Generally speaking, do you sleep well? I don’t. I have the brain-that-never-stops-thinking syndrome. For a long time, I’ve lived with the ‘I’ll sleep when I die’ mentality, bragging about being able to function on five hours of sleep. Great attitude, girl.
The period of my life that was by far the most sleep-deprived was when I was in CEGEP, studying Fashion Design. My days would unfold like the following:
Wake up time: 6:15am
- Finish my essay on 60’s fashion
- Sew a dress
- Draw two dozens of fashion sketches
- Spend two hours at Fabricville trying to find an okay fabric
- Go to the gym
- Work in a restaurant on the Plateau and try to be the best at it (when, truly, I really was the worst)
- Commute for an hour back to my parents’ place
- Redecorate my bedroom so it’s more feng shui
- Learn how to fold towels in the shapes of animals
- Rescue motherless kittens
Ok, yeah, the last three ones are kind of a joke, but you get the drill? During those days, I’d sleep between two and five hours per night and, as much as I was tired, I could stil function. Ask my mom! She’d wake me up every morning with a cup of coffee delivered straight to my bed feeling sorry for me.
Today, my 27-year-old self can’t sustain such a lifestyle anymore. If I want to boast about clocking in only four hours of sleep, I’ll have the biggest headache on earth, I can’t say more than three words in a row (and I’m lucky if they make sense at all) and I’m abnormally anxious.
I’ve read recently that it only takes one night of four hours of sleep to increase your cortisol level the following night (cortisol=stress). A classic case of a vicious circle: the less we sleep, the more we produce cortisol. The more we produce cortisol, the more we are stressed, the more we have trouble sleeping.
In the last few months, I had to throw in the towel (or just start being smarter about it) and admit that some of my health issues might by sleep-related: social and professional anxiety, lack of patience (sorry @beniwawa), insatiable hunger, foggy thoughts, undereye circles a little too dark to my taste, etc. So for the past month, I’ve been trying to put bedtime at the top of my priority list, just beside my work deadlines, my social activities and my obsession with wrapping up season 3 of How to Get Away With Murder.
I’m faaaaaar from being perfect (best example: I’m currently writing this post at 10:48pm), but I try to do my best, as often as I can. So, as a part-time insomniac, I felt like sharing with you a couple tried-and-tested ways to sleep better.
Read A Real Book (you know, made out of paper, like in the good old days)
The book that is currently on my nightstand: one borrowed from my father-in-law. Don’t tell him, but it’s the most boring book ever — I’ve rarely taken so little interest in a main character. “Sooo, why do you read it then Joëlle?” Because my goal is to fall asleep and my eyes start to close literally three pages in every time.
If reading a 600-page dull book on purpose doesn’t sound super appealing (I totally get that), just make sure you do something relaxing 30 minutes before sliding under the sheets. Take a bath, light up a candle, meditate or write in your journal while listening to Sarah McLachlan. #LikeWhenIWas12
Be The Ritual Queen
Does having a ritual really helps to fall asleep or is it a placebo situation? Who cares. As long as it works, I’m in.
A week ago (conveniently right after a full night of insomnia), I received a few products made to improve sleep quality by Puressentiel, a brand that’s all about the power behind essential oils. Since then, I’ve been vaporizing a calming air spray around my bed, right before diving back into my boring book.
I also apply an anti-stress product, which comes in a roll-on format, on the inside of my wrists, made with chamomile, lavender, mint, neroli and a bunch of other nicely scented ingredients. I stick my nose to my wrists and I then take 10 deep breaths. The efficiency of aromatherapy has been proven on numerous occasions, but the simple action of ‘breathing’ definitely helps my brain set in to sleeping mode. My favourite technique: 7-7-7. Breath in for seven seconds, hold your breath for seven more, and then exhale for another seven seconds.
Stimulus = The Guilty Ones
If, for whatever reason, my goal is to NOT sleep, I basically just have to work super late. What it does to me: my body is exhausted, yet my brain feels like it’s soaked in a Red Bull bath. So now, I try not be hyper stimulated intellectually at least an hour before heading to bed.
Moreover, you probably know this already, but screens are the #1 ennemies to clocking more zzz’s. The light generated by your cellphone, computer, tablet or TV prevents your brain from producing melatonin, the hormone responsible for telling your body it’s time to sleep.
Speaking of light, I’ve been wearing a sleep mask for a couple of nights now and, honestly, it’s near miraculous. It made me realize that, even when your eyes are shut, it’s never totally pitch black. But with that thing on, watch out Morpheus! To be honest, it’s a little scary when my boyfriend comes home from work at 1am — …honey… is that you??? HONEY!!! —, but I’ll get used to it.
Photos by Melika Dez
What about you? What are your tricks for having the best night of sleep?
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