Anxiety sucks. It sucks the energy out of our day, it sucks the joy out of our fun time and it sucks the rest out of our nights. How many times have you been unable to sleep while your mind spins with worry? It’s really unlikely that you can actually fix any of your problems at 2am, and yet, this seems to be the time that my brain decides that it absolutely MUST work hard to solve all of my troubles. I bet yours does, too. In fact, I bet our brains have a vast conspiracy against sleep and they all hang out in the brain lounge and hatch up new ways to keep us from sleeping! Or maybe our brains have been re-programmed by the pharmaceutical industry so that we need anti-anxiety meds and sleeping pills! And, yes, these are all theories that my brilliant mind came up with at 2am, so you can see why I try not to apply ANYTHING that I come up with in the middle of the night to my actual life.
Anyone that knows me in person, knows that I am a sleep master. I have fallen asleep on the floor of a train lurching along the southern coast of Spain, while drunk frat boys partied in the aisles, and I had no seat and nothing but a small towel to curl up with. I have fallen asleep in a chair in a loud, hotel bar. When I was nursing babies, I figured out how to do that while sleeping, too. I am a working mom that regularly gets 8-9 hours of sleep per night (statistically, that makes me a superhero). I can sleep LIKE A BOSS. And, you, lucky dear, are going to get my best anxiety-conquering sleep tips, right here:
1. Don’t Fight It: Most people have a window of time during which it is easier to fall asleep. Try to actually do what your body wants (I know, foreign concept for most of us mamas). It might mean doing the laundry only on weekends or getting up a little earlier to make lunches but if you miss your window getting to sleep will be SO much harder.
2. Daydream At Night: Instead of letting my mind wander over all the details of what I need to do the next day, which creates anxiety and overwhelm that I can’t fix in the middle of the night, I let my mind wander over all the details of something fun. I love to travel, so I mentally go over all the details of a fantasy trip – by engaging my mind in all the minutiae – how I’m getting to the hotel from the airport (in my dreams, it’s always a dude with my name on a little sign, never a stinky taxi), what is the weather like, what does the hotel look like, what is the view from my room – I think I actually bore myself to sleep by trying to come up with all the little sights, smells and sounds, but it works. This one strategy can put me to sleep every time. If travel isn’t your happy place, try shopping, hiking or whatever other activity tickles your fancy. The key is to get really detailed and specific, this is where your mind starts to get tired and lets you drift off.
3. Get Up and Do Something: This is the last resort, when you’re far past your window of easy rest, you are feeling too cranky and tired to get to your happy place and you’ve been tossing and turning for hours – get up. Don’t think about how much sleep you are missing or how you will feel tomorrow. Instead, do something useful – make those lunches for tomorrow morning, do some laundry (quietly, if everyone else in the house is sleeping) or do some yoga or stretching exercises. Watching television or browsing the internet don’t work for this – you’ll feel tired without the benefit of having at least done something healthy or that you can check off your To Do List. The guilt you will feel over spending 3 hours watching Friends re-runs instead of sleeping only adds to your anxiety the next night. Even if you feel like crap the next day, at least you can feel good about having made use of the time instead of staring at the clock, watching the minutes drop off.
Research is showing more and more how crucial sleep is to our health – a lack of good sleep is now being linked to heart disease, obesity, cancer and just plain everyday bitchiness. If you aren’t already making sleep a priority, it’s time to look at how a lack of sleep is sucking the vitality and joy out of your life and the life of your family. Yes, there are people that claim to be able to get by on 4-5 hours of sleep. Apparently, they are dying younger and have more disease than those that get the minimum 7-8 hours of sleep that humans actually require. If you want the Ignited Life for 2013, getting enough sleep can be a huge step in the direction of that fabulous (eyebag-free) life that you deserve.