I’ve never been a great sleeper.
My sleep routine has always been a malleable beast, partly due to years of working some unusual hours.
But my sleep pattern has changed this year – less of a pattern, more of an abstract painting.
Each of us is different, so what works for me may not work for you. But having tried a variety of different ways to manage my ME, energy collapses and necessary sleep, here’s where I’ve ended up.
I hope some of these thoughts and principles work for you.
First, and most importantly, stop worrying about sleep. If you doze in the day you can worry you’ve slept so much so you won’t get a good night’s kip that evening. You may doze too little and not restore your energy stores. Worrying about this non-existent magic formula won’t solve anything.
My general sleep pattern now looks something like this:
I go to bed around 8pm to lie flat and relax. I am usually asleep by 10pm and generally sleep through until 5am.
By around 1pm I, again, need to be laid flat in bed, and usually fall asleep really quickly and don’t wake up or get up until around 5pm. That second burst seems to give me enough energy to get me through my evening meal and a bit of time with my fiancé.
On days where there is something more significant in my diary, such as a meal out, I increase the daytime rest. It doesn’t always mean more sleep, but I find lying flat is good for dealing with pain.
I also know that if there is something more energy-consuming in the diary, my sleep pattern goes out of the window. I can easily be in bed for one two or three days. I now don’t fight that. Going with it, and listening to my body’s needs, works best.
Having time to relax, usually alone, before my night time sleep has proved really beneficial to me. Allowing my body’s tension to ease a little does help.
I also avoid screen time in bed. No TV, no checking my mobile (though I sometimes can’t help myself!), and a dark, cool room to doze off in.
The only distraction I use, which really helps me, is speech radio. I put it on a one or two hour timer so it’s not playing all night. I find speech radio or podcasts on things that interest me really helpful to stop the ‘noise’ and thoughts and worries that go through my mind from stopping me falling asleep.
As soon as I get absorbed in whatever debate or conversation is on the radio, my mind stops wandering and I find myself relaxing. I know, for some people, all that talk could actually be a distraction. It’s about what works for you.
If I wake up in the night I try to keep my eyes closed. On most occasions that seems to work and I fall back asleep. It seems so simple and obvious, but as someone who used to struggle with this, it does the trick for me.
Two regular issues I have when I go to bed are pain and restless legs.
There are some days when lying in bed doesn’t relieve my pain. For me, pain around my thighs, tummy, wrists and arms just won’t go away – even with strong painkillers. The best I’ve found is to cocoon myself in my duvets to create a really soft support for the sore bit.
But when my legs get really restless the only answer, for me, is to get out of bed and sit in the lounge for a little bit. I’ve not solved this one, beyond knowing that laying in bed with it causes so much frustration that I can work myself into a bit of a state. It’s just not worth it.
The biggest enemy of my sleep is worry. If my mind can’t relax, my body can’t follow.
For some people, the answer is learning breathing techniques or using meditation podcasts. They don’t seem to do the trick for me – hence the speech radio.
But finding that thing to clear your mind is essential. If you haven’t already, I hope you find yours soon.