I’ve always had trouble falling asleep. As soon as I go to bed, I start worrying or running over lists of things I need to do (or should have already done). I compose blog posts in my head, make mental grocery lists, berate myself for being so impatient with the kids, worry slightly that someone will break into the house and murder us. And I get stressed about not being about to sleep, which certainly doesn’t help. Basically, I don’t know how to relax.
A few months ago I downloaded an app called Sleep Cycle. It tracks your movement during the night to determine the “quality” of your sleep. You set an interval for your alarm to go off – between 7:00 and 7:30, for example – and it wakes you when you’re already in a light sleep mode. Then in the morning it gives you a graph showing your sleep pattern for the night, and a percent rating for your sleep quality. Bonus: you can enter in notes to see what effect something has on your sleep quality (I learned that a sleeping pill helps me fall asleep, but I toss and turn more, lowering the quality by about 15%; having a stressful day actually increased the quality, likely because I’m so worn out that my body is ready to rest). And then you can chart your sleep over months.
When I first started using the app, it showed the expected hour or so of why-can’t-I-fall-asleep at the beginning of the night. Statistics aside, I wasn’t feeling any better about the sleep I was getting. In the past I’ve tried guided imagery, white noise, various relaxation techniques, and calming bedtime routines to help me fall asleep, but I usually only saw improvement for a week before I was back to square one. Eventually I tried a breathing technique that I think my dad told me about – if I’m not mistaken, it’s called 4×4. You breathe in, hold it, breathe out, hold it, each for 4 counts, and you repeat it 4 times. By the end of it, I was a lot calmer and after making this a habit for a few days, I didn’t have trouble falling asleep. I started in September and don’t worry about going to bed anymore.
I think the combined effect of the Sleep Cycle app and the 4×4 technique is what helps me. With nice charts and statistics, I can really see how much better I sleep if I go to bed early. I’ve had a few nights that earned me a 100% score – and they were all times when I went to bed before 10 and had Jarom home to get up with the kids in the morning. If only I could do that every night!
Not everything can or should be quantified. But sleep? Definitely.
P.S. I stopped worrying about someone breaking in because we live on a decently busy street with our “back” door facing the post office, which has motion-activated lights and maybe even a camera somewhere? I comfort myself by assuming a potential murderer would pick a less well-lit, visible house.