Type A-plus personalities, take note. If you think you can apply your usual behavior pattern -- that is, "The more I work at this, the better I will get at it" -- to the odyssey known as "getting a good night's sleep," think again. Instead, try to recall your dating days and the pursuit of "true love," for as it turns out, sleep and love have a lot in common.
Because like love, sleep cannot be forced.
Remember the days when your friends and relatives would tell you to, "just relax, the right one will come along"? You might have been annoyed by the advice, and chances are, you probably didn't believe it. Love, after all, can often pose as an illusive pursuit. Like the Holy Grail, love often looms like a magical spirit -- too good to be true. Ultimately, it might have seemed like something that might never happen to you.
Perhaps you called your best buddies asking them to, "fix you up" or worse, you might have tried to make an obviously sinking relationship stick. Time and circumstance, experience and/or enough broken-hearted love affairs might have led to your ultimate understanding that you simply cannot make somebody love you.
And so it is for sleep. You cannot will or make your body fall asleep. More often than not, it is a matter of allowing the mind to surrender to the body.
And sleep, like love, is also not something you can buy. Oh yes. I can hear you snickering about that, but in truth, it has played out that not even Michael Jackson could buy a reliable solution.
The body, your body, is a very good instrument. If taken care of and respected, most of the time, it will do you right at bedtime. What this means is that if you are following good, simple bedtime habits throughout the day (e.g., no caffeine after noon and/or no alcohol two to three hours before bedtime) are not suffering from clinical problems such as apnea, chronic insomnia or more serious illnesses and painful disorders, your sleepy-time dreams will be fulfilled most of the time.
But, you say, that's easier said than done.
Just like love, right?
Let's start with your bedtime ritual. If you are currently scratching your head wondering if you even have one, I can help you out there. A bedtime ritual is a highly unique experience, custom created by you, to perform the unique task of giving your mind and body the signal that bedtime is near.
At its base, perhaps it looks something like this:
1 -- Stop all electronic devices 60 to 90 minutes before your desired sleep time.
2 -- Take a warm bath or shower. Brush your teeth and whatever else you physically need to do to experience your own personal sleep hygiene.
3 -- Soften the lights in your bedroom.
Now here's where it can get interesting. (Note: These are but a few recommendations. I would never want to force anyone else's ritual upon you any more than anyone else's date!) Nonetheless, here's a simple list of things to get you started:
You can read, listen to soft music or listen to an audiobook. Share a foot massage with your partner. Give yourself a foot massage. You can snuggle with your dog(s) or cat(s). You can snuggle with your partner. You can have sex. You can perform some yoga stretches (Elizabeth Halfpapp's "Night Moves" are uniquely created for sleep and better bedtime). Try some deep breathing exercises. Sip some chamomile tea or a cup of cinnamon spiced milk. Slip on a cozy pair of socks, even if that's all. Discreetly slip on a sleep mask. Lower the lights a little more. Turn on a white noise machine or a sleep app with hypnotic features. If things get really desperate, spray on some Chanel No. 5. Evidently, it worked for Marilyn Monroe. Maybe it can work for you too.
Do it nightly, with ritualistic passion.
Sleep, as it turns out, is a lot like LOVE.
Love your sleepy body.