First Person: I Tried Going To Sleep At 9 Every Night—Here's What Surprised Me
I had performance anxiety about bedtime.
BY PAMELA VALENTINE | Jun 1, 2016 | Fitness & Health
My husband and I have a problem: sleep. We don't get enough, ever. He wakes in the mornings (after several snoozes) in a foul mood that lasts until at least four in the afternoon. And I'm tired all the time. Really tired. I have no energy all day. Most days, that means no energy to work out or play with the kids. Some days, I can't get out of bed.
Fortunately, we have a lot of bedfellows. The CDC classifies insufficient sleep as a public health problem. And every doctor, health guru, and mattress salesman says they have the answer to better sleep.
So we picked through the pillow talk and settled on two books that promised slumber solutions: 5 AM Miracle by Jeff Sanders and Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stevenson. Both books offered concrete steps to take to improve our sleep and coached us to set clear and deliberate sleep goals. Asleep by 9PM, awake by 5AM, screens away by 7:30PM and absolutely no snoozing.
For one week, we decided to see if better sleep really did make for better lives.
I cheated and took a performance enhancing sleep drug: melatonin. Have you ever woken up at 5AM before? On purpose? Now try throwing two small children into the mix. I needed my wits about me. Fortunately, it worked (sort of), but I woke up groggy and an hour late.
My husband was up at 5AM, in a great mood, and had a pot of coffee ready to go. This was on.
A little Internet research later and we threw away the melatonin. Still, my youngest was up until well after 10 and my oldest crawled into our bed at midnight. I lay awake, staring at the ceiling, squeezed between my slumbering husband and my restless child. I maybe got two hours of sleep and woke with a blinding migraine. I spent the day downing painkillers and hiding in bed.
My husband felt better than ever. Jerk.
The truth was becoming clear: I had performance anxiety about bedtime. Night after night, I dreaded the approach of 9PM. Worry, stress, and fear kept me awake for hours, sleeping through alarm clocks, and exhausted all day long. I was a sleep failure.
Worry, stress, and fear kept me awake for hours, sleeping through alarm clocks, and exhausted all day long. I was a sleep failure.
My husband? Not so much. He woke on time, feeling great. By the time I opened my eyes, he had worked out, showered, shaved, dressed, brewed coffee, settled the kids and made breakfast. His good mood was contagious. Our kids liked him better. I liked him better. He was energetic, present and involved.
What I really wanted, though? A single good night's sleep.
I fully gave up.
As my husband slumbered peacefully in our lumpy, old, radioactive mattress, I re-watched Season one of Orange is the New Black. I didn't even try. I seriously sucked at sleeping and taking steps to sleep better had only made things worse.
No, I wasn't giving up forever, especially not with how well my husband was doing. But maybe I needed to find my own circadian rhythm for sleep. Maybe that involved some TV or a good book before bed? I would figure it out or fall asleep trying.
I planned to keep riding that "give up" train. So I thought I'd stay up and watch TV after my husband fell asleep (at 9PM). We put the kids to bed at 8PM, so I'd have some time to myself.
But for some reason, making the decision to not pressure myself actually enabled me to fall asleep. I didn't think a thing of it and just stopped worrying so much. Before I knew what had happened, the alarm clock was going off and the sun was shining bright. With the pressure to perform gone, I had slipped into sleep without any problem at all.