Sleep is a waste of time: A neurotic’s guide to better sleep

Days are always hectic. Nights are becoming increasingly so. It is now my firm belief that 1am is a perfectly legitimate time to finish some nagging work, or to start working on my “one-day-I-will-be-my-own-boss” idea.

Ends of days now come with a foreboding of the next day. Going to bed has become synonymous with giving up on the current day. Tomorrow is more work, and some of that should efficiently be done tonight, and then somehow tomorrow will be lighter. But that doesn’t happen. Ever.

We live in the age where there are gadgets that run waves through our brains to calm us, and those which tell us exactly when to wake up so that we’re at our most productive.

Let’s accept our reality. Let’s stipulate that we will certainly be juggling many tasks (not multi-tasking, which is impossible, but rather rapidly shifting our minds between many tasks). Let’s decide that we MUST work at odd hours to pay our dues such that one day we may be our own, and very successful, lords and masters.

Fine.

But we have to sleep! I’m not going to go into how good sleep helps us be healthier, more alert, be more calm, beats mental and physical illnesses, and the list goes on.

Assuming that sleep is good for us, and ignoring the myriad theories on when to sleep and how much sleep (who can keep up?), I thought I would try and make the most of the sleep that I do choose to ‘indulge’ in.

So this is my attempt at cataloging some of the stuff that I’ve tried in the recent past that has worked. Some might sound cliched, but it’s worked for me, so here it is.

  1. Your bed is for sleeping. No joke.

    It’s true! Well almost. It’s for sleeping, sex and a cup of tea. The latter two are encouraged to be had in other places too. You may also have one book. I’ve also stopped using my bed as a table for my remotes, phone, laptop, IPad and other gadgets. That’s all gone. To my desk. Where it’ll stay.

  2. Separation anxiety.

    Charge your gadgets in a separate room, and leave them there.
    This will no doubt cause tremendous anxiety to most people. Every two minutes I needed to pick up my phone and check something, set reminders, check a movie out, and of course, see what the world is up to!
    It turns out that it isn’t as hard as it sounds. And please don’t make me spell this out – they should be ‘on silent’.

  3. Sleeping with the enemy.

    Slightly related to the point above.
    Enemy = TV, Kindle and other light reflecting, noise creating, brain alerting devices. No. Just No. Please find time for this stuff during travel difficult paths to remote villages where you must animatedly read to children, or otherwise just in far away from sleep time, whenever you choose that to be. These are screens. Throwing light into your eyes. With limitless possibilities. And electronic reading devices are just not comfortable to hold and cuddle. I tried one. My triceps hurt.

  4. Don’t be alarmed.

    Set one alarm.
    It’s important to sleep as much as you can in one stretch. Setting an alarm for an hour before you really have to wake up, only to snooze repeatedly till 15 minutes after you really had to wake up – not healthy.
    Find the balance – set an alarm that you know is final, and enjoy your sleep before that.

  5. Keep a notebook. Not a Notebook.

    Keep a (paper) notebook and pen next to your bed. Any anxiety provoking thoughts, to-dos, and other random ideas (sometimes really good ones) that randomly pop into your brain – just note them down. They are then out of your system, securely noted and you are relieved of the burden of remembering them the next morning.

  6. And one book.

    One book. A single, paper leaf book. Take whatever. Change it every night if you have to. Take 5 minutes before reaching bed to think about what you want to read. put everything else away. MInimize decision making in bed.

  7. Keep calm and play music.

    This is just an additional one for when reading is just too much work, or the mind just won’t let go. While the world is paying good money to listen to birds and ocean sounds all night, just playing a little soft music – anything that you like, or can hum – works just as well. Just please don’t play it on your phone and with earphones, if you can help it. Figure something else out.

  8. The last supper.

    – should be had between 2-3 hours before your prospective bedtime. Your body needs to rest and recuperate by night. No point adding horizontal acts of digestion to it, with bile regurgitating between your stomach and oesophagus.

  9. Visitation rights.

    Outside of bathroom visits, try and minimize any reasons you might have to leave your bed.

  10. Purge-atory.

    Take 10 minutes just as you’re ready for bed to think over the day – what happened, how do you feel about it, what did you like about it, and what would you like to do differently when you wake up next. If you need to, make a list of all the things you’d like to do the next day / waking cycle. Basically these are ways of combating the thoughts that will otherwise preoccupy us and not let us sleep.

  11. Ready, set, sleep.

    Prepare and look forward to sleep! My personal aim is always to give myself at least half an hour between prepping for bed and then falling asleep. This is the time to reflect on the day, pick a book, put a bottle of water on my bedside, and basically tell myself that it’s time to rest.

  12. Passing out.

    Try and be aware of when you’re falling asleep. You don’t have to “pass out”. You can simply observe when your lids are getting heavy. Put your book away, turn the lights out, and close your eyes.

Just try and do whichever ones you can each night. After a bit of trial and error, it’ll routinize for whatever works best for you. And there will hopefully be an overall calmness to bedtime now, as opposed to the manic frustration and guilt of an ending day.