Let’s face it—as modern ladies, there are a million and one things keeping us from getting the sleep we need at night. Whether it’s something small, like the sudden pressure to KonMari your house, or something pressing, like needing to wake up early to protest, sleep eludes many of us. But we don’t just need restful sleep at night for our health, we deserve it for our sanity. And that includes you. Yes, you over there, waking up at 4 a.m. to feed a toddler their Cheerios before your 6 a.m. spin class.
The key to achieving the blissful sleep you need starts with giving up on textbook advice for shutting off your phone at 8 p.m. and being asleep by 10. Instead, try to work sleep into your life, your way. It’s possible! Here’s how to start.
Recognize that you are different from other people, and that is OK! Just because your friend may wake up at 5 a.m. in a sun salutation pose doesn’t mean you have to as well. Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin is a fantastic book about changing your life by rewiring your everyday habits to suit you, and all the ways you naturally operate. When it comes to sleep, she argues that night owls should sleep like night owls rather than trying to become early birds. Read this book, sigh with relief, start thinking about your habits as being uniquely yours, and be proud of that. If your ideal sleep schedule is going to bed at 2 and getting up at 10, hey, you’re getting a solid eight hours and that is awesome. If you go to bed at 7 and wake up at 3, that’s cool too!
If you tend to be literal-minded about health recommendations, it may feel like sacrilege not to get a solid eight every night. But here is a little factoid about the powers that tell us what to do: their recommendations fudge upward in the hopes that we’ll land somewhere close. Eight hours a night is nice. But a study recently found that sleeping seven hours a night may be associated with the lowest mortality risk, with risk increasing the further away you get from seven. So aim for eight, knowing that seven is JUST FINE. If you only get five or six, try to make up for it the next couple nights. Do not beat yourself up for not being the Ideal Citizen Who Sleeps Eight Hours a Night and Also Ate 6-11 Daily Servings of Grains Throughout the 90’s.
We humans are meant to sleep in a cool environment, wrapped up in cozy sheets like a caterpillar prepping to become a butterfly. The ideal temperature for adults at night is between 60-67 degrees. Once you cool down your room, you might find it a lot easier to snuggle up and pass out. Pro tip: try sticking a foot out from under the covers. This has a magical ability to regulate your body temperature. Achieving this foot-out position may mean untucking your sheets, or readjusting the placement of your dog. He will forgive you.
Enter the cult of all things essential oils. There are several reasons to follow your nose into the land of nod, ranging from mystical to behavioral. Some claim essential oils rid you of “bad energy.” Others claim that associating a smell like lavender with being sleepy creates a behavioral pattern. Whatever your reason, it’s worth giving lovely scents a try around bedtime. Try sprinkling lavender or sage oil into a relaxing nighttime bath, or put a scent diffuser next to your bed. These herbal mists make your home feel like a spa, and a spa is a great place to get some sleep. Essential oil devotees often recommend Young Living as a go-to source for the stuff.
Our bodies run on circadian rhythms, which cause our energy levels to adjust based on the time of day. If you want to set up a healthy rhythm, passing out after happy hour some nights and staying up till 2 binge-watching Orange is the New Black other nights is not going to get you there. Pick a bedtime and stick to it, at least M-F. If you sleep in on the weekends, we won’t tell.
Things go bump in the night, whether it’s your cat snoring or your rafters squeaking. These little noises can be disastrous for our sleep. To counter them, add some pleasant white noise into your room, whether it’s a fan, nature sounds app or one of those funky white noise machines you get at Sharper Image.
If you’re like most people, you’re hella important. For example, you get emails. How can you be a good human being if you are not constantly negotiating your inbox back down to zero? It’s easy to get trapped in this way of thinking, but learn to let it go. You don’t need to answer emails after ten. You absolutely don’t need to look at your phone anytime between falling asleep and waking up. Put it in the other room if you’re tempted. And at a certain point, you need to put your non-work projects aside too and just be. Do something purely because it’s fun and makes you feel good, like calling your mom to talk about your favorite Beanie Babies or doing your makeup weird just to wash it all off. Let yourself check out and actually relax. Your sleep will be better as a result. Your work will be, too.
Life happens. Sometimes, you’ll arrive at a hotel after 1 a.m., or you might have to wake up at an ungodly hour to escort your mom to a colonoscopy. When life makes your routine impossible, don’t add more stress to your life by trying to do your essential oil bubble bath in the middle of everything. Let some of your nice routines go, and be ok with getting shit sleep. Toss and turn even! For times like this, I have one word for you: nap. You have a good excuse to sneak away later and make up for some of the sleep you lost.
Becky Lang is a writer, creative director and occasional podcaster living in Minneapolis. She also likes to draw dogs and female protagonists.
BY Becky Lang - March 20, 2017
Thank you for being here. For being open to enjoying life’s simple pleasures and looking inward to understand yourself, your neighbors, and your fellow humans! I’m looking forward to chatting with you.