As y’all know, I have been working on my sleep and promised to blog about it. About six weeks ago I attended a sleep workshop by Judith at A Good Sleep… so here I am, after a B+ effort, to update you on how it all went down.
Phase One: Preparation
Before starting any new routine, I had to do some information gathering. So every morning for two weeks, I tracked all things related to my sleep – what time I went to bed, fell asleep, how many times I woke up – that kind of stuff. I started off with a bang and dutifully filled in every part of the sheet I was given to capture this info. This zealous effort faded pretty quickly as I discovered that memory tasks before coffee feel imminently more difficult after coffee. After a few days I started to fill in only what I felt was the most relevant, and by the end of the second week I was just scribbling the total hours of sleep I got the previous night on a post it note. Average time at the end of two weeks? About seven and a half hours per night. Not too shabby!
Phase Two: Getting started
My goal was to get up every day at the same time – even on weekends. I’ve tried getting up at the same time every day before, but previous attempts have ended in throwing alarm clocks across the room when they buzzed at 7:00am on a Sunday morning, so I had doubts. This type of routine would feel much more manageable if I could get up every day at 8:30, but as I have loudly complained about mentioned before, my partner is an early riser. They thinks it’s reasonable to be at work before 8:00 in the morning so if I want to use our shared car in the day, I am going to have to get up at 7:00am. I find myself facing my first obstacle. I don’t want to get up at 7:00am every day. Suddenly this whole process starts to feel unsustainable. I put in a valiant effort, but find myself getting up later and later on the weekends.
Phase Three: Settling In
Surprisingly, pretty soon I don’t mind getting up by 7:30am on the week days, and compromise on 8:30am for the weekends. I love having more productive time in the mornings, and my kid’s love that I get up at the same time they do. After years of 5:00am wake up calls by my eldest son, who literally jumps out of bed with abundant energy, my 7 and 11 year old children and are fully capable of dressing themselves and making their own breakfast, so I rarely get up before them anymore. I’ve been training them to bring me coffee in bed, but it only works, like, 2% of the time. These days we could actually eat breakfast together.
The biggest difference with this schedule is my bed time. In past efforts to improve my sleep, I tried to go to bed at the same time every day on week days – usually 10:00pm – but never even made it to the end of the week. This is largely because by the time I wrap up with work and clients, feed myself and the family, take care of the dogs, get ready for the morning and get the children in bed, it’s about 9:30pm. That only gives me 30 minutes to drink wine and watch reality television unwind before bed, and that just isn’t enough time for me. But now that I know I only need seven and a half hours of sleep at night my new bedtime is midnight. Midnight! And because my partner goes to bed at 10:00, it gives me hours to do whatever I want without needing to interact with anyone. 10:00pm-12:00am is my gloriously uninterrupted me-time where I can dance around in underpants to nineties hip hop without anyone telling me “you’re being too loud” or “you’ve had enough wine”. The best part is, I am supposed to go to bed at midnight, so I don’t feel bad being up that late. Win-win.
Phase four: Life interruptions
Here’s the thing about living with children, running your own business, and doing birth work – it’s makes sticking to any type of routine almost impossible. All it took was a few night shifts, illness, falling behind with work, and suddenly I found myself sleeping in the day and NOT at night, which quickly led me back to practicing strategies for managing all the anxious thoughts that come when I’m not sleeping. So here I am again… trying to force myself out of bed in the morning when the kids get up.
My conclusion? Getting sleep seems like it should be easy, but for a lot of us, it’s not. The last few weeks of sleeping like a regular person has been a real teaser of what is possible. I now have a taste for what it’s like to fall asleep quickly and stay asleep at night, have enough energy to get through the day, and even hours of down time every evening. So I’ll keep plodding along. I suppose the next phase is learning how to recover quickly when my sleep schedule goes array.
More so come… until then I want to learn from you! How do you recover when life shows up and wreaks havoc on your routine?
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Olivia Scobie, M.A., ACC, CPCC, MSP