After three months of trying desperately to sleep, sleep, sleep (while I can), I am starting to feel the creeping dread of waking up before dawn and gulping my coffee to jump-start my body to be “on” in my classroom for the first four hours of the morning. My dread comes from knowing that my alarm will go off, and I will hit the snooze three times before coming to terms with the inevitable—even though my body is craving AT LEAST two more hours of sleep, if I don’t get up RIGHT NOW I will not be able to do one of the following: eat breakfast, pack my lunch, put on make-up or feed my cats—none of these options are acceptable.
This frenetic morning routine is one of the most detested aspects of my job, and my life, for 9 months out of the year, so during the summer I tell myself to “live it up” and sleep as much as I possibly can. I ignore bed time until I can’t stay up any longer, I don’t set an alarm in the morning (or if I do, I ignore it), and I sleep until my body naturally signals that it has had enough sleep (for once). Here’s the weird thing that I’ve discovered: my body seemingly CAN’T get enough sleep. Even if I sleep until 10 a.m., I still wake up groggy and lacking that refreshed-birds-are-singing-sun-is-shining feeling. What is up with that?! No matter how much sleep I get, I can’t seem to get my brain and body jump-started until I’ve had some caffeine input. Unlike my husband, this bothers me. I don’t like knowing that I can’t do something as natural as sleeping and waking up without an absolute dependence on an outside substance (coffee) being put into my body.
The other issue affecting my sleep is my husband. Unlike me, he hates sleep in general and does whatever he can to exist on as little as possible. He’s a self-professed night owl, and seems to be able to exist quite well on 5-6 hours of sleep. Needless to say, this small fact has caused me, on occasion, to feel something akin to irrational rage and loathing toward him. My body would just up and shut down if I gave it less than 7 hours on a regular basis—how is it fair that he gets 1-2 extra hours in a day!? I’m would like to take this issue up with whomever is responsible.
So I decided to research this concept of sleep a bit so see what tips and suggestions I could find for getting better sleep and making the morning wake-up less traumatic and more inspiring. The following are a list of things that I will attempt in order to make my morning transition just a bit hellish..or, hey, who knows, possibly pleasant!
*Disclaimer: This research was done over two days and represents neither a breadth nor depth of material. I just skimmed ideas from a couple of Google searches and books.*
(1) Establish a CONSISTENT bedtime and wake-up. This is something I’ve been terrible at during the summer, and in spite of loving the freedom from such a strictly structured life (i.e. high school bell schedule—HATE!) I think that my freedom has also been my downfall. If I would discipline myself to have a bedtime hour and a wake-up hour I could have some flexibility, but also a consistency for my body to become accustom.
(2) Figure out how much sleep your body REALLY needs by adjusting your bedtime by 15 min. each night until you wake up BEFORE your alarm clock. Once I have a routine established, I need to perform this little experiment to find out my sleep sweet spot. Maybe, like my mother and sister, I’m a 9-hour sleeper (horrors!), or maybe, with some routine, I can feel refreshed after only 7 hours. I’m crossing my fingers for the latter.
(3) Don’t drink caffeine OR ALCOHOL before bed, but try a bit of ALMOND BUTTER before bed. This point has been gathered from various sources. Tim Ferriss, author of The 4 Hour Body, suggests that some people wake up feeling lethargic because of low blood sugar. To combat this, eat 2 tbsp. of almond butter before sleeping to even this out. My neighbor also swears by decaf green tea with a splash of milk to relax. I plan on trying both of these suggestions. I definitely avoid caffeine already, but I will have to work on avoiding the alcohol. I have found, however, that the verdict is out on the alcohol. Ferriss, states that it can help us have deeper sleep while others suggest it inhibits sleep. Whatever, Joel will continue his wine regimen, and I will try the tea. We’ll see.
*Disclaimer about this video–the part about sleep comes in around 3:00 and the first part is about Tim’s philosophy on improving sex–which he also covers in his book. I tried to clip out just the relevant section, but my Real Player wasn’t downloading it and I don’t have the tech savvy to try other options. So, this clip is a preview of his whole book. Enjoy!*
(4) Regulate the TEMPERATURE of the bedroom. Racy jokes aside (I know they are running through your brain…), keeping the bedroom cooler, may help you to sleep deeper. Anecdotally, my German brother and sister-in-law (ok, brother-in-law is American, sister-in-law German citizen) keep their bedroom window cracked even in the winter, and claim that the fresh air helps their immune system and their sleep. Initially, this sounded like a crazy German wives’ tale, but after my quick research, I found some science to support this. I may pay more attention to keeping my room uncomfortably cool in order to have the perfect temperature when under the covers for sleep.
(5) Considering buying a gadget. I’m thinking about this. In addition to helping my SAD (seasonal affective disorder), this light may make those winter pre-dawn wake ups feel more natural. Plus, I feel like adding a gadget to this new sleep lifestyle might be fun, and might pull Joel on board (just add electronics and suddenly a lifestyle change looks more appealing to a guy). The reviews are pretty good for this model, and Ferriss also recommends this device in his book. I’m also considering this device (also Phillips) as an alternative.
Now that I have some ideas, the hard part of actually establishing the routine and being intentional about what to consume and avoid begins. Hopefully, I’ll get this right before I’m standing in front of a roomful of 25 freshman at 7:40 a.m. trying to convince them that we all have enough energy to organize a persuasive speech. *Deep Breath*