I’ve always had a bit of a love hate relationship with sleep. Having worked in an industry for years which required me to be up before the birds - most mornings between 4:30 and 6am. When you work on film and tv, there is a horrible cycle which happens. First of all, you have to be up at aforementioned godforsaken time in order to be in the arse end of Wicklow for whatever time you are required. I have had call times of 4:30am - in Wicklow. An hour’s drive away. So that of course means getting up in the middle of the night, while Jo Normal is falling out of the pub down the road having a grand old time for himself. This in turn means an early bedtime. Mondays are the hardest, you’ve had 2 days to re-sync your body clock with lie ins, which inevitably get disturbed by your natural ability to rise at 5am. Come Sunday night, the alarm clock goes back on, for hideous o’clock - the anxiety sets in. What if it doesn’t go off? What if I don’t hear it?? What if the electricity goes in the night, then the power in the phone goes and no one can even call to tell me I’m late??? What if I get fired????? As you can imagine, such anxiety does not bode well for sleep. Thus the cycle begins, the restless night. Tossing, turning, am I awake or asleep? Just as that hazy inexplainable deliciousness of sleep takes over, your trusty neighbour begins hauling their bin out to the pavement, jolting you back to reality, away from that soft warm place where call times do not exist. How dare they. Come to think of it, it’s only 8pm.
This kind of a night’s sleep has happened to us all. The worst thing you can do is look at the time. This breeds anxiety. Christ it’s midnight! Only 4 and a half hours till I have to be up. An hour later (almost to the minute), it’s 1am, I’m really treading on thin ice now etc etc. The night perpetuates as such, you’ve been there, you know. It’s a ticking time bomb which culminates in the alarm blasting into your ear just as you found yourself in that real ecstatic sleep. Bloody hell.
If it wasn’t an alarm clock playing on my mind, it was pretty much everything else. Every slight conversation I’ve had with people in the last five years, stuff they certainly do not remember, however has shown up loud and clear to haunt me just as I tuck myself in. Endless nights of worrying about the most minuscule, pointless things. My sleep suffered for a long time because of this. In the past year or so, I’ve decided that sleep is my number one favourite activity, maybe because I was deprived of it for so long. I need 7-8 hours to function properly, so one day I just decided that no, random people whom I talked to at work 2 years ago are not going to keep me from my beloved slumber. I’m taking it back.
I have trained myself to fall asleep rather quickly and pretty early by society’s standards. A few things that have helped me
-YOGA, I mean obviously. But in all seriousness, doing a strong yoga practice tires me out so at bedtime I am actually sleepy. Deeper than that, Yoga has given me a sense of self and purpose, which in turn is a great way of disregarding that conversation you had about 4 months ago with your boss/ ex boyfriend/ colleague /milkman which is keeping you awake after lights out.
-Mediative breathing. Focus on the breath, counted breath, elongated breath - any kind of breath work which stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system helps me to sleep.
-Podcasts. I listen to meditation podcasts in bed sometimes, I like gentle noise as I’m falling asleep. I highly recommend Tara Brach.
-Melatonin. Occasionally I’ll take a melatonin, not very often - but they absolutely work.
Nowadays I go to sleep at around 8:30pm each night. I am aware that to most people how ridiculous that is, but if you knew how much joy it gives me to get into bed at the end of a long day - it is my happy, safe, place. I love sleeping so much and am so acutely aware of how it affects my physical and cognitive function, having run on so little for so many years. Sleep is one of the building blocks for good health, on that note, it’s time for me to hit the hay!
Sweet Dreams x