Saturday, June 23, 2012

How to sleep at night

While a large fraction of us between the ages of 20 and 35 have no trouble claiming that we are night birds and even insomniacs, most of us do not really know what a true nocturnal or an insomniac even looks like. Should we really pride ourselves in being that? As much as it is a great fad to claim our differences from regular society, to show that in irregular eating or sleeping habits has an awful cost to benefit ratio. While a structured life is seemingly dull, you will be surprised how much a structured life can do to allow you to do your favorite awesome things better. A low effort high reward means of structuring is to just sleep at the right times. They need not be fixed for everyone in the world, but they need to be fixed for you and they need to be normalized to your surroundings. Here I present the one thing that I have through years of not doing in grad school.

1. Physically exhaust yourself

If you are reading this, chances are you are not someone whose job description is "heavy macho-ness". You work, drive, and unwind in the same position with a screen in front of you and at the end of the day, you have put your mind through a cane juicer. Physically you probably have given your eyes a heat-stroke but nothing more. The discrepancy between your mental activity and physical activity is what makes you toss around even if you force wrap yourself into your sleep-face. But if you could have some sort of physical activity for an hour or two (you have to sweat) to end your day, the physical  exhaustion should automatically lull you to a good sleep.

2. Eat 

It seems alright and even fun sometimes to skip meals. But starting with your mood, it could go on to determine if your grandchildren live to be 30 or 60. It may be hard to whip up mom quality meals four times each day especially if you are single. A bare-basic meal will suffice but it has to be there. When you have your meals is also crucial. Start with a 7-day program where you eat at the same time each day and eat enough quality food and the difference will start to show. Preparing the meal and cleaning up later could be part of your physical activity.

3. Make yourself comfortable

In some cases this could be a luxury but it is obvious that you need to be in a nice relaxed position to doze off. A lot of times however the determinant of comfort is mental. You could be in the best therapeutic bed and still toss around with all the thoughts running through your head. Empty your mind. If ambient noise is your thing, have that work in your favor. Stop analyzing. If you survive to to see the next morning, you can think about it. If you don't, it doesn't matter anyway. A lot of times though, the mental wandering is because of something that fuels the itch, which brings us to...

4. Tune out

Turn off that computer. You really do not need the music running. Those youtube cat videos, those facebook updates, those not-that-funny memes, all those tweets and blogs that just came up will not change your world forever, though a good night's rest could. If everything were to disappear when you ignored it and went to sleep, you'd never take a vacation ever. Oh you don't? Never mind.

5. Have a partner

I found that when I had my sleep irregularities in grad school, I kept a perfect 11 pm - 7 am sleep schedule when I visited my parents on vacation. I definitely was not working hard though I was eating better and stayed disconnected from the interwebs. But mostly it was simply because everyone else in the house was doing it. It worked as some sort of group therapy where I was comfortable with sleeping at 11 pm and springing out at 7 am because the others were. Having a partner for sleep works just like having a partner at the gym. Now you don't have to work too hard and find someone that will live with you. You could just have an agreement with a similarly afflicted friend and work the program from where you are. 

5. Plan it

You will find that as much as sleep can help organize your life, organizing the rest of your day will help you sleep better. Make your sleep time that important to you. Do not skip that crucial time point that you are meant to retire at. For anything or anyone. Not everyday is an emergency. Those emails can wait until the morning. If they can't then it is too late anyway and the repercussions can be dealt with tomorrow. A good night's rest is a great reward to sleeping on time. Reward yourself for waking up in the morning too, with the thought or the song that you itched to listen to when you had to retire. It will give you something to wake up for.

You will find that a great many things will start looking better. Your health and energy will be on the upward trend. You will be able to restrain your need to do things impulsively. You will be able to channel your mind and body better. It is really all about the self-love. Once you have one important thing figured everything else falls in place automatically. If it doesn't, we'll deal with it tomorrow morning.

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