There’s a ton of information out there about what you should do and how to do it. That’s where I come in: I’m following all the advice so that you don’t have to. This week’s focus is unwinding before bed and the best ways to relax yourself to sleep:
Technique: Reading Before Bed
As you probably know from my last post about commuting, I really love reading. But the problem I find is that most times at night when I want to read, I don’t want to keep the lights on in my room and don’t want to get up to shut them off after reading for a bit. So, for a while I would read off the Kindle app on my phone but that became really irritating (blue light, am I right?). This time, I sat in bed with a copy of A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (I HIGHLY recommend this novel) and tried to unwind.” As you can imagine, with any engaging piece of fiction, it is not easy to put it down especially when in the “middle of a good part.”
Pros: I loved this book and that I was able to carve out time to read it.
Cons: This worked to my detriment as I read by the light of my iPhone screen instead of actually falling asleep (side note: I can’t imagine that is beneficial in the universal fight against eye strain).
Technique: Force Yourself to Stay Awake
Now, disclaimer, I don’t recommend forcing yourself to do anything. But for the sake of this article, I “forced” myself to stay awake – the idea being that reverse psychology makes you more tired. The problem with that is that I understand the reverse psychology behind this idea and therefore understand what is expected of me as a participant in this study. I laid in bed and tried to actively keep myself awake (granted, I was exhausted from dancing for a few hours) and had also showered (I know, I said I wouldn’t do that again after Monday but when you’re sweating after dancing to this, you have to value hygiene).
Pros: In the end, I fell asleep (and by “fell asleep,” I meant, “passed the f*** out,”).
Cons: I was too aware of what I was trying to do, which in turn kept me awake for an extra two hours. This was annoying and I don’t want to subject myself to sleep studies in my own shitty apartment.
Would I Do it Again? Nope.
Technique: Warm Shower Before Bed
This is a popular idea that exists in the canon of ways to relax. There have been many ways suggested of how best to do this – a bath instead of a shower, a sauna/steam-room (weird old man sitting in the gym corner in an all-too-small towel aside), a warm cloth on the forehead. I decide on a shower because my inner sanitary and moral compasses refuse to allow me to bathe, my gym membership is cancelled so no sweet sauna privileges, and a warm washcloth reminds me of fevers. That being said, I will not go into detail of my shower because it is not that kind of article, but let’s say that the water pressure was weak (per usual), I may have slipped and fallen in my Smurf-blue bathtub due to residual conditioner laying somewhere on the already-slick surface, and said fall may have resulted in a shin bruise.
Pros: The warm water and the process of breathing in the steam definitely relaxed me despite all the mishaps. Plus, the added benefit of knowing that I would not necessarily have to shower in the morning and knowing I could sleep in a bit later was comforting as I readied for bed.
Cons: My body is conditioned to shower in the morning, so showering at night causes me to feel more awake and alert in a few ways. Despite being “relaxed,” simply knowing that I could sleep a bit later caused me to stay up past my non-existent bedtime.
Would I Do it Again? Yes provided that I have a non-slip shower mat, safety rails, and a new bathroom (seriously, who produces blue fiberglass?).
Acupressure is said to “restore balance and regulate your mind, body, and spirit,” which would lead to me feeling more relaxed and increasing the quickness of sleep onset and depth of relaxation. So I followed the instructions: I applied pressure between my eyebrows, between my first and second toes, on top of the foot, sole of my foot, and both of my ears. I couldn’t help but giggle as I did this and I did feel some type of tension slip away and I did fall asleep fairly fast.
Pros: I gave myself a very strange massage.
Cons: *see “Pros”*
Would I Do it Again? Maybe – the aspect of being connected to my body allowed me to feel more grounded (bedded?).
Technique: 4-7-8 Method
Andrew Weil made this popular and due to my inherent skepticism of all things homeopathic (for example, I’m hesitant to believe that something called “slippery elm,” could help irritable bowel syndrome), I had to try it. Instructions can be found here, but the basic premise is a step-by-step breathing exercise. I’m an occasional deep-breather, but this took it to another level. Reading the instructions left me feeling as though I was learning to free-dive (counting, making whooshing sounds, holding my breath, repeating cycles – do I get a certificate badge after this?), but I journeyed on breathing and counting and repeating. Before I knew it, I awoke to my alarm going off and my light still on from the previous night.
Pros: I was dead asleep. And I mean, out-cold-phone-not-even-plugged-into-charger-what-day-is-it-asleep.
Cons: It was a bit disorienting to wake up not knowing what happened.
Would I Do it Again? Sure. But maybe prepare myself before I commit to being that out-cold. And who knows -maybe “slippery elm” isn’t all that farfetched.
Next week, join me as I tackle all the coffee advice I can get my caffeinated, shaky hands on.