During law school and then subsequently studying for the bar exam, my sleep schedule was a wreck. I mean it got so bad that I never actually would sleep more for than four hours. I never got a “night” of sleep. I was taking 10mg of melatonin to try and make myself fall asleep and it wouldn’t happen. Bad and super unhealthy.
When I started my job it hit me that I needed to get my sleep schedule under control. And that needed to happen fast. I had to make my sleep schedule a priority or I was literally going to have to hook up and IV with caffeine drip to get through the day. I also needed to get stop passing out on the couch as soon as I put my bag down after work because I would wake up at 11pm and not be able to get back to sleep until around 4am. Then it would be so incredibly difficult for me to be up and fully awake to be able to get to work on time.
So I did some research online, a little webmd, a little pinterest, a little google, and got a whole list of ideas that I was going to implement. Some of them worked and some of them did nothing for me.
Here are the things that worked for me.
1. Get a routine in place and stick to it.
Planning out my routine was difficult, what do I need to do, what should I do, what do I want to do? Well I wanted to read until my eyes blurred but that wouldn’t be good. I needed to clean my apartment but I can’t clean it all before bed. I should take a bath to raise my body temperature but I only do that if I’m super awake. Usually my routine consists of packing my lunch, packing my work bag, taking Winston outside, taking a shower, and getting into bed with my devotional.
2. Set your alarm twice.
Once to start getting ready for bed and the second time is to get up in the morning. When my bedtime alarm goes off I know I need to start my routine for bed. It’s a great way to start your bedtime routine otherwise I’d look up and it would be 11pm and I am still engrossed in my DVR.
My morning alarm is a little different. I have to set mine on an actual alarm clock, not my phone, and put it out of my room. It sits in my kitchen and it is loud. I can’t roll over and hit snooze so it forces me to get out of bed to make it stop.
3. No naps whatever it takes.
Like I said there were times when I would just remember sitting down on my couch then boom I would wake up four hours later starving and sitting in my work clothes on my couch. I made a promise that I wouldn’t let myself nap. For a week I didn’t go home after work or if I had to, like to drop off Winston, I would then immediately go to a Starbucks and read or Barnes and Noble and wander through the store, or the mall and just people watch. I was so tired but I wouldn’t let myself go home until 9pm. I knew if I could stay up until after 9 then I would be okay.
4. Lights out should be gradual.
When my bedtime alarm goes off, I turn off half the lights in my living room. When I’m done packing my bags my kitchen lights go off. When I’m done with my shower, my bathroom lights go off. When I’m in bed my nightstand light is the only one that is on and it’s a low light. I can’t go from every single light on to total darkness. Slowly decreasing the amount of light your body is exposed to helps get your ready to go to sleep.
5. Do a little yoga stretch before bed and in the morning.
These are the yoga stretches I do at night and in the morning. They are fantastic, the ones before bed are gentle enough to relax me and the ones for the morning get my blood flowing and I feel like my body and brain are both switched on for the day.
6. Plan out the next day.
My planner travels with me throughout the day. I have a physical planner and the calendar on my phone but I like to use the physical planner to plan out the next day. It gives me time to sit in bed and sort of prep for the next day. I also feel more relaxed when I know what’s coming so having it mapped out helps.
7. Keep a journal or notepad by your bed.
Usually if all my lights are out and I still can’t sleep it’s because there are things running through my head of things to remember or things I’m wondering about or worrying about. I find that if I write whatever is going through my head down I cant get to sleep easier. Once it’s on paper I can stop worrying that I’m going to forget it.
8. Get rid of the clutter.
I have crap everywhere. I mean everywhere. But it was getting to be too much when my nightstand was overflowing with papers, books, and a collection of random things. I purged what is within my reach and it helped. I felt like if my nightstand was cluttered my mind would be. Now my nightstand is clear and so is my mindset.
9. Use your apps.
I have a few apps dedicated to helping me sleep. Obviously I have my alarm set to start my bedtime routine but I also have an app called Sleep Cycle that tracks when I go to sleep and the quality of my sleep. You can also answer questions about your day, like if you had caffeine or took a nap and you can see how these particular things affect your sleep. It’s really cool to see your quality and quantity of sleep laid out in graph form. I also have Relax Melodies that has ‘zen’ sounds for those times when I need some white noise. The app has a bunch of different sounds so you’ll be sure to find something you enjoy.
10. Get outside first thing.
I get up to turn off my alarm and immediately wake Winston up and take him outside. Everything I’ve heard is that if your body is exposed to natural light it helps your body wake up. I hate going outside when I could be snuggled in bed and Winston is the same but we do it anyway. It also makes him do his business faster because he really really wants to get back to sleeping.
11. Snuggle with Winston
Maybe that one is just for me…
These things worked really well for me. I still have to set my alarm to know to turn off the tv and start getting ready for bed. I still have my journal by my bed along with my planner. The clutter is starting to creep back but I’m putting my foot down, I don’t need 10 books, three bottles of water, four chapsticks, and 485 bobby pins on my nightstand. Since getting on this routine I haven’t felt the need for naps during the week anymore, I still take the occasional nap on the weekend though; and my pre-college flexibility is slowly coming back thanks to these stretches (and my new found love of Pilates reformer classes).
Like I said, these are just things that worked for me. Some might work for you and some might not, but if you need to get your sleep schedule under control I suggest you try some of these and let me know if they worked for you!