Aakanksha Tangri, Founder of Re:Set shares some of her best tips for sleep hygiene
“Who are these people who get 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night, and how do I become one of them?” It’s a thought that’s often crossed my mind at 2 a.m. while I’m scrolling through Instagram and simultaneously battling the to-do list in my mind. Until recently, I was averaging three to four hours of sleep each night, and I could see the impact on my physical and mental well-being. My mind was foggy, my body fatigued constantly, and I was cranky.
During a session with my therapist, I lolloped on the couch and told her “I need sleep. You need to help me. What do I do?” She put me on a strict sleep hygiene regimen for a month, and I was requested to report back regularly on my progress. Two months in, I can proudly say I’m well-rested on most days. Ultimately, I had to reevaluate my entire routine and make some fundamental changes.
Here’s what worked for me:
Give up caffeine!
I stopped caffeinating post 4 p.m. Tough, but doable. My recommendation is to find something else caffeine-free you can drink instead. I turned to copious amounts of water which my skin thanked me for.
Incorporate regular exercise and find someone to hold you accountable
My therapist recommended regular exercise, and I started scheduling yoga classes either in the morning or evening. My instructor made sure I was held accountable, which helped immensely because it meant even if I didn’t want to show up, I had to or be bombarded by calls and messages. This helped establish a sense of routine, and we’re all aware of the benefits of exercising, such as a reduction in stress levels and better sleep.
Switch it off!
The hardest? Giving up electronics. From continually scrolling through social media to checking emails and replying to messages, being on the phone has become second nature for many. Ever searched for your phone while you’re on it? Yup, that was me. Three hours before bedtime, I had to get off all electronics which meant giving up Netflix as well. My phone went on airplane mode, and I gave my mother’s number to my close friends and family in case of an emergency. It’s only when you give up a bad habit, you realize how addicted you are. I put my phone out of hand’s reach, but there were many times when I cheated and turned it on even for a few minutes. You might experience “phantom vibrations” where you think your phone is buzzing or there are notifications. I occasionally still experience this, but the frequency has reduced.
Finally, for desperate measures, I decided to leave my phone near where my dog slept, which meant he’d wake up and start barking for attention if I went anywhere near him. Lack of electronics meant I had very little to do except read, try my hand at meditation and eventually drift off to sleep. I could also finally catch up on all those books I ambitiously bought, but never got around to reading.
Over time, it became easier to detach myself from my phone, and I was naturally falling asleep (first out of boredom and later out of routine) between 10:30 p.m. and 11 p.m. This also meant I was waking up earlier and had more time in the morning to enjoy a cup of coffee, mentally prepare for the day, and cuddle with my dog. Much better than just rushing off to work. With enough sleep, I now find I’m more productive, in a better mood with more energy and efficient at managing my time. And dare I say, I’m quite proud of myself for finally nailing down my elusive sleep habits.
It’s going to take time, persistence and you will fall off the wagon, but build a support team who can keep you on track and don’t beat yourself up if you find yourself struggling. Give your body and mind time to adjust and ease into your sleep hygiene routine.