Sleep and I have not been the best of friends for a long time. According to my FitBit, for a while there I was averaging 4-5 hours per night. 6 on a 'sleep in' day.
My full-time day job begins at 7 a.m. Monday through Friday. The pets tend to wake me up at 5 for their breakfast no matter what day of the week it is. Then I've got fitness goals to conquer (I run an ultra-marathon every summer), a hyper-active Aussiedoodle to wrangle, this writing career I'm grinding away at, a garden to maintain, a Burning Man camp to work on 1/2 of the year, and sometimes I like to do really exciting things like, go grocery shopping or make dinner.
Toss in a healthy sprinkling of Bay Area traffic for good measure, and all of that doesn't leave a lot of time for sleep. It's so tempting to just stay up "one more hour" or "until this mother-forking draft does what I tell it to do!"
But I was going slowly mad with sleep deprivation (it can't be entirely the traffic's fault... right?) and I knew I had to make some changes. Here's what I came up with.
1. Prioritized my morning workout.
The cats are going to jump on my face before dawn no matter what I do, so I went ahead and just embraced that reality. I make it easier on myself by setting out my workout clothes, a clean water bottle, and a fresh towel the night before. Having all of the prep work done first makes it easier for my pre-coffee brain to handle getting out there.
Getting the workout done first thing in the morning also gives me the psychological boost of getting to cross off one of the more tedious day's tasks right away. Even if you're not much for exercise, I recommend at least starting out your morning with some yoga or a stretching routine.
2. Set a firm bedtime
This goes hand-in-hand with #1. I'm in bed no later than 10 p.m. every night for a minimum of 7 hours of sleep. But how? You ask.
3. No caffeine after 5 p.m.
I used to drink coffee, tea, or other caffeinated beverages from sun-up until long after sundown and just let body figure out when it felt like crashing. Once I locked myself into a firm sleep schedule, I found that drinking caffeine in the evenings made for long and annoying hours staring restlessly into the dark as my brain cycled through every possible thing it could think of before shutting down for the night.
I decided that once I'd had my afternoon coffee, that was it. No more caffeine for the rest of the night.
4. Herbal tea + melatonin supplement = Zzzzzzz
I like to wind down at night with a cup of Sleepytime or Nighty Night tea for that extra-cozy sensation to help me relax. If I'm extra-stressed or if the hamsters are running overtime in my brain, I'll add a melatonin supplement. Melatonin may not only help you fall asleep faster, but it can actually improve the quality of your sleep.
5. No phones in the bedroom
And absolutely NO social media! This is a big one. I put my phone on Do Not Disturb and leave it charging in my office downstairs. If it's on the nightstand, it's far too easy for me to just check "one more thing" from bed and before I know it it's 2 a.m. and I'm most likely really mad about something. Just keep the phone out of reach. You're not missing anything. Our nightmare reality & pop culture hot takes will still be there when you wake up.