Lack of sleep will mess you up. I think this is a really obvious thing to say. I don’t think the audience for this post are people that need to be convinced that getting more sleep is a good idea. This is for the people that have been told they should really get more rest and they thought to themselves “thanks for stating the obvious.”
Personally lack of sleep is seriously connected to my mental state. Depression, anxiety, and lack of sleep are deeply interconnected for a lot of people and I certainly am affected when I don’t get proper rest (especially in winter months due to seasonal affective disorder).
I went for a few years with awful sleep to the point that I don’t recognize that person I was then. I was going through hard times including things out of my control (such as loved ones with cancer) and things that I could control but did a poor job at (such as unhealthy relationships), but everything was compounded by a severe lack of sleep. I had nightmares every single night and when awake I’d get panic attacks and my brain just going into hyper drive trying to fix things. At times I would just obsess over things. I was not healthy. I made some big changes, but also some smaller ones that made a difference. I obviously couldn’t fix everything because sometimes things happen out of your control, but these have made life easier. Other than quitting a job where I had a bully and getting an awesome new job here are 5 things that I did to make sleep much more peaceful (because for real that person gave me nightmares).
1. I moved.
While I would love to say I moved somewhere sunnier than Minnesota/Wisconsin, I simply moved to a place where I had sun during the day and much less light pollution at night. It made a huge difference on my sleep. Truth is I lived in a small place with almost zero natural light and tons of light, smell, and noise pollution. I was miserable there and I never once had a good night of sleep. Also, I now live in a place that feels more like my space. I am not cramped and I have special spots such as a porch and a beautiful living room with trees where I get to watch squirrels and birds all year.
Moving from there helped immensely. That saying I’d love to live in Colorado or California. I love warm and sunny places!
2. Lavender smells nice and is soothing.
I have found a love for lavender! I always loved the scent, but it truly has calming qualities. This specifically has helped me not only with sleep, but anxiety. I tend to get anxiety in crowded stores, but once I found how helpful lavender is I never go shopping with out it. I have found specifically that I love having a little bag of lavender that I keep in my winter coat pocket. I also really love having a roll-on with lavender oil. For home and sleepy time I use lavender bath salts and lavender candles.
3. I started reading for fun again before bed.
Paperbooks and my Kindle Paperwhite to read and relax are great ways to knock me out. It doesn’t hurt that I can get great reads for free from the library.
I’ve found that by reading so many short form articles and posts online it posed a problem for me with jumping back into reading books, but it is a worthy goal (which I’m still struggling with but I am making improvements). Not everything can be understood from a short article and just as importantly complex, rich stories are important for both the brain and the soul. For this reason, I’m not only reading near bedtime.
4. Drinking tea has been effective…coffee (love you, but not so much).
Yogi KavaKava Tea is the real deal (at least for me). If I feel more keyed up I try to make a nice cup of tea. I have also created a rule to only have coffee for enjoyment in the morning and not for being awake. The KavaKava knocks me out, but some others are great too (especially if I just want to calm down a bit). Here is my favorite when I just want to relax a bit.
5. Mindfulness activities
Don’t feed the monster…unless it is a cute and fluffy one!
What I mean by that is that when you wake up at 3am worrying that you said something stupid or that you didn’t get enough done stop or even that someone you love has cancer and you don’t know what you will ever do if you lose them…try to just stop. If you feel like you are experiencing some anxiety just think to yourself “I feel anxious right now.”
It is so hard to not give it a story, but when you stop feeding the monster of anxiety it can’t grow. You can’t sustain anxiety without giving it a story. This is the hardest thing to do and one that you need to do most of all.
Some strategies are to focus on something else. Some people focus on their breath. I think that is brilliant, but I’m honestly rubbish at focusing on that (in part because I have a lot of allergies from living in this part of the world). I instead focus on something else that is physical such as putting my hand on my heart (a self-soothing technique that is super effective). I also sometimes just get up for a minute, pet the cat, watch the fish…just stop thinking about my troubles. The anxiety dissipates and then I get back to sleep. This has been the best thing I have done (other than leaving toxic people and situations behind me).
❤ Always Jenny