Sleep Like the Dead (You’ll be Happier)

week 3 sleeping

Day 20

Sleep is one of those weird things my body does that I just take for granted. If I did my part by turning off the lights, climbing in bed and shutting my eyes, I was pretty much golden. Barring our cat wailing for midnight dinner or the dog sleep barking – it’s a thing, seriously, sleep barking, YouTube it – I was one of those people that just slept through the night, no questions asked.

Of course, some nights I slept better than others and, in the last couple of years, I’ve realized I have nightmares if I eat too close to bedtime, but this was completely different. All of a sudden, I was waking up at the same time every night. My eyes would fly open at 3:00 am on the button and that was that. I’d be awake until 4:30 or 5:00 am and then fall back asleep until 6:00.  Needless to say, I was a horrible grouch. And, if I’m honest, a tiny part of me was thinking about how this happened to Emily Rose in that horror movie. After that thought, I definitely wasn’t sleepy.

Every night, I’d climb in bed thinking ok, I’m even more tired than I was the night before; there’s no way I’ll wake up tonight. And yet, there I was. Wide awake. It got to the point where I’d just get out of bed and go find something to do – read a book, watch a movie, brush my teeth. Anything to try and put me in sleep mode. Nada.

I did my due diligence and started researching. There were all kinds of suggestions – more exercise, less exercise close to bed, no ambient light, no screen time, no reading, drink an herbal tea, cultivate a relaxing routine, stretch, sleep with an open window, turn down the heat, wear socks, no coffee EVER….yadda, yadda, yadda. It seemed like the only way I’d figure it out was by setting up my own personal sleep experiment.

Luckily, that week Josh came home from his physical and said he’d mentioned to his doctor that he wasn’t feeling well-rested in the morning despite getting a full night’s sleep. The doctor asked him a few questions and then said no screens. And surprise – the only thing that worked for us? No screens.

Turns out, other than drinking one of those five-hour energy drinks before bed or taking care of an infant, spending time in front of computer or TV screens prior to turning down the sheets is guaranteed to mess with our quality of sleep.

To be fair, I am the worst offender in our household. In the past few years, I’ve gotten in the habit of falling asleep in front of a screen because the background noise of a movie or TV show blocked my brain from channel surfing through a whole city of “what-if” thoughts. To make it worse, sleeping to the soothing noise of a Frasier rerun became even easier once we bought an iPad.

But now, like old people, Josh and I avoid screens for an hour or more before bed. Instead, we read. And you know what? I sleep like a BABY that’s been doing push-ups all day. I just turn over and boom, lights out until my alarm goes off. It’s amazing.

Happiness and sleep are super closely linked. Get enough and I’m better equipped to deal with everything from minor annoyances like being out of coffee to responding in a reasonable manner to major life malfunctions such as getting in a fender bender or, even better, avoiding this imaginary fender-bender scenario in the first place because my reflexes are better when I’m sleeping well.

So use my hard-won example and sleep smart, people; just say no to screens.

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