Tag Archives: sleep

TIL 29: Stress Management 5b


Each week of the course has featured handouts, which often include material not covered in the course. This week’s handout had a section on sleeping well.

Stress is a great thief of restful sleep. There’s nothing like the dark quiet of 3am to leave anxious thoughts whirring around your brain, when you’re too tired to give them any perspective!

Sleep problems can manifest in various ways, from difficulties getting to sleep, to waking during the night, to waking up early or feeling unrested. Stress, illness, pain can all cause sleep problems, as can overeating, alcohol or caffeine, lack of exercise, or a change in routine.

Advice – as well as trying any of the previously covered relaxation techniques (one I haven’t mentioned yet: to stop the repetitive whirr of unresolvable issues, try counting backwards from 500) – includes:

  • develop a relaxation routine for before bed, be that a hot bath, reading a novel, or some meditation, etc.
  • the stretch-relax routine is a good one before sleep, as well as ‘saving’ the other kinds of relaxation for non-sleep times.
  • avoid intense discussions or arguments before bed
  • don’t fret about not sleeping! This can be worse than the not sleeping itself. Even just relaxing – awake – is better. Accept that some days you will be tired, and know that you can cope with the occasional one of those. You might want to try doing something relaxing if you really can’t sleep – a jigsaw, or watching (non-action-packed!) tv, or reading or just anything you want to get done. That way at least the time isn’t wholly wasted, and that might help you relax a bit more about not sleeping.
  • avoid naps – they will upset your sleep rhythm
  • try getting up at the same time every day, including weekends and after nights when you haven’t slept well
  • if your brain is really whirring with anxiety, don’t just lie there – get up and go to a different room. Something like journalling might help calm your mind.
  • get enough exercise in general, perhaps some light exercise in the early evening
  • leave yourself at least 90 minutes of ‘wind down’ time before bed – do only undemanding (mentally and physically) during this time
  • [it’s usually recommended that you also switch off electronics during the period before bed, too – and try not to keep any in your bedroom]
  • even if you can’t sleep, try to enjoy relaxing.

Lent (sort of)


When I was growing up, the period between Pancake day (Shrove Tuesday) and Easter was always the time when you gave something up – usually chocolate! It’s been a long time since I really followed anything like that, although I perhaps still stick slightly more to the idea that rather than ‘giving’ up on something, it’s also a great time to commit to doing something positive, instead.

Regardless of any underlying meaning, this is another of those possible fresh start moments in the year. Six weeks (ish) is a nice time-bound period to consider sticking more closely to one of the habits you’re trying to start or give up.

no mobilesFor me, the choice is easy and the timing perfect. Last night I was at a lovely pancake day get together, but it was a late night – not least because after getting home I *still* insisted on staying up longer playing silly puzzle games on my phone. So, next six weeks? No phone games before sleep!

I’ve also got a ‘secret’ goal – something to take up/do more of during the period, too, but sometimes not sharing is more motivating – there’s less pressure, and that tinge of mystery too add excitement 🙂

On Habits


I’m currently reading – and enjoying – Gretchen Rubin’s book, Better Than Before (BTB), so of course I’m thinking about habits. I guess I sort of abandoned my 52 Changes experiment – not purposefully, just through lack of attention, but that does imply that it wasn’t entirely working for me. I think once I got to 7+ ‘dailies’ it got a little much… what a surprise! 😉

One of the thoughts I’d had (and blog posts I intended to make!) was about a ‘Hierarchy of Habits’, based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (no learning is ever truly wasted, right?!). So, there’d be a set of core habits that would help with all the rest, and in terms of my daily progress, it would be most important to hit those ones first. Then I could add ‘tiers’ – say, writing – that would be slightly less important to stick to if I got to the end of a day exhausted, for instance.

In BTB I discovered the Foundation Habits suggestion – four areas where forming habits would make everything else easier. Great minds! 😉 I also love the areas she highlights, and they do correspond to ones I reached for first instinctively: sleep, move, eating/drinking better, and uncluttering. The latter might seem less obvious, but totally works for me: it’s about your environment, and by taking control of one small area you get a sense you can do more.

