Oh how important good sleep is. And how evasive it can be when you are mental stressed. One of my major triggers for Bi Polar mania or psychosis is when I can’t sleep. So I really pay attention to my sleep patterns and I work hard to make sure I get good sleep.
It’s all about ritual. I believe the best way to have good sleep is to be conscious about your sleep time ritual. You have to, at the same time every day, do a bedtime “I am going to sleep” ritual.
It is important that I do this at the same time every day. My body responses best to consistency. That’s how good habits are formed.
So about 8:30 I start with stretching, breathing. I love this. I do this downstairs away from the bedroom. But I know it is part of my sleep preparation and decompressing. (Isn’t that a great way to look at it – I am decompressing from my busy day) I always finish with a big stretch up and my hands in prayer position; a final thank you to the day that is closing.
I also do a meditation every night before I come up stairs to bed. Just 20 minutes of conscious breathing and clearing of my mind. It’s simple. As soon as I find my mind wandering from the breath, I say in my head “Thinking” and then refocus of the breath. It feels wonderful.
I make a cup of tea and head upstairs. I drink camomile tea. You can add lavender and valerian for a definite relaxer.
Whilst the tea cools I put on my clean pyjamas and get into bed. Now I write in my journal. Mostly I write about the day I have just had. I also make sure I do 10 things I give gratitude for.
Then I read or I look at my tablet. On my tablet I don’t do social media, too much stimuli. Instead I look for inspiration on You Tube, so I can end the day on a positive. Experts say that you shouldn’t do anything with a screen as it emits blue light. This impedes the production of melatonin. But to be honest, I’ve had nights with no tablet and I don’t notice a difference. If I read, again I make it easy; a magazine or a not-too-stimulating book. Reading really helps me to fall asleep.
Next I drink my tea. I am convinced it helps to relax me. I don’t care if it is placebo, whether it really does make a difference. I believe it does, so it does! A lovely bed time brew.
Sometimes I listen to gentle music, something that calms me.
About now I have to pee so I get up and do my business and I brush my teeth. I cream my face. It is important to add self-care into the sleep ritual: Lovely to feel fresh and pampered.
Off to bed. Head down on the pillow. It’s time to sleep. I close my eyes, I take a deep breath.
And then it starts; the thinking, the whirring, the wakefulness. This is my trouble spot, GETTING TO SLEEP! Once I get to sleep I am Ok. But getting there is my challenge. We are all different. My lovely husband falls asleep as soon as his head hits the pillow. I am filled with envy as I hear his gentle snoring. But alas, he wakes in the night and can’t get back to sleep. We all have our challenges.
Like I said, my challenge is getting to sleep. I’ve tried to turn off my brain; mostly by counting my breaths. Nothing seems to help. Rather than push the river and get uptight about this, I go with the flow and make this challenge my friend. What I have done is accepted that I’m going to have a brain buzz. That, despite my best effort, I am going to be totally awake. So what I have done is trained myself to think positively. If I am going to think, I am going to think positive. I don’t keep myself awake with worry. I think of things I am looking forward to, I think of thinks I have done that have brought me pleasure, I think of things I have just watched on You Tube. I have not got rid of the wound up time, but I have made it a positive and I don’t feel nearly as tight.
Eventually I fall asleep. About 10:30. That’s reasonable. That’s why I start 2 hours earlier. Sleep is so important, it must be respected.
Sometimes I do wake in the middle of the night. Some experts suggest that if you are awake you should get up and do something. I prefer to stay in bed and breath and wait for sleep to return. It always does.
And then the most important thing, when your alarm goes off – get up. Don’t press the snooze button. Just get up. Sleep is over for another day. Sleep is over.
About the Author – Kate Hull Rodgers is an expert by experience. She has been mentally ill since 1986, more than 30 years. She is diagnosed as bi polar and GAD, (generalized anxiety disorder), every day she battles to be in recovery, many days she wins. She speaks in corporate workplaces with her company www.humourus.co.uk. She has spoken in 29 countries. Also she runs Stepping Stone Theatre for Mental Health www.steppingstonetheatre.co.uk with her husband, Bill- and she is still happily married. Mustn’t forget, she is the proud mother of Harvey and Dominic – and the dog, Zebbie.