Woe Is Me! “I Simply Cannot Sleep Before the Crack of Dawn”
Woe Is Me! is a series in which The Swaddle team indulges your pity party with advice you’ll probably ignore.
“I can’t sleep before 5.a.m. That’s it, that’s the woe.”
— Confused Nyctophiliac
AS: Many people I know face issues while trying to fall asleep. In most cases, they say the problem arises because at a time when their mind should be shutting down, it becomes hyperactive. What I’ve felt in such situations has been like a light buzz in my head, as (mostly negative) thoughts rush through it at a 100 km/h.
As I’ve tried to regularize my own sleeping routine, I’ve asked myself these questions: What is it that I’m thinking about and are my thoughts rational? Why do I feel the need to watch something right before bed, despite knowing that the blue light from screens makes me less sleepy? Is this out of boredom or more frequent during a period of stress? Or is it because I took a nap during the day and my body is not tired enough? In short – just doing a survey of sorts, to see whether my own habits are to blame, and then attempting to fix those by, say, reading or listening to music before bed.
However, it’s possible that you (like me) have googled this before and have already tried fixing everything in your power. If you still find yourself in the same situation day after day (or should I say dawn after dawn?), I’d recommend you consider getting professional help. I am no expert on sleeping disorders, but I understand that they can be manifestations of deeper, more serious bodily and mental health concerns. You deserve to lead a full, healthy life and getting an expert’s opinion really can’t hurt.
RD: You and me both. I recently read a tweet about this phenomenon called revenge bedtime procrastination, which people do when they don’t really have control over their day-life and so they try to exercise it at night by being up, even though they know it’s detrimental to their health. Nighttime is just so freeing — everybody’s asleep, so there’s nobody to be accountable to, which makes being up super peaceful. I get it.
But as someone who has a daytime job, being up until 5 a.m. also makes me miserable because I’m not able to do what I like while at my best. I don’t know if you have a job that requires you to be awake and on it during the day — if yes, then try to correct your cycle by consciously attempting to sleep even though you might not feel sleepy, and space out what you like to do at night over a week, so you’re not missing out on your favorite activities. If it’s not a matter of choice, then go see a doctor. Try and figure out what’s going on with your body, mind included.
KB: Stop making excuses and go to sleep. That’s it, that’s the advice.
Just kidding, I can’t do one liner advice. Sleep habits are habits, just like any other. They become self-reinforcing and increasingly entrenched the more you indulge them. They also feel unbreakable. But, just like all bad habits, this one can be broken, and it is vitally important to break it. There are mountains of evidence that getting enough sleep, and sleep at the right times (that is, when our circadian rhythms require it), is a crucial component of good health on basically every parameter imaginable. So, no excuses.
If you’re having trouble relaxing and settling down to sleep, stop scrolling, stop tapping, stop engaging with all your devices at a set time in the evening. Force yourself to read a physical book for 30 minutes before “bedtime,” and then turn off the lights at bedtime. Being deliberate in that way might help you break the very unhealthy cycle you’re in. You’ll soon see that you can and you should sleep before 5 a.m.
DR: Your inability to sleep could be a sleep disorder like insomnia. But, before my pandemic-inspired pessimism leads you to the worst conclusion, perhaps, you should try some easy techniques to fall asleep. For instance, you can look up rain sounds meant to induce sleep on YouTube. That works really well for me. Another thing that has worked for me, at least, is placing a cooling pad over my eyes when I get to bed.
You can try to take some time out of your chores, or your work schedule, to fit in things you enjoy doing during the course of the day. But, if nothing works, therapy might? Please do address this sleeplessness though. It’s very important for both your mental and physical well-being. Good luck!
AM: You’re not alone! A lot of people are going through this given the current times we’re all living in. Is there something you’re worried about? Or are you just lying down staring into a screen? If it’s the former, then you’re the best judge of what it is and possible solutions for it. If it’s the latter, then what helps me is that I set a deadline and spend only that much time on social media or watching stuff.
Then the phone, or any other gadget, is away. If you think you’ll be tempted to pick it up again, just put it in another room. I know of people who even lock it up in their cupboards. Sadly, our generation has to come up with these ways to perform tasks as essential as sleeping on time. If you think about it, you’ll even realize that you’re probably feeling tired all day or not being able to perform even easy tasks and if it’s something that makes you upset then you’ll be motivated to sleep on time.
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