How Frustrating Good Sleep Hygiene Can Be (When It Doesn't Work For You)
Can we talk about how frustrated we all are to change our entire environments around us, to change the course of our sleeping patterns (to actually get sleep), but without fail, it never works?
Everyone knows sleep energizes you, recharges you for the next day, and helps us forget about our worries for about 8 hours, right? To an insomniac, all of those things are out of reach and seem to be a joke instead of something that’s attainable.
What is sleep hygiene?
So let’s talk about sleep hygiene. According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep hygiene is a variety of different practices and habits that are necessary to have good nighttime sleep quality and full daytime alertness. It sets us up for success during the daytime, as well as nighttime.1
How much sleep do we need?
We know that getting a solid 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night is a necessity for our bodies, yet in our world today, we rush through life, shortening that process and limiting the sleep that’s important for our physical and mental health. Some studies have even shown that we may need more sleep now than we ever have before.2 I know for me, personally, my number of hours have decreased significantly in adulthood due to responsibilities and my inability to find that perfect structure in my day.
Trying to practice good sleep hygiene
- I go to bed at the same time every night. A reasonable time. I don’t push it and set myself up for failure, but I also wait until I know I will be ready to rest and stop thinking about the anxieties of my day (ha!).
- I exercise daily, so I should be tired, right?
- I get up at the same time every day. I go to bed at the same time every night.
- I don’t eat spicy foods (at all, but especially before bed), as I wrote about that one time I did here.
- I turn off my phone well over a half-hour before going to bed.
- I don’t nap during the day.
- I avoid caffeine, known as a sleep stealer, and also don’t drink alcohol or use tobacco.
- I have a cool, comfortable environment with many pillows and blankets. (Don’t ask my partner about the pillows. What can I say? I like my comfort).
- I actually sleep a few degrees cooler than what I’d like because I don’t have the ability to regulate my body temperature the way I should due to autonomic dysfunction I’ve lived with since I was about 17.
I still have trouble with sleep
So here are the things that I’m saying out loud to hold myself accountable publicly and reasons for me not sleeping.
Sometimes I have to nap. I live with multiple chronic illnesses, including Crohn’s disease, and endometriosis, among other exhausting conditions.
Sometimes I’m lethargic because I’m anemic. B12 injections seem to really help with that. The days I feel it hard are difficult to get through. Along with the fatigue of living with multiple immune-mediated illnesses, I don't have a ton of luck on my side.
I have my shades mostly closed during the day due to my apartment facing the sun for 12 hours of the day. No one should live in the darkness. Ask most sleep specialists, and they’ll tell you that you need a clean, open, and cool environment for a successful night of sleep. This one sort of goes along the lines of napping.
I don’t always know when to cut off my caffeine. It affects me differently on different days. Sometimes we don’t know the foods and beverages we put into our body contain a lot more caffeine than we think they do.
Eating before bed
There are many nights I eat before bed. I take certain pills that require something in my stomach, and due to other meds, I get a craving for munchies. My eating is pretty disordered from living with an unpredictable bowel disease, so I eat when I have the chance.
Working from bed
During the last few months, and even before COVID-19 started, I’ve been working from home. I struggle with depression, and there are days I will work from bed, which is terrible for all aspects of your health. I know that I need good space, room to move around, and a fresh, different environment in order to have a sound frame of mind to be at my best.
So now that I’ve outed myself on some terrible sleep behaviors, what are some things you do before bed to avoid insomnia, and how do you make it through the day and night without having “sleep stealers” affect your sleep?
Do you have any other health conditions besides insomnia?