Tips and Tricks for a Dreamy Night
Surprise! Alcohol does not help insomnia; it contributes to it! Be patient and your sleep pattern will return to normal.
Sleep was a real challenge when I quit drinking. When I was a drunk, I had no problem sleeping: face down on the bar, face down on the park bench, face down on the kitchen floor. No problem.
The London Sleep Centre has studied drunk-sleeping and discovered what we already figured: After a long night of boozing you hit the bed or the floor or whatever available platform and fall into a deep, dreamless sleep, but your heartrate goes up and your nervous system goes into overdrive. You are officially passed out and entering into a sleepless, restless night resulting in a lousy morning.
Sober sleeping is attainable, but it takes a little practice. The brain is a tricky little critter that must be trained to behave. As you work with your brain to embrace sobriety, you should also prod it to love a good night’s sleep.
Here’s how I approached the Sober Sleep Conundrum:
- Demarcate a space specifically and exclusively for sleep. I found my bedroom was the best available candidate for this space. Using a space reserved only for sleep will condition your brain and your body to associate your bedroom with sleepytime.
Things to avoid in your sleep space:
- Electronic equipment. If you must have your cellphone at hand, turn on DND and leave your phone somewhere you can’t readily reach. Televisions in the bedroom are just a bad idea in general. Your goal is eliminate the unpleasant side effects of blue light
- Lights. Leave ‘em off. Well, you may want to invest in a dim orange or yellow glowlight if you’re afraid of the dark. (Yup. I’ve got mine!) Black-out curtains can be good friends if you live in a lively neighborhood.
- Reading in bed. I know. I know. Go down the hall and cuddle up in a comfy chair with your book for an hour or two before bedtime. This will help you settle down and focus your mind on something less intrusive than streaming shows or stalking social media.
- Snoring partners. Unfortunately, this is unavoidable for me. Workaround? Earplugs early and often.
- Eat well and include sleepy food to help you through the night. Foods rich in natural melatonin and serotonin help you fall asleep and stay asleep. Eat your way to a quiet mind.
Sleepy food that really worked for me:
- Almonds, Walnuts, Pepitas. Leave a bowl of raw walnut halves, raw almonds and roasted pepitas laying around your living place for drive-by noshing.
- Tart Cherry Juice. Mix tart cherry juice and seltzer water over a full glass of ice for a tasty beverage. Try to avoid added sugar in any drinks you keep on hand. (Hint: Add some dried tart cherries to your drive-by bowl of nuts.)
- Kiwis. I eat two a day; one right before bed. (Hint: You can quarter a kiwi lengthwise and eat it like an orange slice. (Don’t eat the fuzz. It’s yucky.)
- Turkey. You know how Thanksgiving dinner makes you sleepy? It’s the turkey! I totally cheat off-holiday with a plate of fresh roasted turkey from a local restaurant. Just the turkey. Nothing like popping a big strip of roast turkey on the way to bed.
- Grapes. The skin of red grapes is rich in melatonin. I love having a bowl of frozen red grapes next to the bed for a quick fix when I wake up thirsty.
- More. The internet is riddled with ideas for sleep-inducing foods and meals. Get in there and get cooking!
- Minimize sleep distractors. The more chill you are when you head to bed, the more likely you’ll enjoy a solid night’s sleep.
- Safety. There’s nothing unusual about harboring a little safety anxiety. You can combat this by finding a system that confirms without a doubt that your doors, windows, etc. are locked. I check and recheck all locks are in place, all gas burners are off, cat’s in the house, and a bowl of frozen grapes is on my nightstand. Then and only then do I head up for bed. If you really want to be sure, you can make a list of what you want to ensure to secure and check off each item as you have your final walk through.
- Critters. Until you have a solid sleep / fall back asleep routine in order, it’s probably best that Spooky and Scout stay out of your room. I’m not big on crating my critters, but I hear it can work well for all involved. I just shut the door. (See also the virtues of earplugs above.)
- Bathroom. So, you may need to roll out of bed sometime in the middle of the night to visit the bathroom. You can minimize the number of wake-up calls you get by not drinking anything for at least an hour before bed (see the frozen-grape solution suggested above). Ensure there are no discarded shoes, coat hangers, or tigers that may trip you up along your way. Once in the bathroom, leave the light OFF. Use a nightlight if you have concerns about what goes where.
- Caffeine. Coffee is good for your liver! Who knew? But it’s not good for sleep. Don’t drink any caffeine at least 5 hours before bedtime. Those of us on a 9 to 5 schedule are best to quit caffeinating at noon. Decaf is also good for your liver, so drink up (the coffee, silly!).
- Itchy sheets. Clean, cozy sheets are a beautiful thing. Invest in the best you can afford and wash regularly. I live in a fog bank and find micro-flannel sheets to be just right.
These were the cornerstones I used to building a reliable, relaxing nightly sleep. You can explore more at the Sleep Foundation and any number of helpful sleep hygiene sites on the Web. Just like recovery support, the best sleep program is the program that works for you!