The web is full of sleep tips that haven’t given me any advice, help, hope or guidance. These let’s say ‘typical’ sleep tips are full of rules and routines that don’t help the already all too dutiful and sleep-obsessed poor sleepers. The underlying problem is this: I already did all this stuff strictly according to all rules and still wasn’t able to sleep.
My bedroom was dark, silent and comfy, I went to bed always at 10 pm, I always woke up at 7 am (incl. weekends), I quit smoking, I was teetotal, I didn’t eat spicy or fat food in the evenings, I exercised, I did yoga, I didn’t take too hot baths in the evening… and I could go on forever. The dilemma here is that these are all ‘external’ fixes when the biggest reasons for poor sleep are ‘internal’: stress and worries (together over 60%) . Yes, whether we like it or not it’s more question of what happens in our head than outside it. This doesn’t mean de facto that something is wrong with our heads and minds but poor sleep is a message that we should listen to. The message is that there is too much stress and worry going on and we should learn to handle it better.
The bad news of course is that we humans like quick fixes, and a typical expectation is to find a cure that solves our poor sleep overnight. That’s right: over one single night. Realistic? After tens/hundreds/thousands of bad nights we still keep dreaming that we can find the solution that wipes away shitty nights in 8 hours. The good news is: everything in life is doable, even better sleep p-e-r-m-a-n-e-n-t-l-y, if there is the will. If you are motivated to sleep better and prepared to re-educate your mind to better handle stress and worries you simply will start sleeping better. I dare to make this promise.
10 unorthodox sleep tips:
- Stop going crazy with routines. Obsession feeds insomnia. Any routine can become an addiction: ‘if I don’t go to bed by 10pm I won’t sleep at all’. Be seriously careful with this stuff. The end result might be very routine driven, sleep-obsessed and lonely life.
- Understand your sensitivity. There is no one person on this planet who lives through life without any worries, losses, grief or illnesses. Accept that sleep is your sensitivity and listen to what it tries to tell you (“slow down”). The pain will immediately ease.
- Make a project plan. Treat your sleep mission as you would treat any project. Set clear goals for your sleep mission. Accept baby steps and aim to create a lasting change. You can’t lose 6 kilos in 8 hours and similarly you can’t sleep 60% better in 8 hours. Set goals, create a how-to toolbox, celebrate your achievements. Emphasis on the last three words!
- Declutter your mind. Write everything down: Get the stuff out from your head. Clean your head with same rigor as you would clean your house (and for men: your car). When all the stuff has been written down the messy stuff becomes real. You start to see patterns. You understand priorities. You notice the issues that require actions.
- Plan your days. In fact, plan your every day. Women are still the multitaskers of this planet and women represent the majority of poor sleepers. There simply are too many things to remember and do (women mainly take care of issues related to home, kids and school, social circles, holidays, work, extended family) and we need to learn to put things in order and prioritize.
- Pamper yourself. Learn to relax yourself with nice stuff BUT don’t expect that this stuff will make you sleep. It will teach you to let go and relax which is a vital, preceding step for better sleep, but it will not deliver sleep per se.
- Get moving. Hire a personal trainer/yoga teacher if your wallet allows. Get moving. Sweat. Produce serotonin and endorphins. There’s not better sleeping pill than that. No side effects. And definitely no drowsiness in the morning.
- Stop talking about it. Make a conscious decision not to complain about your poor sleep. The less you give it attention the more you are freed to think more positive things in your life. Remember, good sleepers think ZERO seconds about their sleep during the daytime, even after poor nights (yes, even they do occasionally sleep poorly).
- Thank your days. We don’t often think about death in our 20s but we sure start to think about it in our 40s as we start to lose relatives and friends, and people dear to us get seriously ill. The fact that we can live, is still a gift that we simply forget all too often. This life of ours, even if it’s complicated, is still a life. How do you want to live it?
- What say you? Give us another unorthodox sleep tip! Let’s complete this list together.