How to sleep

We all need it, we don’t get enough of it, we love to talk about how much we’re getting (or not getting), and we love to discuss the details in the morning.

Yup – sleep.

Sleep is a funny thing in our culture, because without those precious restorative hours we’d be slow, drunk-feeling, and unable to learn new things or even remember how to do what we already know, according to Time Magazine. But it’s also a badge of honor to go without it. Bill Clinton famously functions on four hours per night, as do Martha Stewart and Condoleezza Rice, apparently. Maggie was recently paid to sleep and write about it. And, obviously, there are people out there paying other people to go to sleep and write about it. We’re obsessed.

I am an unabashed, (mostly) unashamed eight hours per night sleeper. From my infancy (seriously, ask my mom) I have been a paragon of crankiness if I don’t sleep, and now, at 26, I can be beastly if I shortchange myself even a few hours.

My ideal schedule is 11:30 p.m. to 7:45 a.m., give or take that extra 15 minutes. It’s a schedule I am militant about adhering to when I can, though I work at a theater company, where shows routinely end at 11 and after-parties last until 2 a.m., which seriously messes with my sleep schedule.

To get back on track quickly, I’ve developed a sleep checklist for nights where I know I might have trouble falling asleep right away:

One hour before: No music, TV, magazines, e-mail, or anything else that will activate the short attention span section of my brain. Books are great because I can focus on one story, one “voice” and there are no pictures.

30 minutes before: Yoga. If I haven’t been in a few days, it’s been a bad week, and it means I really need to stretch. I’ll do a few downward dogs or back twists on my floor just to release the tension and marshall my energy into one thing, instead of letting my thoughts fly everywhere.

20 minutes before: turn on the fan to cool down the room. Your basal body temperature drops when you sleep, and if my body temp goes down as I transition into sleep mode, I’ve found that I fall asleep faster.

15 minutes before: brew a cup of peppermint or chamomile tea. The warmth, the smell, the ritual all helps signal that it’s chilldown time. I also leave at least 15 minutes to read, if I haven’t already. Not only is reading a calming activity, but I get angsty if I don’t read every day. I am a girl who reads.

Five minutes before: turn off all the lights, cover up all the blinking electronic lights, find my sleep mask, set my alarm, put my journal on the nightstand, and snuggle in. If I don’t fall asleep right away, it’s either because my brain is still whirring along (deep breathing and journaling usually stop that) or it’s because the temperature is wrong, and a fan/blanket/socks/no socks adjustment is in order.

How do you sleep?

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4 thoughts on “How to sleep

  1. Hits And Fits says:

    I’m with you on the reading. I absolutely cannot sleep without reading. And I’ll read anything … books, mags, cookbooks, instruction booklets … to make it happen. Of course, none of this prep pays off because my calming routine is shot the second my 15-pound cat jumps up from the bed to the headboard and paces back and forth. Kitties <– bad sleep hygiene.

    – Ava

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    • Hilary says:

      Instruction booklets?! Hilarious. It’s so true, though – anything to calm down sometimes.

      Are you sure it’s a cat? Sounds more like a puma!

      – H

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  2. Hanna says:

    Don’t forget the earplugs that I’ve learned help immensely, particularly when a light sleeper is paired with one husband with real snoring issues and a dog who likes to try to be a personal alarm at 5:30am. I’m with you on the tea…although I do it about 2 hours before bed so there are no potty breaks at night! Rubbing some lavender oil on the wrists is also quiiiiite relaxing 🙂

    Now I’m ready for bed and it’s only lunch time…sigh.

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  3. Hilary says:

    Alvin’s a snorer?! Oh noooo!

    Thank goodness the only pet in this household is tiny and doesn’t sleep in my room. It sounds like pets and sleep just do not mix. Lavender though. That, I could get behind.

    Thanks for stopping by, my friend! A Thanksgiving date is very much in order, methinks!

    XO – Hils

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