As I’ve mentioned earlier, I hate to give up. So if you’re interested in that whole “go to bed at sunset” thing, read on, Adventurer.
Be warned: mild attempts to be funny AND a printable card lie ahead.
The whole story began when I talked to my TCM practitioner. She asked for my bedtime. I said “it depends”. She knew exactly what I was talking about, I could see that, because she clicked her tongue and shook her head in disapproval. She said:
You must go to sleep at 21:00, and you adjust the amount of sleep to the amount of work you had during the day. Busy day = lot of sleep. Easy day = less sleep. But go to sleep early. Better get up very early than go to bed late.
At least I believe that’s what she said. She’s sweet and lovely but she’s really got that distinct way of mis-pronouncing things that drives you insane. (Oh, and I’ve told the whole story on how to survive in a metropolis here.)
But then I gave it a try. You might even still memorise the flop.
ROUND 2: IN SLEEP, LIKE IN WAR, PREPARATION IS KEY
Let me first demonstrate the TCM sleep routine’s Natural Enemies, in descending order:
- Work (critical)
- Partner/family (critical)
- Friends (vicious)
- TV shows (minor, but many)
- Lack of time (minor, but persistent) and its relative
- Lack of proper motivation (minor, but clingy AKA your weaker self)
MEET THE TCM SLEEP ROUTINE ENEMIES (THE BOSS LEVEL)
WORK. Clearly, and this should be a huge disclaimer thing on that whole TCM clock idea, is that the system only works for people with 9-to-5-ish working hours. I can’t and, frankly, I don’t want to imagine a night nurse sound asleep at 22:00.
Also: shame on me for failing the Sleep Lab while not being a night nurse!
PARTNER. Completely unpredictable but critical for your sleep routine success. They got their own set of circumstances – work, family, friends, hobby, stress, lack of time, lack of understanding…They might or might not be wonderful and supportive. They might or might not sabotage your pretty TCM sleep timeline. They might support you all the way and metaphorically stab you in the back, willingly or not, reproaching or complaining.
FAMILY. Gosh. I don’t know if the TCM sleep thing ever works in families with kids. Or in large families. Even my mother who lives across the town was totally puzzled to discover I was unreachable when she is at the peak of her daily activity between 11 pm and 2 am! She considers this a mood: “You’ve always been rather crazy.” See, the family is more likely to take the piss out of you for your newest quirk than your partner who sees how much you need that proper sleep.
FRIENDS. Oh, the doubtful pleasure of having friends all across the globe – and brand new parents in town! No one to explain to why those BBQ nights are now history.
But if they come visiting, they will be more than bewildered to discover their hosts dozing off right after the light vegan and alcohol-free dinner. You might consider providing your guest room with a minibar stuffed with booze and junk food and an extra WLAN account for guests. Really, this is Modern Hospitality – if they didn’t jump the Healthy Bandwagon by now, they never will. Let them eat Mac.
Your friends on the interwebs or your MMO gamers will be far more cool, supportive, and fun. Believe me, they totally mock you behind your back, but you never notice…
MEET THE MINOR, YET ANNOYING, ENEMIES
TV SHOWS. What a shame. We got smart technical solutions for watching our fave shows whenever we like and still the habit of gathering round the fire (the telly) in the evening is strong. I don’t even like most prime time shows! But the flickering light and the lively sounds are so dear to our civilised hearts…
LACK OF TIME. German grandmas tell their grandchildren “I-Can’t lives in I-Don’t-Want-Town”. 😉 Often enough, the same thing applies to the “lack of time” excuse. Unless you’re a night nurse. Sigh.
LACK OF PROPER MOTIVATION. A close relative to the lack of time, and frankly, if you don’t want, why bother?
OVERCOMING THE MINOR ENEMIES
While those three tend to cluster and to distract you – you suddenly got plenty of time and motivation to watch funny vids on YouTube or to chat on Twitter – they also tend to lose momentum once you’re set. Determined. Is curiosity your motivator? Or is it the pain that drives you – are you constantly tired without any medical reason? We all blame spring for the ennui, and summer for the lazyness-inducing heat, and in autumn it’s the days getting shorter, while in winter it’s hibernation… Gosh, it’s Sleepy Beauty 24/7!
No, let’s not give in.
OVERCOMING THE BOSS ENEMIES!
Let me repeat something I’ve stated before. Preparation is key. This is how my TCM test succeeded, well, with minor flaws, hold on for that.
The day my Sleep Lab TCM (round 2) started, hasn’t been day 1. It has been day 0. The day BEFORE.
Any quiet day is right. Any day you can make sure you eat good food (a substantial breakfast, a healthy lunch, a light dinner), and can stop your day work at 8 pm sharp.
But before we look at the time schedule for Day 0, let’s get an important little additional info on food.
Some researchers point out that tryptophan, an amino acid our body needs for serotonine production, helps promote sleep. Vegan tryptophan sources are soybeans (try edamame as a bedtime snack), sesame seed, sunflower seed, oats, chickpeas, pure chocolate (Lyss, please back me up on this!), rice, potatoes, and banana. Vegetarians can add Parmeggiano, Cheddar, salmon, and eggs to the list.
I think it’s a nice way to promote healthy sleep while we’re about to change the bedtime and stuff. Amirite?
