The first time I heard the term “sleep hygiene” was about 20 years ago.
I was sitting in a therapist’s office after having been released from Silver Hill, a psychiatric hospital in New Canaan, Connecticut where I had been for a week.
I had just been diagnosed with major depressive disorder — major depression — and I was getting to know my new psychiatrist and my new therapist.
I have always been one of those people who doesn’t function very well on little sleep.
As the insomnia took hold of me, the depression sank its claws in deeper and deeper until I was almost not sleeping at all, bursting into uncontrollable bouts of tears, and smoking massive amounts of weed to self medicate.
That was the point when I was admitted to Silver Hill.
Even after a week of inpatient treatment for depression, I was still in the midst of a months-long bout of insomnia, and I was functioning on maybe two hours of sleep a night.
I told my new psychiatrist about my inability to sleep.
He described sleep as the “Zamboni for your brain.”
I needed sleep to help get rid of the depression, but the depression made it nearly impossible to sleep.
Such is one of the catch-22s of depression.
While I was in Silver Hill, I was given Ambien and a couple other things to help me sleep, and none of them worked.
And the longer the insomnia went on, the more stressed I got about sleeping, and then I was just in this really vicious cycle and I couldn’t get out.
On top of the depression I now had a raging case of sleep anxiety.
The psychiatrist eventually ended up putting me on Seroquel.
Seroquel is a pretty hard core antipsychotic drug used to treat schizophrenics and sometimes bipolar disorder.
That shit knocked me the hell out.
But that’s not something you want to develop a dependence on, and so that’s when my new therapist (who I saw in conjunction with the psychiatrist) asked me about my sleep hygiene.
I was like, ummm….. what the hell is sleep hygiene?
Sleep hygiene are the habits you put into place to consistently get a good night’s sleep.
My sleep hygiene was nonexistent.
By the time I was placed in treatment I was smoking more weed than Willie Nelson, Tommy Chong, Seth Rogen, Snoop Dog and Miley Cyrus.
I had the television on all night long — there was no chance of me even thinking about getting to sleep without it — and I drank a shit ton of coffee to keep myself awake during the day.
I was a mess.
Now, twenty years later, my sleep habits are much better. But there is still room for improvement.
So many of us — especially moms — don’t get enough sleep. We are exhausted all day long. Then we get to the end of the day and need time to “unwind.” We need “down time.”
And we stay up late, self-medicate in order to relax, watch too much TV or scroll Facebook mindlessly in bed for hours, and then we wonder why we are worn out the next day and can’t find the energy to do the things we want and need to do.
If you want to improve the quality of your life, start with the quality of your sleep and your sleep habits.
Just because you are an adult doesn’t mean you don’t need a healthy routine!
And for many women, the closer you get to menopause, the more likely you are to have sleep issues.
Tightening up your sleep hygiene is the first place to start.
Here are some places you can start to make improvements.
Pick one and start there!
1. Aim for 7-8 hours.
I know. You don’t have time for 7-8 hours to sleep.
If you have time for an hour of Grey’s Anatomy or The Real Housewives of Wherever and an hour for Facebook and an half hour for Pinterest and another half hour for Instagram, then you have time for 7-8 hours of sleep.
Exercise helps you sleep better. And the more you sleep, the more energy you have to exercise. Win – win.
3. Get the phone out of your room.
Not only does the phone distract you with notifications, it also tempts you to check it every time you wake up during the night. You are also more likely to grab it first thing when you wake up and get sucked into the black hole of social media.
You use the phone as an alarm?
Buy and old school alarm clock.
If you can’t manage to take the phone out of the room, at least turn off all notifications during the night.
4. Stop all screen time at least 30 minutes before bed.
Falling asleep with the TV on = NO BUENO.
The light from screens does sh*t to your brain that makes it harder for it to shut down. It’s a stimulant.
Don’t take stimulants before bed.
5. Speaking of stimulants, cut out the caffeine after 3 p.m. at the latest.
I know. You need the caffeine to stay awake.
You wouldn’t need the caffeine to stay awake if you got better sleep at night!
(Also, if you are really tired during the day, that is often the result of dehydration. Drink more WATER during the day).
6. Keep your room clutter-free.
Clutter causes stress. Stress makes it hard to sleep.
Don’t make your bedroom a stressful place to be.
7. Don’t stay up ridiculously late and sleep in super late on the weekends.
Stick to the same schedule as you do during the week. Then your body and your brain don’t get confused about when bedtime is.
8. Don’t drink booze and smoke pot and do drugs to unwind.
This seriously affects the quality of your sleep.
In a bad way.
9. Keep your bedroom cool. And dark.
You don’t sleep as well when it’s too warm in your bedroom. Keep the heat down at night and use an extra blanket if you need to.
If you are struggling to get to sleep or to stay asleep, make a routine for yourself and stick to it.
Doing all these things is not easy. It’s not sexy. It’s not fun.
Taking care of yourself is not always fun.
But neither is being f*cking exhausted all day or being unable to get to sleep at a decent time or get your a$$ out of bed in the mornings.
If your sleep quality totally blows, take a good hard look at your sleep hygiene.
Then, start being a grown up, and start taking better care of yourself.
If you wouldn’t let your kid do it, then maybe you shouldn’t let yourself do it.
Or, you can keep doing what you are doing.
In that case though, no more complaining about being tired.
The choice is up to you.