THE “S” WORD

I’m not getting enough of it.

Even when I do its not great.

It doesn’t last nearly as long as I want it to.

Ladies, sadly, I think we might have all been in this boat at one time or another.

I don’t mean to boast (I do a little) but, as a general rule, I’m usually very, very good at it. I tentatively verge on going as far as to say I am superb at it. Recently though, and I don’t know what’s changed, it’s all gone awry…

There was me taking it for granted. I could do it practically whenever I wanted practically wherever I wanted. I’ve done it in my bedroom, in a car and on public transport. I might have done it on in my younger days once at work. Hell, I’ve even done it on an aeroplane.

That one important S-word that can transform you into a different person, change your mood and make you so happy.

That’s right.

Sleep.

Such a precious commodity and recently it’s all been going rather wrong.

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***

I find myself laying wide awake for hours with a million thoughts whirring and swirling around my head.

Should I be doing this? Should I be doing that? Why don’t I have an ISA? Oh. Where did that come from? Why has that popped into my head (this is not a blog post about ISAs). Should I have an ISA? Yes, I definitely should. I’m nearly 33. What was it that my Dad said about ISAs? That’s right, flexible ones where you can take money out and put it back in. Ooh, I might just have a little Google. I say I do I, but do I check all the sites? No, just the comparison one (it really isn’t a blog post about ISAs). I locate the best rate.

I hear M stir. I quickly flip the phone over so he can’t see the light (I’ve already turned the screen’s brightness down as far as it will go (I learn quickly if nothing else)). I wait until I know he’s dropped off again. I click my phone back on. I decide to apply for one. The provider informs me it will take 10 minutes and I need my national insurance number too. I decide to do it tomorrow.

I close my eyes. Must sleep. Two minutes pass. I’m not asleep. What was that noise? Is there someone in the house? Surely the burglar alarm would have gone off? Just close your eyes. A car that sounds like a tank travelling at what sounds like 50mph on a 20mph street has sped past and the Blackpool Illumination that is our security light has gone on an lit up the room. Aargh! Why can’t I sleep?

Why can’t I wake up? My alarm is blaring.

Five more minutes. I’ll get up in five minutes.

Forty minutes later and I’m eventually (just) up.

I buy an eye mask online whilst standing on a jam-packed-hot-even-on-a-freezing-cold-day train. I’m grouchy and for the rest of the day I have a cracking headache.

I wish I were better at switching off.

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***

I’m quite aware of my shortcomings which include overthinking and an inability to switch off. Neither of these assist sleep although most of the time I tend it doesn’t even have me. Although sometimes, and for no apparent reason, it does. However, there are three guilty culprits I can point a supremely accusative finger at straight away and at least one of them I’m fully to blame for.

Light
A supremely sensitive safety light outside my bedroom beats the blackout blind. It even beats (surely a winning combination?) of blackout blind and curtains closed. Must get M on a ladder to sort this out. After all he put it up there. I’m sure our neighbours must loathe it too. He’d better get up there before I stick a broom out the windows and use its handle to prise it off or before C from across the road commits neighbourcide. As an interim measure I bought an eye mask. It took me a few nights to get over the slightly odd sensation of having something over my eyes and round my head whilst asleep but it’s been really beneficial and even if I open my eyes it’s still dark. They really did know what they were doing when they made it. Unfortunately it doesn’t quite stop the whirring in my mind though.

More Lights

Speaking of lights, we now have a TV in our bedroom (something I fought heavily against and then succumbed for a quiet life after realising M would watch it in the same way he watched it twice in the 18 months I lived in his old flat – I’d let him have a small victory; an easy give). It has however a little blue light on my side of the room. Our electric blanket (yes, granny I know, but amazing when it’s cold or you feel poorly) also has a little light. Must turn these off at the plugs.

Technology

Completely my fault. Instead of lying there, eyes closed, trying to close my mind (not in  an occlumency/ Harry Potter way but let’s think about that for a second…), I’ll pick my phone up, maybe have a look on ASOS, then put it back down only to pick it up again five minutes later. Why my arms aren’t more toned is beyond me. My bank account on the other hand tends to get a lot of exercise. Silly me for committing my debit card details to memory… Must leave phone on the other side of the bedroom.

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Not me in the morning. Not. Even. Close.

***

I’ve found the following things can help:

My Grandma’s Trick

When I was little, occasionally at a weekend, I would stay with my Grandma and Grandad. If I couldn’t sleep my Grandma always used to tell me to squeeze my muscles as tightly as possible starting with my left leg and working my way round and then relax. I think it relaxes the muscles and it does help.

Lighting (again)

I have  a nightlight (for want of a better word). It’s actually an alarm clock that wakes you up naturally by mimicking sunrise. However, it also has a nifty function where it does the opposite at night so it gradually turns itself off mimicking sunset. Here’s a similar one. There’s a lot of science in here but its aim is assist your sleep/wake cycle by slowly lulling you to sleep rather than just turning the light off.

Elemis
This ties nicely into my April resolution of using what I have. I was given this temple balm in a goodie bag a while ago at a Red Magazine reader event. You dot a few drops of it on your temple (I also do the pulse points on my neck and wrists) and it aids sleeping. It smells divine and after using it repeatedly your mind starts to associate the scent with sleep.

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Bedding
Never underestimate the power of freshly laundered bed linen.

Alcohol
Big night out (read an excess of alcohol) for me equates to one night’s exceptionally poor night’s sleep followed by two night’s similarly poor sleep. Although I don’t need to spell this one out… Avoid it.

Exercise

Also avoid this before bed. It’s a stimulant. Although it may on occasion wear you out, it  is far more likely to stimulate you and keep you awake. I found this happened a lot after evening marathon training runs. If you can work out in the morning or afternoon.

Go To Bed Earlier

And with that, it’s 9.45pm so it’s time for me to down tools and technology, turn everything off at the plug and put my eye mask and balm on.

Goodnight zzz

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