(I feel like my sister, with her everlasting obsession with Green Day, should be proud of me for that title!)
But seriously, I’ve always had trouble trying to sleep. I was the bane of my parents’ lives as a child – as a baby, they would have to drive me round in a car seat or play loud music (for some reason) to get me to sleep. Then the minute it stopped, I would be awake again. As a young child, they’d put me to bed and I’d come downstairs hours later because I’d been reading or staring at the wall all that time and wasn’t asleep yet. I even remember one time when I’d got very worried – we’d been learning about God at school and I couldn’t decide whether he was real or not and just how he could exist, at like the age of 5, and I just had to ask my dad because he knew everything and would tell me the truth.
My mind’s always been running a hundred miles an hour, even past midnight, so sleep is something that’s always evaded me. I’m not a stranger to the hours of 2, 3, 4am on the clock. And I’ve never understand why sleep is something “refreshing” – I’ve always woken up feeling more groggy than when I went to bed.
In the past few years though, I’ve come up with a few tricks that mean I’ve been able to grab a few more hours of nightly rest than I used to. I can’t make any promises that these will work for you, and they’re certainly not groundbreaking or miracle-working tips – I still rarely get my 8 hours! – but they’re better than nothing.
Routine, routine, routine
I totally begrudge this one but I have to admit it makes a big difference to my life. Ben told me when we first got together and was bemoaning my lack of sleep that I just needed a routine. I told him, no – nothing works, nah uh, never.
Over time, he slowly managed to get me going to bed at the same (sensible) time every night, and was forcing me out of bed at the same (sensible, again) time every morning. As it turned out, that was something of a game changer.
I used to stay in bed until almost lunchtime at the weekend, trying to catch up on the hours of sleep I’d missed during the week, but then I wouldn’t sleep until the early hours of the morning the next night because I’d been dozing until midday. Getting up early (as in, pre-9am for me!) every day, whether it was a weekend or not, meant I was getting tired in the evenings and dropping off a lot more quickly.
Now I stick to that routine – I get nervous staying up past 10pm, and I’m always out of bed before 9am now – usually around 8am, even on weekends. This is revolutionary stuff for those who knew me as a teenager!
I need to be in the exact right environment to catch 40 winks, so making sure my bed and bedroom is comfortable is huge. I admit I may be a little on the weird side, but I need a hard mattress and practically rock hard pillow.
I’ve been through about 8 pillows in 6 months trying to find the perfect one. None were hard enough – in fact I joked that I would just get a pillow case and fill it with rocks. I bought two pillows, ripped one open and double stuffed the other, but it wasn’t firm enough and was too high! I’ve been reading reviews and articles on sites like Sleep Advisor, and I think I’ve found a pillow that works just well enough for me now.
I also like to have a dark room that’s relatively cool. I need a lightweight duvet that doesn’t weigh me down and, weirdly I know, doesn’t touch my ribs. I need to be able to move my feet around- I hate when hotel beds tuck the sheets in!
People talk about hot baths, reading and hot drinks before bed, but controversially, I don’t get on well with these at bed time. It annoys me that reading in bed doesn’t help me sleep as it’s like the perfect time to read and I’ve always done it. It actually gets my brain buzzing as I enter another world. If I don’t finish a book, my brain tries to figure out where it will go. If I do finish it, I’ll be stuck there thinking about how it ended.
Hot baths mean I have to dry off before bed, and that annoys me. Hot drinks make me need to wee all night long, and with my bladder, that’s just no help!
I’ve gone through stages of different sleep aids – I’ve taken melatonin regularly (which helped somewhat), camomile tea (which didn’t help at all), worn eye masks (bothered me) and worn a vibrating sleep band (helped mostly with jet lag, which was interesting).
At the moment I’m currently using one that you might have spotted on blogs and even in papers: Lush’s Sleepy body lotion. It’s been touted as being able to knock out even insomniacs in seconds. I’m not saying it works miracles, because it definitely hasn’t knocked me out in seconds – the scent is definitely very relaxing and it keeps your skin soft, which is awesome. I’m not definite it really works, but it adds to the bedtime routine of getting your brain to recognise that you’re going into sleep mode, so that definitely helps with something.
What are your tips for sleeping? Any ideas?