I’d give the book a recommendation. I’m still reading it, and taking notes, but I’ve still to process how I’m going to apply this to my life. It’s more a discussion on habits and suggested tools for developing them, rather than any kind of actual system. The key takeaway seems to be: know yourself, and figure out what works for you – here are some suggestions.

That was probably the aim of 52 Changes, too: an experiment, see what does(n’t) work for you.

For actual practical getting-on-with-something, I’ve joined the site HabitRPG – all about ‘gamifying’ life, ie setting up tasks/habits/daily activities and giving yourself points when you do them. That sort of thing appeals to me!

And for habits, well: I’m back where I started – sleep! The first habit I want to hit is getting more/better sleep. To do this, my intention is to start heading for bed nice and early (~9pm) giving myself plenty of time to read and get the light out earlier than currently. As someone once said, more or less, the worst thing that can happen if we get more sleep is that we become better human beings!

3/52 Changes – Sleep

3/52 Changes – Sleep

From fretting over what order I should follow the chapters/suggestions, I’ve found it’s started to flow quite well – not always easily, but I’m still going and I’m still psyched up!

Starting with meditation is turning into a key enabler: there are so many times following a ‘programme’ like this starts to feel like adding to the daily harassments, and then I give up, but a few minutes of breathing calmly really does help. I’m still strugging with exercise, but again, a few moments and I can accept that five minutes isn’t going to kill me, while remembering how essential I see this habit to my life-quality in general. And absolutely that the aim is for the tiniest of habit-steps (five minutes!) and just one at a time (ahem).

So for week three’s new addition I just went with the feeling that “Get More Sleep” was calling to me! It’s actually chapter 26 of the book, but – especially since the Christmas break – I’d been aware of staying up too late doing useless things, and my all-too-familiar constant refrain of “I’m shattered!” as I grumbled blearily through a day. So, more (or just better) sleep? Yes please!

The chapter has several suggestions for getting more sleep. First is assessing how much you get now – a bit vague, methinks, as the recommended 8 hours isn’t always enough, especially if it’s – like mine – tending towards broken (there’s a whole other topic on non-sequential sleep hours, but not today). Nor am I impressed with the idea of taking naps: this can make it harder to sleep at night, even if you can fit such things into a working day! I’ve never found napping easy or useful, personally. And getting up earlier is an end result, not the start for me – and tends to happen as the mornings get lighter.

The better (for me) suggestions included using exercise – although not right before bed! – to ensure your body is tired out during the day. Well, we’ve started the exercise habit and while I can’t say it’s tiring me out yet, I’ll continue to work on that one!

But for this first stint at the habit experiment, I’m focusing on two steps:

Go to bed earlier — the Internet will be fine without you.


Establish a bedtime ritual. It takes time to unwind the body and mind. At least an hour before bedtime, start slowing down… This kind of ritual helps establish in your mind that it’s time to sleep, and your body takes this cue and begins to prepare itself.

So for the past week I’ve been trying to do two things: first, and a long-standing “I know I should” is to get the pc off far earlier – at least by 9pm was my goal. I also tried to stop using my phone to play the odd game, or just check something later at night – making a ‘no screens’ space.

My ‘ritual’ then involves all the prep for bed (teeth brushing, etc), stretches, meditation – sneaking another habit in! – then writing and reading in bed. I know some advise against such things (in bed), but it works for me, not least because the bed is then nice and cosy when it’s time to snuggle down and turn off the light.

Best success of the week saw me not even turn the ‘pooter on after work. I ate, watched something on the tv, and found myself feeling tired and cold, so just went to snuggle under the duvet – even though it was only half eight! I had the most relaxed couple of hours scribbling and reading that I fell asleep easily and slept better than usual – ah, yup: I get it!! Okay, not the most practical of daily practices, but it was nice mid-week, and did indeed make me less grumpy, etc that during the day.

Conversely, I spoiled my own goals last night with the usual “It’s Friday so I ‘should’ stay up late ‘cos I can!”. I’ve spent most of today headachy and lethargic. Hah!

I remember reading a quote a while back about such things – I can’t recall who said it, but to paraphrase: “The worst thing that could happen if we got more sleep is that we become better human beings.” 🙂