Annoyingly but not surprisingly perhaps, during high-stress periods (every day as a parent, right?!) I often to release my anxiety at night.
It rarely manifests by day (which is probably why people think I’m a pretty chilled person for the most part) but when I’m stressed out, the nightmares start up, seeing me wake up disorientated, still sometimes in dream-mode, scared, breathless and with a raised heartbeat. It’s not nice, basically. Having chatted to others, I know I’m not alone.
After a weeks week of bad dreams on and off, I felt it was time to take action so I asked my GP for advice. She promptly told me to switch off all tech by 9 pm (the blue light from electronics disturbs sleep, preventing the release of melatonin) as well as limiting wine and caffeine a few hours before bedtime.
I thought the no wine on an evening (I love a glass of red on an evening) would be the toughest life-change but it was actually the digital detox.
I’d tried it a few times before, over the last year when other blogger friends had recommended it, but I’d returned to my old Twitter-obsessed ways by night and got into a pattern of checking emails and social media before bed.
Now, with my own doctor saying she advises her patients with sleep problems and nightmares to go cold turkey on tv and social media, I knew I had to really go for it.
With blogging being my full time job, coupled with fact we ALL live online so much shutting down early over the last few weeks felt hard at first.
Over the first few nights, I literally felt like an addict in desperate need of my phone or laptop (especially as I like to catch up on MIC and First Dates in bed) but I was absolutely determined to switch off after feeling tired of disrupted sleep and nightmares.
Before I knew it, I was looking forward to reading a book in the bath and chilling out before bedtime with some yoga, without a computer or my iPhone. Literally within days, my brain and pre-bedtime rituals had been transformed for the better. My nightmares became milder then totally stopped.
…I’m not sure why I felt so frustrated banning myself from my phone, at first as I’m pretty strict about not spending time online when I pick the kids up from school and on weekends too, just popping on and off, but breaking the nightly routine of watching telly on catch up was the toughest part.
I’m over a month in to this new sleep routine for myself- and I’ve failed the no-tech rule after 9 on a few occasions when I’ve had to meet deadlines or couldn’t tear myself away from catch up but 90% of the time I’ve stuck to it and switching off by 9 pm feels pretty easy now. Get me!
I’ve also tried to eat a light dinner, a balanced slow releasing meal that isn’t too heavy on my tummy, keeping sugar and stimulants to a minimum too. Chamomile or fennel tea is my drink of choice although I still enjoy a a glass of ‘medicinal’ red wine most nights just usually around 7 pm and I’ve also stopped running late at night as I’d often hop on the treadmill in the garage at 10 pm. Now I force myself to run first thing so it’s done and sets me up for the day.
I also head to bed much earlier than usual, getting under the sheets most nights for 10 pm when I can.
It’s all been worth it too. A few small tweaks to my day-to-day routine has made a big difference to my quality of sleep.
Do you suffer from nightmares? I’d love to read what’s helped you.