Friday, 21 March 2014

On Getting a Good Night's Sleep

Oh there is nothing like waking up in the morning well-rested. I'm not talking about sleeping in (7 o'clock around here is a veritable lie-in). I am only talking about seven hours of uninterrupted, no waking up, no worrying, no monkey-mind, sweet. snoozing. slumber.

I can't say where my sleeping problems began (possibly when I began to feel that I had a "problem". I'm realising how much of this is in my head). It may have began when Husband and I began living together. He likes has to have the TV on to get to sleep at night. I crave silence. I used to wake up in the middle of the night to a blaring TV and not be able to get back to sleep. We have compromised by setting a sleep timer and keeping the volume low so that I don't wake up in the night and have to find a remote and shut it off. Or it might be that after having our first son I had a period of 8 or 9 months of restless legs. I was never diagnosed or anything but I called it the crazy legs. Sensations would zing up and down my legs at 3 am and I wouldn't get back to sleep. I finally heard that calcium with magnesium might help, and it did. I took a supplement into my second pregnancy but found that I didn't need it after delivering the baby. If I sense the crazy legs coming on I take a calcium with magnesium and it really does help.

My kids are great sleepers; I can't blame this on them. They are in bed by 7 and, if it were up to the 4 year old, I wouldn't hear from them until 7 or 8 the next morning. 2 year old gets up around 6. I wish he didn't always wake up his brother, but I can do 6. I like to be up early. What I dread, what happens far too much, is waking up around 3 am and not getting back to sleep until 5...and a little boy being up at 6. It seems as though my sleep cycle ebbs and flows, and if I get on a streak of waking in the night it will continue until exhaustion finally gets me a full night's sleep. So here is what I do nowadays to get a better night of rest:

  • I read myself to sleep. Ten pages is usually what it takes. Once Husband is home again I will just read while he watches TV. We'll see how it goes. Getting to sleep is not usually the issue.
  • one cup of tea (decaf, obviously) after supper. No other drinks. Waking up to use the washroom is a definite no-no. Also, green tea seems to rev me right up (probably in my mind). For me, no green tea after lunch time--just in case.
  • It occurred to me that I'm listening for vehicles in my yard. There have been a number of break-ins in the area over the last few years and I may subconsciously be listening, so I finally remembered to lock the shed. I also lock the doors (does this sound naive? What I mean is, I consciously check the doors before bed. I grew up in this area, hardly anyone used to lock their doors. But I'm home alone with two kids and I'm finding that a quick check of doors at night removes one item of worry from my list)
  • I pull the curtains. This one surprises me. I used to detest waking up in a dark room. We had the sheerest curtains possible in our old house. But for some reason this year after the time-change I started to wake up and wonder what time it was. This led to hours of fretting and my mind bouncing from idea to idea, topic to topic, future and past, regrets and insecurities. The fact is, I have no problem getting to sleep but staying asleep is a real trick. If keeping the room in darkness helps then that is what I will do.
  • I got rid of my alarm clock 2 years ago. If I open my eyes and see that it is 3 am I might as well get up for the day. I can do this because my alarm clock is at the end of the hall and we don't have to rush anywhere. Most people are not this lucky.
  • If worry is what is keeping me awake, I repeat 3 positive things over and over and over, explore those 3 things with my mind, consider them, repeat them until a feeling of well-being returns or sleep comes. This past summer, our house was scheduled to arrive in two weeks and we still didn't have a basement hole dug or a basement to put the house on. I don't know how but I slept like a baby every night. I was in the windowless basement bedroom at my parents and my mom always rushed across the hall to my kids' rooms upstairs if they woke. I probably stopped listening for them after awhile. If I did happen to wake up I took great comfort repeating "we have a very good well. It gives 17 gallons of water per minute. The road and the yard are built and beautiful. Husband and the kids love me." These three positive things got me through some stressful days and nights.
  • On the subject of worry, making lists helps. If it has been written down I try to quit thinking of it. If it is out of my control, see above. 
  • I close my bedroom door. 4 year old comes in if he needs me, 2 year old bellers like a banshee. If my kids need me I will hear them. I was leaving the door open just a crack and I think that when the furnace kicks in it sucks the door up against the striker plate and making a "click". This is enough to make me hop up to see if 4 year old has entered the room. Closing the door is a psychological barrier between me and them. Although I can actually hear just as well with it closed, I have told myself when I close the door that I will sleep more soundly.
  • I never nap. If I am very tired from a poor night's sleep, I roll with that and hope that it helps me the next night. Having a nap makes it impossible for me to make it through the next day without sleeping at the same time. It must also make it easier to wake again in the night. At any rate, my policy is push through it.
  • I have finally accepted the fact that I sometimes don't sleep well. Enough of the "If I go to sleep now I'll only get two hours sleep etc". When my mind is racing in the night, I tell myself that it will be a slower day here at home tomorrow. I try not to work myself up more by worrying about being tired. It helps to try to let go of that stress.
These are just a few of my tricks to get a good rest at night. I MUST start doing yoga and practice meditating for relaxation. Getting exercise and fresh air are very important, as is positive thinking and planning for the future. I read an everydayhealth article that helped, a bit. If you suffer from poor sleep, or anxiety, give it a read. Do you sleep well? If not, can you share any tips for a good night's sleep?


  1. An interesting post, I suffer with very similar sleep problems - I get to sleep fine at night, but then I wake up and I can't go back to sleep for ages, if at all. And I always wake up before I really want to. And I'm always tired. I have similar tricks, trying to think of positive things etc. It's tricky, especially when tiredness can equal irritability for me.

  2. I'm so tired of being tired! I'm sorry to hear that this happens to you too :( Sounds like our sleep problem is very similar. I feel like I've accepted that there will be nights that I don't get much rest...and that has somehow allowed me to relax about it, and even return to sleep (sometimes) when I wake up. Silly but I repeat over and over "straight back to sleep, straight back to sleep" lol. It works once in awhile. I'm amazed how many people have this exact problem sleeping. I'm just so fortunate not to have to rush anywhere in the morning--I hope you find a trick that helps (and if you do, please let me know!). Thanks for reading!