With apologies to anyone who struggles with real sleeping difficulties, I am not sleeping well. Relatively speaking. I am a sleep obsessive and a bit of a zealot. I firmly believe, and a wealth of current books and articles suggest that I am not wrong, that if I sleep well I am much healthier. Both in mind and body. I have never subscribed to the heroic boasting of how little sleep I have had. I sleep well at night for seven hours and can nap like a pro. The offspring have semi-seriously enquired whether I have sleep on my CV, it certainly seems to be a skill.
Recently my sleep has not been as good, I am trying all sorts. The room is as dark as I can make it. I don’t eat before bed, I make sure I eat healthily in the day, I exercise in the daytime, but not too close to bed. Except yoga – and that helps I think. I don’t drink caffeine after noon. I don’t drink alcohol every day – a glass of wine definitely disrupts sleep.
Despite all this effort I can’t stop waking up in the night, I don’t wake up for long and can generally drop back off. I have no idea what time it is happening, as I have turned off all clocks in the light reduction effort. I suspect that part of the issue is that my days vary a lot, I work in different locations, using different modes of transport and with different teams. I tend to wake up feeling bit anxious trying to work out what I am doing today.
In an attempt to offset this feeling of confusion, I have written down a timetable for this morning and read it in detail last night again before settling down. It certainly helped me drop off much more quickly when I woke up in the night and I woke up keen to get the day started, knowing that the slot between 6 and 6:45 involved coffee and blogging. My sleep may not be perfect, but at least I am getting a blog written. I still woke up though, so maybe that is now a habit which will take a while to wear off.
And I am intending a good catch-up nap at the weekend. I am totally aware that anyone with a proper sleep problem is rolling their eyes at this blog – my heart bleeds for you and the real pain you feel.
It’s one of those weeks where the diary is full and there are lots of people to meet with and conversations to be had and thinking to be done. The meetings are later in the evening than I love, the work days involve travelling a fair amount.
So today I am checking in on the foundations. I am considering blackout blinds, because the earlier sunrise is waking me slightly earlier than I want. But in the meantime, my new found habit of not drinking caffeine after noon and my Lenten avoidance of alcohol are ensuring I am sleeping well for the hours I am in bed. I am also trying to wind down at the end of the day doing some light journalling and reading before bed to switch off, even when the meetings finish late.
Exercise has been a bit harder to fit in, but I have done some yoga and a run so far this week. Even the days without yoga and running have had good walks in the sunshine. And the sunshine has really really helped.
Food has been great thanks to planning the week’s menu and deciding who is cooking each evening (I have got off very lightly on that this week). That said, I need to stop writing and go and make some lunch to take with me today!
I have had time every day to catch up with family and have grabbed coffee with friends. All the Scout meetings have been interesting and full of lovely, supportive people. And we are not quite half way through the week.
The second half of the week – that is after 6pm on Thursday – has no work (I have Friday off) , no volunteer meetings and lots of fun planned. I will definitely have plenty of time to be quiet, reflective and prayerful and to play the piano and spend some time being creative. The balance of life is not within every hour or every day, but over the weeks and months.
I am somewhat obsessed with Dr Rangan Chatterjee‘s books at the moment. They are ostensibly self-help books about finding good health in a world which seems bent on stressing us out. He refers to lots of medical research on the effects of stress on our bodies and of course our minds.
One of the things his books do is give permission to relax, to switch off the phones and laptops and just stop. I have been trying to turn off the electronic gizmos at 9pm and let my mind have a break from social media and email. It is hard though, as so much of what I do in my spare time I do on electronic devices.
So time management is even more crucial than ever. Not a bad thing. I am convinced that my brain does not know the difference between writing this blog or an email to a fellow Scout leader or to a work colleague. Surely the process of communicating via writing on an electronic device is the same regardless of whether I am being paid to write, or whether I am writing about stressful or fun subjects?
Last night I was expecting an evening of creativity with friends, which was cancelled at the last minute. The temptation to get on and catch up with some administrative tasks for Scouts was just too strong.
I am definitely paying for it this morning. My brain feels unrested. I slept well, but my mum always used to say that resting your body and brain is as good as sleeping. I am beginning to appreciate that wisdom as my brain definitely feels it missed out on a couple of hours of rest last night.
It’s the penultimate day of the holidays for the remaining home-dwelling offspring. So the summer feels like it ends tomorrow and I am moving away from those halcyon days.
But I am determined not to waste any of the time that is left. A colleague pointed out today that an unexpected snow day feels delicious and you cram loads in and relish every moment. The last day of the holidays should not feel any different.
So it shall not. I am a bit of a sleep bully at this time of the year, I know it’s hard to get back into the swing of sleeping early, but at the same time it’s the only way to make sure we have the energy to get us through the change in routine with its early mornings and full evenings. So, I am plotting waffles for breakfast to make sure the morning feels special and to offset some of the complaints about having to get up earlier than a normal holiday morning. I will need to work, so there will be time for indulging in the latest Netflix craze, the YouTube fix or the driving cars very fast around a virtual track, or whatever screen-based itch will need to be scratched.
Then, in a rather crazy end of summer splurge (and as it happens, related to the analogy of the snow day), we are going skiing at the local indoor ski place. I say ‘we’ – husband and offspring are ending summer in cold fake snow. I am heading to the spa to rest and while away a few hours, remembering that making mini holidays in amongst it all may be the best way to get through the change in seasons.
I think I could have anticipated this, but I feel like I have run out of things to say today. Not that I haven’t got lots in my head, I have, it is a busy season at work and at home, there is a lot on my mind at the moment. But it’s too busy.
I am very aware that in order to be as efficient as I can be I need rest, which is proper sleep and some time not doing anything. That’s not the same as doing something really good for my brain like a mediation or a yoga session, or even taking an Instagram photo of whatever is in front of me. Those things are good to do, but that is still being deliberate and active in some way, Instead I need to let mind wander and not think about anything in particular.
It is doing nothing. I firmly believe this gives the brain time to put all the busyness together in a useful way. I’m also sure it’s where my brain finds the ability to write, to have good ideas, to think up effective processes.
Sleep is also in relatively short supply. I sleep well, and do everything I can to make sure that is the case. As long as my exercise routines are in place and I don’t accidentally drink tea late in the day, I can sleep. I need a lot of sleep though, at least seven hours, anything less and I can feel my brain slowing down. I sincerely hope no one else can tell, but I certainly can. It’s one reason I try and write this early in the morning, if I struggle to write, it’s a sign I have not slept enough.
So today I need to find time to stare out the window. To go for a gentle walk at lunch time instead of trying to do chores. To get to bed early enough that the mind has time to recover.