above I would remember the number 5. In the morning I can just focus on recalling those 5 things, and that has helped me a lot. Long-term: keep a notebook and pen next to the bed to write things down. If you’re like me the thought of turning on the light is like torture, so rather than messing with that, get a pen that has a tiny light in the end. I have had several of these over the years, and they are convenient and inexpensive. You could also write down your thoughts at the end of the day before you turn in to help prevent this problem in the first place.
5. Not tired – I can’t think of a temporary fix. I generally read something boring for awhile until my brain is finally ready to leave me alone. Long-term: try to wear yourself out during the day. I know when I am physically exhausted sleep is usually much easier.
I hope that helps everyone. I love sleep so much, I hate the days when it eludes me, and I know it’s not pleasant for anyone. Happy dreaming!