Building Better Sleep Habits
Last updated: November 2022
I admit I have taken sleep for granted. Sleep was a simple thing when I was younger, especially in college. I could run on little to no sleep. I would stay up all night, take a quick cat nap during the day, and still be able to function.
Now, sleep is a challenge. Getting diagnosed with sleep apnea, insomnia, and sleep/wake phase disorder made me realize I have poor sleeping habits. My sleep routine was non-existent; I usually took a shower and scrolled on my phone until I could fall asleep. I went to bed and woke up at drastically different times.
Now, my sleep routine looks completely different.
Building a sleep routine that works for me
I have worked with my doctor to build a sleep routine that works with my schedule. This changes and adapts to my needs, but it is what works for me now. Keep in mind I work four 10s, Monday through Thursday, 7:00 AM to 6:00 PM.
- My goal bedtime is 10:30 PM with a wake-up time of 5:30 AM every day.
- At 6:30 PM, I take 1 mg of melatonin.
- I use UV-blocking glasses starting at 7:00 PM.
- From 10:00 PM to 11:00 PM, I limit bright light exposure, limit phone and TV, and practice wind-down techniques (reading, meditation, breathing exercises, etc.).
- I use CPAP for a minimum of 4 hours.
- I wake up at 5:30 AM. I get out of bed.
- I use box light therapy (or get natural light) for 1 hour, from 5:30 AM to 6:30 AM.
Why 4 hours of CPAP usage?
Using a CPAP machine every night for only 4 hours may seem like a small amount of time, but I have other conditions that I take into consideration. I constantly wake up throughout the night. Chronic pain, constant allergies, and irritable bowel syndrome all result in symptoms that also affect my sleep.
My sleep is not perfect
This sleep schedule is my ideal, but the implementation always looks different. Life will always present us with challenges. Sometimes, the insomnia takes over, and I don't sleep for more than an hour. On other days, I am in too much pain to sleep. Some nights I go out with friends, and my whole routine is thrown off balance.
I am very much a work in progress. My sleep is not perfect, and I still suffer from chronic fatigue. I also see a sleep psychologist and do other research to keep learning about my relationship with sleep.
Other sleep tips to consider
My doctor has also recommended other tips, such as:
- Only going to bed when sleepy
- Only using the bed for sleep and sex
- Getting out of bed if I cannot sleep after 20 minutes; doing activities in low light until sleepy
- Avoiding napping
- Avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine
Some of these tips are easy for me to implement, while others are challenging. Some days I completely forget or am too tired to follow through.
Good sleep habits improve my sleep
However, I find that the time I dedicate to my sleeping habits helps me decompress after stressful work days. It is a form of self-care. I am slowly but surely working on my health in a holistic manner.
Some days, I am so tired all I have the energy to do is scroll on my phone until bedtime. I am not perfect, but I realize the importance of building better sleep habits and keeping to a routine. I can say I notice small improvements. This routine may not work for everyone. It is a matter of finding what works for each person, for their own needs, and for their own schedules.
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