I’ve always been a light sleeper, but I took things to a whole new level about 7 years ago. Suddenly my finicky sleep problem turned into a raging monster and I barely slept 3 hours a night for an entire year. Luckily I found some solutions and emerged with a much deeper understanding of myself and how my body manages stress. I know I’m not the only teacher to struggle with sleep, so I wanted to share some excellent free and inexpensive resources that can hopefully help you, too.
During that year if you’d asked me if stress or anxiety was the cause of my sleep disorder I would have said absolutely not. But as I dug deeper I realized that the little things that I thought weren’t bothering me were actually really big things, and they were keeping me from falling asleep and staying asleep. Not only would I stay up thinking about an issue, it would trigger my fight-or-flight nervous system. So even if I got to a point where I could mentally move on, my body was charged and awake in every way, so sleep felt like an impossibility. It was devastating and frustrating and there were so many nights when I just felt hopeless, which made the whole situation even worse.
I know I’m not the only teacher who experiences this. The flood of teacher sleep memes on the Internet during August are proof enough! But seriously, the physical, emotional, and mental demands of our jobs can quickly turn into anxiety factories. We all know that. And it can be really dangerous for our health and for our wallets. When I’m not sleeping well I spend more on food because I just don’t have the energy to prep like I should or I’m craving unhealthy comfort food and don’t think twice about buying it. Lack of sleep also leads to more impulsive spending decisions. This is true for me and for the people studied in this Forbes article.
So, what can we do? Obviously everyone is different. What works for lots of people didn’t even come close to touching my next-level monster. I tried melatonin, hypnosis, supplements, extra wine, no wine, over-the-counter medicine, essential oils and BodyTalk treatments, to name a few. Eventually I tried several prescriptions, and a low dose of the right medicine took the edge off enough to let me dig in and work on the issue. Now I sleep much better overall, but still have rough nights and weeks. When those happen, here are my top three hacks to get myself to go to sleep and stay asleep:
Until I tried Simple Habit I was unenthused about meditation, mainly because I never felt like I was doing it right. Plus it just seemed like I didn’t have time for it and never got much out of it. (Patience is definitely NOT my strong suit, which may have been a significant factor.) Then I heard the creator of Simple Habit, Cory Muscara, on the ChooseFI podcast. I was blown away by his story and how down-to-earth he seemed. I tried his app, Simple Habit and found his Sleep Series. I have absolutely fallen in love with it and use it almost every night when I’m laying in bed ready to sleep. I paid for a subscription to the premium version, but he’s got tons of free content that may be just what you need. I love it because there’s no wrong way to follow his lead and it always leaves me feeling mentally and physically relaxed.
This free app is my go-to when meditation isn’t enough or when I wake up at 3:00am ready to take on the world. The designers literally developed the technology in order to help astronauts fall asleep, and there’s a warning that says “Do not listen to this app while operating a motor vehicle.” (Not gonna lie–I have considered playing it in my classroom on more than one rough day with the kiddos.) There must be some premium perks you can pay for, but I’ve always just used the free version. I plug in my phone, put it in airplane mode, click “Begin Sleep” and tuck it under my pillow so that I can hear it but my husband can’t. It has a magical way of unplugging my mind and getting me to sleep even in my most extra-stressed moments.
This is the only supplement that works for me. It is my last resort on a tough night. I dissolve about a tablespoon of the powder in water and chug it down. It tastes like dirt, but will absolutely put me to sleep without fail. It’s fantastic because I can take it at 4:00am and wake up at 6:00 and feel totally normal–not groggy or out of it. It isn’t crazy expensive and I rarely use it, so my 4oz bag has lasted me well over a year. Unfortunately the shop in my town that sold it is closed, so I don’t have a brand to recommend from experience. However, I’ll likely order from these folks when the time comes. I’ll update here when I have more info but since Kava has helped me so much I didn’t want to leave it out!
You deserve and need a good night’s sleep every night. If you struggle with sleep, I hope this helps. If you have other ideas or experience, please add to the conversation by commenting below! You are also more than welcome in our Facebook group: Financially Fit Teachers.
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