Some people are really lucky- as soon as their heads hit the pillow, they are out for the night. No potty breaks in the middle of the night, no tossing and turning, they just sleep like a log and wake up full of energy. The folks that sleep well without any effort are a rarity, believe me. Even those of us that think we sleep pretty well because we go to sleep while the television is still on can do better. Let’s discuss how.
Rewind a few years for me. I was a mom to a toddler and working a full-time retail management job, running around like a crazy person day after day. My sleep was light at best, and I just thought it was normal to sleep that way. I would get up to go to the bathroom about five times a night. I would be freezing when I went to sleep and then wake up around 2:30 overheated and jittery-awake. Every sound in the house would cause me to wake up, get frustrated that I was now awake, and then just lay there, staring at the ceiling. The next morning, I would have a headache and feel lethargic without at least three shots of espresso.
If that doesn’t sound familiar, try this story: My husband began feeling that he was developing restless leg syndrome (RLS) and he would jolt awake in the night either courtesy of twitchy legs or sporadic snoring. (In case you’re wondering, yes, his snoring would startle me awake). Then he would have trouble not thinking about what we were doing at work the next day, or some other stressful event.
What I didn’t know at the time was that these poor sleep symptoms were things I could control by having a bedtime routine, listening closer to what my body was telling me, and being selfish in caring a little bit more for myself. Another shocker: Being selfish about caring for yourself is perfectly fine. In fact, it helps everybody around you if you take better care of yourself. A fried mom who gets three hours of "meh" sleep a night and runs herself ragged is not the mom running around the park with her kids, smiling. I’m not going to say that I’m always sprinting around the park with the energy of a 5 year old, but I’m so much better at it now that I’m in charge of my sleep habits. Here are a few things that I did for myself that really worked:
1) Courtesy of Ayurveda, the 5000-year-old sister medical science of yoga, I tuned into what body type I am and what was causing my sleep issues. I created a bedtime routine that suited my needs, relaxing my body and setting my mind in a calm, sleep mode. I do my routine every night, without fail. It’s that crucial to me.
2) Listening to what my body was telling me (or shouting at me) was a huge change for me. As I got more tuned in with my body, I started to notice how certain things that I ate or drank would affect me. Some foods would cause severe indigestion (even if they tasted great). Sometimes the quantity of food, or the time that I was eating the food, would cause the issues that would wake me in the middle of the night. Now I choose my foods in a timely, careful manner that keeps my body restful and relaxed.
3) I care for myself first and foremost. This sounds like I'm saying that I put my needs in front of those of my family, but in fact, it’s quite the opposite. By choosing to care for myself and watching out for my wellness, I have enabled myself to take better care of my entire family. Since making that shift, I’ve been more present for my daughter and husband, for everything from eating dinner together to just enjoying each other’s company, because I feel more connected to my true self.
Now, my post is generalizing a bit how a person should care for themselves in relation to their sleep patterns and habits. It sounds a bit intimidating at first; there are so many ways to customize this care by studying yourself. I’m not saying to be perfect all of the time either. Hey, sometimes a friend’s birthday party might cause you to indulge in a late, rich meal. That’s okay! Hopefully, you’re on track the rest of the week, getting good sleep and caring for yourself. Just remind yourself that you can always start over again if you fall off the self-care wagon. We just have to remain committed to caring for ourselves.
In my next post, I’ll start sharing some of my top sleep tips for all sleepers. Now, off to bed! Zzz 😴