Adulting: Resting Without Sleeping...
I take medicine daily, and unfortunately the side effects cause restless sleep and strange dreams.
For months, I would often wake in the morning and feel downright crappy (not a medical term.) But I’d chug caffeine and take long naps. Naps were especially doable due to COVID and the resulting lockdowns. With most of us restricted to our homes, it was easy to indulge in a little snooze with a cozy blanket.
Of course, I was perpetuating my sleepless cycle, only to return to bed at night wide-awake like a hoot owl. A grouchy one.
It got to the point I had to talk with my psychiatrist, who essentially suggested a list of changes I needed to make. One of them was simple: no more naps.
Of all the nerve.
However, in the quest to improve my sleep, I’ve learned to live my life more restfully without taking naps. Like any great quest, I had doubts I could reach my goal: I didn’t think such a lifestyle possible for me. But I’ve cultivated four habits that helped me do so, and I want to share them with anyone else searching to rest BUT without a nap.
Slowing down during eating.
I began to eat more mindfully. At the instruction of a friend who is a life coach, I started setting a timer for 20 minutes, for one meal a day. All I allowed myself to do was feast and meditate. Preferably, I was to meditate on the food in front of me, the act of chewing, the colorful palate, and the flavors I experienced.
It truly was worth the annoyance of setting a timer. My mind felt calmer, and I felt fuller at the end of the 20 minutes. I began to enjoy the one-to-one time with my food.
Enjoying TV or movies without multitasking.
When the TV screen is on, I like to multitask. It’s second nature to busy my hands with crochet or a similar type craft. So, I intentionally worked on limiting my actions. I would even tuck my phone and iPad away. Instead, I immersed myself in the storyline and focused on the details on the screen. I noticed specifics like the fabric of the heroine’s dress or how her house is decorated. I listened for the accents of the characters.
As a result, I’m rewarded with that satisfying break from life, as I’m being swept away by the plot. I’m also more likely to forget my stresses for the moment. It’s refreshing and feels almost luxurious.
Going to bed early when I can.
I try to develop a margin of time where I’m in bed, but I’m not sleeping. When life is hectic, I know this can’t be every night. But when an early evening happens, I take advantage and crawl into bed. Instead of just sleeping or focusing on sleeping, I work to make my bed a place where I can just relax. Maybe I’ll light a candle for atmosphere. I can read, process my thoughts, or watch a comforting show. One of my friends even does stretching, and I want to try this too.
(I know some people are very against TV/media in the bedroom. I support doing what is best for your situation. In my case, I limit how long I have the screen in front of me.)
By making my bed a place I feel peace, when I am wide awake at night, I find that I am less anxious because I have practiced being relaxed in that space.
Reminding myself I have plenty of time to do the task I need to do.
Unless of course it’s not true.
But when I do have time to say, leisurely drive to my destination, I remind myself of this when I’m first behind the wheel. I tell myself that all I need to do is focus on carefully getting from point A to point B, and that I am not in a race. Pausing to speak to myself helps to calm my mind and even slow my breathing.
Self-talk has been helpful with other chores too – like laundry and cleaning. I remind myself I don’t need to hurry through my chore: there is great satisfaction in watching something being cleansed. It’s good to give myself permission to enjoy the process.
And there you have it: four habits that have lately been my friends.
They weren’t my friends right away. I struggled in my sleepy state. Like me, you may realize how strongly addicted you are to multi-tasking, your phone, and moving at a fast pace. But none of these addictions promote a sense of rest. It took some time, but my sleeping at night has (thankfully) improved.
Again and again we are told we cannot always choose our situation, but we can choose how we react to our situation; let’s intentionally react in a way that is healthy.