Hey Heather, it's me again.

Sleepless nights

Hey Heather, it's me again.

Addendum: so apparently some of the claims in the book by Matthew Walker misrepresent the research cited and exaggerate the problems with lack of sleep. Now I haven’t read the book, I just listened to an interview with him. But in light of this information I think I’m going to take the same stance on sleep as I take on food: with a grain of salt.

Everyone has advice and a sample size of one. So I’ll just test some stuff out and find what works for me. From the tips that are listed in the following text what I’ve mostly applied is:

The other habits which have had positive effects in the past are waking up without an alarm and having a regular-ish sleep schedule. I’ll eventually try to incorporate those again.

For the last year and a half my sleep schedule has been pretty disrupted. I’ll spare you the details but suffice to say that this has a negative impact on my being. I’ve gradually been taking steps to try and remedy the situation and thought I’d share some information I came across. What I’m sharing comes from Matthew Walker, a scientist and professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California. Here are the main tips I heard him discuss. I’ll elaborate my take on them afterwards:

  1. Regularity: go to sleep at the same time everyday.
  2. Cool room: the room temperature should between 18.5°C and 20°C.
  3. Lights out: make sure your room is blackout dark.
  4. Beverage control: No caffeine in the afternoon and no alcohol in the evening.
  5. Get up: Don’t stay in bed for more than 20 minutes if you’re not sleeping

Simple, yet somewhat difficult too. For instance, you can be pretty consistent during the week but once Friday rolls around and you have dinner plans, or parties, or like me you late-night overindulge on Bon Appétit videos, your schedule gets out of sync with your intentions. I haven’t figured out regularity yet. Right now I’m just glad I’m not hitting the hay at 5am and lamenting that I should’ve known better. Anyway, for regularity you have to find something that works with your schedule and activities. Some compromises may need to be made. It’s a work in progress.

I’ve got a trick for keeping the temperature cool. So realistically, I don’t want to be cold. It’s not my jam. However your body needs to lower its temperature to initiate sleep. In the interview it’s suggested to take a hot bath or shower before going to bed because it helps lower your core temperature. This has to do with vasodilation and the fact that your blood rushes to the surface of your skin after a hot bath. I didn’t find an explanation on how this works exactly but I’m assuming this somehow helps your body in expelling heat. In my case what I do before hopping into the shower is I turn up the heat in my room so that it’s at a comfortable temperature when I get out. Once I’m ready for bed, I just turn it back down. This takes care of the dread I feel right before entering what I know to be a cold room. After I turn it down, the room cools fairly quickly too, especially this time of year.

For the lighting situation, I had struggled quite a bit. Trying to tape different parts of the blinds. Putting sheets in front of the gaps of the door. Now I just have a very soft and light sleep mask. It’s very comfortable and doesn’t bother me. The only problem is that it sometimes slips off. Not as often as I thought it would though! Some can be expensive I think but I got mine for about $15. I’m satisfied with it and would buy again.

Beverages! Alright. So I really like coffee. But I don’t drink it the same way I see other people drink it. Some people are content with large volumes of subpar milk coffee beverages from dirty, lactose-encrusted tube machines. I’ll pass. Some have also mentioned needing it to function in general. I don’t want that discomfort. I don’t like having a headache when I’ve not had coffee so I avoid drinking it in an excessive manner. I’ll have maybe one espresso a week, if that. If I want a hot beverage in the afternoon I sometimes get a decaf moka since it has a less caffeine (it still has some though!!). Or I’ll opt for a hot chocolate with oat milk. I’m all about the oat milk nowadays. I like having a hot beverage to hold when it’s cold out. Tea is a good option too. As for alcohol… well I like alcohol. Different types for different reasons and occasions. I don’t think I drink that often though so this isn’t causing sleep issues. If I do drink a bit too much I have other things to worry about. Like the distance between a drain and myself.

Lastly I find the recommendation to avoid staying in bed more than 20 minutes if you’re not asleep doesn’t apply to me. Or maybe I’m trying to persuade myself that it doesn’t. For now, I’m just generally skipping this recommendation. The problem I’m having isn’t the falling asleep part, it’s the getting to the place where sleep happens at a reasonable time. Which reminds me. Maybe I shouldn’t be up late writing these words.

Do as I say. Not as I do.

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