When I dealt with insomnia, falling asleep was the most challenging thing to do. Now that I am back in a creative business I love on top of writing, going to bed has been more difficult than I like. Why? Well, creative people have a hard time sleeping. I designed a whole dress in my sleep once and woke up realizing I had been sleepwalking. To my dismay, a pair of scissors were next to my head with scraps of fabric twisted in the sheets and said to myself: “NEVER AGAIN!” Talk about a terrible way to wake up, with the sun rays bouncing off a pair of scissors. And, I am NOT a sleepwalker. It was a one-time thing, but the experience scared me into being better about creating routines.
The reason that happened was, I didn’t allow time the night before to unwind. If you work until the eleventh hour, you’ll regret it the next day. For me, if I do have a rare sleepwalk, that means I’m not adequately balancing my time. Regardless of what’s going on in my schedule or twirling in my thoughts, falling asleep feels like pulling teeth to me (or walking in the dark). The last two years of my life were about this continual pattern of mine; this inability to shut off both sides of my over-analyzing over-thinking brain come dusk. A creative mind is a lot like a 24/7 factory; always producing, lit up with ideas, and I’ll be lying in bed at 1:00 in the morning and pulling out my sketch pad to get an idea on paper.
Yes, I’ll admit, sleep got bad again recently and had to rewire my routine. Time blocking is one tool I utilize to ensure I am not over-working. In the early hours of the morning when I’m buzzing with creativity, I write, In the afternoon, I sew. How you divide your day says a lot about how you value the time you’re given. When you are functioning on lack of sleep, it’s impossible to manage. You become susceptible to blunders and making decisions on the fly that end up negatively impacting you when well-rested you would have done something differently. Sometimes, we need to reevaluate and change up our routines so we can get that restful, restorative sleep your body deserves.
I quit working at 5:30 P.M., no excuses. And yes, some days I’ll have to pry myself away from something, but I know if I don’t stop, I’ll be setting myself up for disaster the next day. As a work-from-home entrepreneur with my own business, I set my hours to ensure everyone is benefited: both my customers and me. I am someone who genuinely cares about the quality of all the work I do, but I will no longer ever jeopardize that with those all-nighters I used to pull in college. It’s not worth it.
2. Stretch and do deep breathing
This is critical. Deep breathing tames the central nervous system and if you had a tough day, shutting the brain up seems impossible. I do several deep breathing techniques and also breathe into twenty or thirty minutes of stretches. Breathing can be a powerful tool for quieting our noisy thoughts and also can rewire our thinking paths. For instance, I just had an experience the other night where I was over-analyzing a situation to the point of obsessing about it. In a moment of pause, I went into my living room and followed a different yoga routine I’d never tried before. Within ten minutes, I felt grounded and better.
3. Do an activity that calms you down
In the recent weeks, I’ve been using those adult coloring books, and they are so enjoyable for me. This activity, which is also called ‘Color Me Calm’ does just that. It’s really a brainless activity, requires not much thinking and any thoughts bothering me, I simply color away until I’m in a Zen state. It’s a nice break from the intricate work I’d do during busy afternoons. If you want to change your focus or recenter your mind so you can relax and go to sleep at night, you might want to give this a try. I also do puzzles as well to tire my brain out and works like a charm.
4. Stay off your phone
I’m sure you see this everywhere, but it must be stressed again. Even these days, I’ll find myself on my phone lying in bed at 9:00 at night browsing Instagram. Now, I use friendlier media and listen to soft music on YouTube or ocean waves or nature sounds on my iPod. I turn the screen’s blue light off. These natural sounds drift my thoughts to a peaceful place. I do this every night, and it sure sets the tone for sleep.
5. Clean something
Another thing I spend about fifteen minutes on is cleaning the kitchen. I never skip a beat. If I go to bed with a dirty kitchen, my mornings are interrupted, and stress level escalates. Since I’ve made this a routine, I’d wake up to the smell of fresh scents and make breakfast immediately. This is also a way to take control of your schedule so you’re not over-cleaning when you should be relaxing or working. Fifteen minutes or less of washing the dishes, I’ve found, is very calming.
6. Write down accomplishments that day and goals for the next day
This is a big one. This kind of journaling is quicker, takes me minutes, and is a nice way to empty your brain of tasks left undone or jobs you still need to tackle. Writing out what you did on the same day will remind you of how much you’re already doing. Including your goals for the next day will give you a direction and an idea of where you are time-wise with projects. It’s a nice way to reframe your thinking about all you’re doing as well. Doing this has, in turn, changed the way I work regarding speed and efficiency. Most importantly, though, when I get things on paper, I fall asleep easier and stay asleep.
These are just ideas and what I do to unwind. Everyone is different and has different schedules, so do what’s best and works for you. In the few hours before bed, I’ve found that engaging in some kind of activity keeps you off your phone, allowing the melatonin to sink in and prepare you for sleep. Even minor adjustments to your lifestyle will make an enormous difference and you’ll feel restored, energized and excited to see the sun in the morning.