So let’s see how you could start smoothly (worked for me).
TIME SCHEDULE DAY 0
At noon: Take your time preparing your Tomorrow early – pick the clothes you’ll want to wear, pack the bag, load the smartphone, write the to-do-list or check your agenda in advance – whatever you’ll need for that First Day’s Morning to begin with minimum mess.
1-2 pm: Eat and celebrate a healthy lunch, vegetarian or vegan preferably. Try to incorporate the food we talked about right above. (NB: I remember my difficulties to get some sleep back then when spare ribs and steaks were on my menu!)
2-4 pm: Do something pleasant, but not too invigorating. If you love sport, choose relaxing yoga asanas. If you like, meditate, paint, doodle, play with your pet. Just don’t do anything competitive, deadline-y, stressfull. Hang around, sip a tea – but don’t pick black, green, or white from now on; go for a roiboos or a delicious tisane instead, just make sure it’s coffeine/theine free.
4-5 pm: Without hurry, prepare a light dinner so you’re finished around 6 pm. (A miso soup is a great choice.) If you prefer to go out, don’t go to any sports bar or any hip, loud place.
6-8 pm: Don’t turn on the TV, don’t tweet, don’t “like”, don’t nudge, don’t comment. No tech. If you want to play, try offline games. Maybe 3D puzzles? Or sort your recipes for the next days. Then brush your teeth, maybe have a bubble bath. Read a book. Do something that lulls…
8 pm: Time to air your sleeping room. I love to spray some of my organic lavender pillow mist into the room once the windows are open. Lavender is very soothing and relaxing – but don’t overdo. Turn off the smartphone,
8.30 pm: Time to get between the sheets. Set the alarm clock so that you get between 6 and 7.5 hours of sleep (so probably count from 9 pm on), grab a glass of water, and now dim the lights… Read some… And good night.
DAY 1 ENROLLS!
Don’t be alarmed if you can’t fall asleep at first. To be honest, I found it blatantly easy due to an extra quiet day and light food – but it’s an unusual time. Keep calm and read on 😉
On my Day 1 (round 2 of course) I woke up 5 minutes before the alarm, not quite refreshed due to the loud sounds coming from the street below, but that’s the downer of living in a big city.
It was cool to have had prepared all important stuff beforehand because I really didn’t feel rested. Or fresh. Or alive 😀
Once I was awake though (around 6.30) I’ve worked so fast, it was incredible. My to-do list for the whole day way checked off by 10.30 am – what a miracle! I instantly invested the gained time info preparations for Day 2 (work, errands…) and into a walk in the nearby park for lunch.
The afternoon was spent answering emails and talking on the phone, taking notes and updating the agenda.
The evening was very quiet and I felt really, really sleepy around 8 pm.
Always like that? Hell, no!
THE WORST DAY AKA 3 CRAPPY DAYS
Went to bed at midnight. Alarm clock woke me up at 6.30. Morning in a complete blur. Stupid weather. Headache. Bad mood. Long working hours. Forgot lunch, so late lunch and late dinner, and a double espresso to keep going in the evening. Went to bed after midnight. This is three days for the birds!
You can’t control everything and I don’t think control freaks have good sleep neither.
My lesson learned is: not letting stress, panic, deadlines – whatever – disturb my day. It’s MY day. It’s a day of MY life. And I decide what I make of it.
So the next time a crazy day was ahead, I took an extra hour for preparations.
I also reminded myself during the day to stop every now and then, to stand up and look out the window, to rest the eyes (thanks Dr. Hauschka for providing THE cure), to smile (!) and to make another cuppa… Distract myself from the stress. Regain the sensation of pleasure and fulfillment I find in my work, in my life. Sounds quite emotive, but I mean it.
We forget at times to be kind to ourselves.
And isn’t it lovely how scientists prove over and over again that positive affirmations DO HELP. Instead we say things like “I’m gonna be late”, “‘I’m not making this”, “this is impossible” to get ourselves going.
Yet it’s only positive affirmations that our subconscious understands. It doesn’t understand negation.
It understands the dos and misinterprents the don’ts. It’s “be healthy” and not “don’t be sick”. It’s “feel happy” and not “don’t feel sad”. You get the idea 🙂
Oh well, I run off the track and right into pocket book philosophy here. But such thoughts haunt you when you feel more relaxed! 😉
THE BOTTOM LINE
Basically, I found that when I was prepared and not frenzied, relaxed and not hectic, and determined – it was ever so easy to get the support I needed. Seeing how I felt better and looked better and performed better every day my partner, family and friends got interested.
While not everybody can change their office hours as they please, some of them found that getting your personal stuff done in the morning – errands, further education, sport and so on – gave them an amazing motivational boost for when they were at the office.
Will I keep this sleep routine? I think I will. I will keep it flexible though, and if there’s a night of work or a friend’s birthday bash ahead, be it. .
And for those of you
who managed to read until the end who need a reminder or an inspiration or a bookmark either for themselves or to remind a dear friend of the benefits of proper sleep, here’s a sweet little printable – oldfashioned – postcard (made to be printed on a DIN A4 sheet) >>> Click here to open the PDF in a new tab.
…And enjoy 🙂