Illustration by Hawnuh Lee.
A Stressed Millenial’s Guide to Falling Asleep While the World Slowly Burns Around You
Given the general state of the world, *gestures vaguely at the air* it seems like everyone (at least in my life) is having a struggle getting to or staying asleep or both. I mean, we are in the middle of a panoramic and sleeping is hard because everyone is stressed out. During the quarantine, I started going on excessively long walks because I couldn’t sleep in later than 4:30 a.m. and my roommates didn’t wake up until 9-10 a.m. Fortunately (or maybe unfortunately?) I’ve always kind of been bad at sleeping so I’ve spent an excessive amount of time researching how to be better at it and I’ve compiled my favorite tips below.
Clean up your sleep hygiene
I think this is the most important one. I strongly believe that your bed (and really your whole bedroom) should be used exclusively for sleep and, if you don’t have a loft bed, getting down. It’s super important that your brain and body know that when you go to bed, you’re going to sleep. If you use your bed for work or hobbies or watching all of Lesbian TikTok’s bread baking videos, your body won’t be able to wind down in your room when you actually want to rest because it’s primed to be stimulated there (ayyyyyyyyy).
On that note, if you’re tossing and turning for 20-30 minutes, get out of bed and do a chill activity. I have a yoga mat and sleeping bag right next to my bed that I meditate on before going to sleep and I will get up and lie there when I can’t sleep. I will do breathing exercises or if I’m really anxious I’ll do ab exercises. I know some folks will read until they can fall back asleep, I’m really sensitive to light so reading doesn’t work for me. My auntie does tai chi when she can’t sleep and Knocking on Heaven’s Door is great for this.
Set the mood
I believe in the magic of a good routine. It’s important to go to bed and wake up at the same time because maintaining a consistent sleep schedule makes it easier to fall asleep. I think it’s also helpful to let your food digest before you try to sleep, it can help you avoid heartburn, which of course, makes sleeping hard.
This is partly because I am a person who appreciates a good routine but I do think having a sleep ritual helps prep your body and mind for bed. I like to sip tea and choose my guided meditations for the night (I love Balance, Insight timer and MyLife). Then I take a shower, brush my teeth, think about how good flossing is for you and how I should do it, and then do my skin care routine. Next, I do a little journaling and sitting. The sitting is meditating but I am very easily distracted so it feels more honest to call it sitting. A yoga teacher I had called it “sitting” and that really resonated with me. Meditation is hard but even when I spend virtually the entire time in my head and not my body, the simple act of sitting still helps to slow my heart rate down. And if I’m too tense or fidgety to sit still, it means I need to move a little more so I’ll do very low-impact exercises.
This is incredibly obvious but the more comfortable and relaxed you are the easier it will be to fall asleep. How can you make your room 20 percent more comfortable? How can you optimize your space for sleep? If looking at your phone is really tempting, maybe leave it outside of your room and use an old-school alarm clock as an alternative. Or be really kind to yourself and get one of those super cute and fancy gentle rise alarms with the sunrise lights.
I’m incredibly sensitive to light and sound so I try to make my room as cave-like as possible. I don’t know if you’ve ever done one of those float pod things but I try to make my bed as much of a sensory-deprivation experience as possible. I have blackout curtains and I like to use an eye mask (it did take me a while to get used to it so *hot tip* I trained by using sarongs to cover my eyes). I also use earplugs and have a sound machine (I use ocean waves because I love the ocean but I also play rain and the river all at the same time so there’s never a pause in the sound) because my earplugs aren’t 100% soundproof. It’s easier to sleep when it’s cooler so a fan can be helpful. I am a cold-blooded reptile person so I run super cold and love to pile myself with blankets and I top it all off with a weighted one. I’m unsure how effective essential oils are on sleep but you can experiment with them because at the very least nice smells are nice. I use lavender but I do love jasmine because it reminds me of my mom. She planted night blooming jasmine at my childhood home.
Move your body
Taking even just 30 minutes a day to move, can be so helpful for sleep. I know we all know exercise is important and whatever but as much as you can’t, don’t put too much pressure on it. Taking a walk in the morning can be a great way to get your blood flowing and get yourself some sunshine (plz wear SPF and protect your beautiful face) to help regulate melatonin production. Taking time to be in your body is so important and helpful and it doesn’t matter what it looks like. I don’t remember who coined the term “exercise snacks,” but I’m here for it, especially in the middle of a panny when I’m always home and parked on the couch on my laptop. Dance in the beams of sunlight streaming in through your window, go on a short walk to a park, twerk while you’re waiting for your tea water to boil, do random jumping jacks, whatever feels good. And because exercise is a great way to wake you up, try to get it in at least two hours before you go to sleep.
Chill out with the screens
I now have blue light protection in my prescription glasses but you best believe I was that dork that wore those super nerdy blue light glasses before bedtime. Now you can get cute ones but a few years ago, it was just me and those dudes that panic about EMFs rocking “amber safety glasses” and uh, let’s just say they were a ~lewk~. You can absolutely use Night Shift on your phone or a similar app (f.lux is great for computers) but the best thing is to put your electronics away entirely at least 30 minutes before bed but ideally 90 minutes. Blue light affects your melatonin levels and also phones are stimulants and it’s super easy to get swept up in doom (or thirst, tbh) scrolling for hours.
Enjoy diet weed
I don’t know if it’s a legitimate concern but I am a little sketched out by melatonin. I do take it on occasion (mostly because I found one that’s also chocolate and I truly will find any excuse to eat chocolate) but I haven’t been able to get it to really work for me. I am even more sketched out by sleeping pills so the only drug I will recommend is CBD (and it’s super chill sister THC). I don’t know if it’s a placebo, we’re still studying CBD and sleep, but again I am a sugar fiend so I cannot recommend CBD gummies enough. I also love having tea in the nighttime and a fun sleepy time mix or tincture can at the very least get you in the mood.
We all know getting good sleep is important and it’s super frustrating and exhausting when we can’t sleep well. It’s not the most fun answer but improving your sleep hygiene will help you drift off. I wish I had a solution that was less work but the moral of this story is sleep is kind of a lot of work. She is worth it but you gotta earn her.
I would love to know what helps you sleep! Please share all of your secrets and routines in the comments below.