I just read about Mark Zuckerberg’s New Year’s resolution for 2015 – a habit he shares every year. He (the creator of Facebook) has just founded probably the world’s biggest book club and aims to read a book every two weeks. Goes without saying that this also means less time online which he openly admits. I am not sure whether he is a sensitive sleeper or not but this could be a good resolution for all sensitive sleepers. Reading is calming and avoiding blue light in the evening is recommended widely by experts. Findings confirm that blue light at night stimulates alertness and diminishes feelings of drowsiness. Books remain my friends.
I have a tradition of summing up my previous year and creating goals for the forthcoming one at this time of year. A couple of years ago I thought I was omnipotent: My list of goals was an endless pile of unrealistic wishes. I am ashamed to admit but I had 30 items on that list. THIRTY!? Even though many of these items related to new ways of thinking it was beyond anyone’s capacity and certainly mine.
Can we make a resolution about sleep and be successful? The answer is yes but once again, the goal needs to be realistic. If one has longer-term sleep challenges, sleep doesn’t return to normal (for good) by widely advertised and shared quickies such as chamomile tea, warm showers, lavender oils and the list goes on…endlessly. The trick is to understand that the problem is most often in our heads and our skills to deal with stress and worries. The problem is that we don’t want to accept this (are you saying I am a f** nutter?). So we fight back, typically harder and harder, and what happens next? What could have been a manageable sleep challenge grows into a real problem.
These sleep resolution ideas might help to get back your sleep.
1. Staying realistic. If your sleep problems have been there for years they won’t go away in two nights. Don’t try to fix it all at once. Instead create realistic step goals. The key is to understand that a sleep problem is often a learned habit, so it can be unlearned. One goal could be: I won’t think about sleep during the days. Power of mind is often a undervalued tool. Another (even more concrete) goal could be: I will advance my sleep rhythm and aim to go to bed around 10pm. Researchers have found out that people who sleep for shorter periods of time and go to bed very late at night are often overwhelmed with more negative thoughts than those who keep more regular sleeping hours and go to bed earlier. I prefer early sleep rhythm. I (almost) always fall asleep quickly but my nights are pretty broken. As I go to bed earlier I know that I have more hours if required. If not (required), I wake up earlier and enjoy the silent morning by myself. Lastly, be happy with any improvement. When my worst and shortest nights prolonged from 3 to 5 hours I celebrated this big step forward. As I relaxed even more, my nights improved even more. It has been gradual, but in hindsight it feels like a hurricane. Every improvement, however small, leads to the next one. It’s a snowball effect.
2. Planning the weeks and “stressing and worrying” during the days (not at nights!). Planning can be so much fun. I just love making my to-do lists properly (post-it notes are so yesterday) and crossing out the actions I have accomplished. I am a listaholic like Robert Crampton (The Times journalist). And what’s worse, I also add (afterwards) outside-the-list actions and cross them out. So he’s not the only loony one doing so!! As Fridays approach I admire my week view with pride as I see over another productive week (work alcoholic, but not madly-badly anymore). Yet it wasn’t always like this. Just a while ago I filled in my calendar with unrealistic lists (surprise, surprise) that I wasn’t able to meet. This made me feel frustrated, angry and disappointed (and sleepless). I learned the hard way to understand how much I can actually fit into one week. After a painful period, I now know and manage myself better. As a consequence I feel more balanced, in control and happy – and not just on Friday but every day as I progress without a push and pain.
3. Stopping perfectionism. Fearing mistakes is preventing us learning new stuff. Without mistakes we stagnate and only do what we already can. This can feel safe, and even right, but isn’t so in the long run. Delaying the obvious only means that it hits harder when time catches us up. I had never been a perfectionist until I suddenly was one. I don’t know exactly what came to me (my best guess: too many major life changes at once drove me into a control freak) and what’s worse, that was also an engine for persistent insomnia. We simply can’t control everything in this world and accepting our limitations can be very liberating. One promise could be: I allow mistakes because I know it’s the only way to grow and learn new stuff. Also, fearing others’ opinions makes us people pleasers and burdens us with useless worries. We can make a conscious decision not to care so much what other people say and think. When I started blogging I feared a lot (everything possible) and, on a serious note, I would do many things differently knowing what I know now. But this experience is what I can now take with me as I move ahead. So, they were not useless mistakes after all.
DrNerina also makes an important contribution to this resolution challenge. Instead of just listing intentions blaa blaa blaa we should in fact first stop right there and start by questioning why this specific goal is so important before we put it on the list. Also: less is more. So instead of listing goals that are important for our appearance we could focus on those few ones that really make a difference, bring us true happiness. Only those resolutions will stick with us throughout the year.
A couple of years ago on my 30-item-resolution-list the first one said “give up being right”. That was first for a reason and I knew that if I internalize the meaning of this sentence I will be much happier. I think it was the only one that I finally made (or at least significant progress even though it eventually took two years and still counting).
What has been your most important resolution that you succeeded to stick to?
Please like and share this post if you found it helpful!
Yours sensitive sleeper,