As a reader, I enjoy hearing about the challenges other people encounter in their quest to improve their lives. It's more interesting to read about what didn't work, right? I guess I kinda made that the point of this blog, to challenge myself enough to fail. But I'd rather just write about success. It's hard to report failure, or inconsequential results.
I've gotten basically nowhere with improving my sleep. In this post, I said I'd try to stop looking at my phone, eat less before bed, and cut back on alcohol. My goal is to increase the quality of my sleep, which will hopefully allow me to decrease the amount of time I spend in bed. And then I'll use that time for more creative things... like writing fiction (another fail - I mean progress - post to follow soon, I'm sure).
What I Tried
For a week or so, I kept detailed notes about what I did before bed and how I slept that night. I noted whether I drank alcohol and if so, how much, if I ate and how much, how tired I felt physically, and anything else I thought might impact my sleep that night. I tried to plug my phone in without looking at it and read on my Kindle instead.
Two minor things became clear. It turns out that how tired I feel has very little to do with how I sleep. But the bed being decently made certainly helps, especially toward morning when I'm more likely to be irritated by a failure to find the top sheet. I seem to be particularly fond of the top sheet. I get irritated when I can't it, and when it comes loose from the bottom of the bed. I'll get up in the middle of the night and demand that it be fixed. When I read about people making up their beds without a top sheet, as if a washable duvet cover could even come close, I realize poor Eric is probably one of their kind, but I don't ask because I really don't want to know. Also, I have to remember that sometimes I make him get up in the middle of the night so I can fix the sheet.
I honestly can't tell if not looking at my phone helped or not, because I found it to be nearly impossible. I didn't notice a difference on the couple nights I succeeded. However, it is much easier for me to fall asleep while reading on my Kindle than it is when I'm looking at the phone. When I'm ready to fall asleep, I put my phone down and read until I can't keep my eyes open. At any rate, I'm reading more.
Eating less before bed had the biggest impact. This makes sense to me, because digestion takes energy and is sometimes disturbing even when I'm awake. I can eat a little bit and sleep fine, but if I eat a lot, it makes me more restless. I work evenings, so I often come home hungry. It's not easy to go to bed without eating a lot, but when I can do it, it pays off in better sleep. If I'm hungry at night and I don't eat at all, though, I sometimes get so hungry toward morning that that wakes me up. This has an easy enough solution (eat something light) and I'm working to implement that. Even on nights when I really want to eat an entire pizza.
Whether or not I drank alcohol and how much made a difference, too, but not in the way I expected. I got the best sleep on nights when I had one or two drinks. I know some people swear by having a drink or two before bed, and the evidence from my Fitbit shows that on nights I do that, I get more deep sleep and I am less restless. Any more than a couple drinks, though, and my sleep suffers quite a bit, especially later in the night. But I'm pretty sure everything I've read says alcohol shouldn't help me sleep. And as much as I like to drink, I don't want to drink every night. I certainly don't want to have to drink every night.
After a week of keeping notes, I stopped. My sleep stats according to Fitbit are pretty predictable. They're just not what I want.
What I'm Going to Try
I have one more thing I want to try: guided meditations for sleep.
I've used them in the past to help me fall asleep and I remember thinking I slept well on those nights. I'm going to try to use them every night for a week straight and see what happens. See if the Fitbit data supports how I felt in the past.
And if that doesn't work, I guess I'll try to cut out caffeine. Sob.
Also, I ordered this pillow today. I've been sleeping with the same pillow for years, a latex pillow that came with our mattress, and I'm wondering if I can do better. It has great reviews. I'll let you know how it goes.
Mid-Point (?) Conclusions
It is so tempting to quit trying after my first attempts at something don't work, or to move on and pretend like nothing happened. It feels better when my changes work out great, are easy to implement and don't require much work. But that's not how it's going these days. Sleep happens to be one of many areas where the changes I'm trying aren't working out the way I want them to. It's tempting to call it a day and let good enough be.
But I am not ready to give up. It's possible I'm going in all the wrong directions, but I'm pretty sure I'm not where I want to be, not yet. I've made progress in some areas - I'm working out regularly, meditating almost every day, I bring home very little stress from work, I read every day - but I'm still not able to make enough room in my days for writing fiction.
On the surface, getting better sleep might not appear to have a lot to do with writing fiction. It's just part of my attempts to find more time. But the challenges are similar in some ways, in that they're not coming easily for me, and I feel like I need to keep trying, and hold myself accountable.
Blogging about it is keeping me accountable. Thanks for reading.