I Can't Sleep, And I'm Finally Going To Do Something About It

by Leigh Weingus

I've had problems sleeping for so. many. years.

I apparently slept well as a baby but ever since then, falling asleep has been a constant struggle. Every time my head hits the pillow, I wonder what kind of night is ahead of me.

Will I drift off peacefully to dreamland? Or will I spend the night tossing and turning, checking my phone and eventually padding out to the kitchen to eat a couple Tate's cookies?

Last night, it was the latter. I got into bed at a reasonable hour, read my book for 10 minutes, turned off the light and... stayed up until 3 am.

You know those people who say they get by just fine on four hours of sleep? Yeah, I'm not one of them.

Maybe it's my gender (women are more susceptible to the effects of sleep loss than men, further proving the world is an unfair place), but the day after a sleepless night I'm grouchy, emotional and eating everything in sight.

This morning, instead of shrugging off my night of terrible sleep and resigning myself to an exhausted day, I felt angry.

I'm not perfect, but I do most things right when it comes to sleep.

My room is dark and cool, I burn a lavender-scented candle for half an hour every night and I leave my phone on the opposite side of the room when I go to sleep.

So why do I have insomnia?!

Eventually, I may have to give up and admit I'll have a hard time sleeping for the rest of my life, but I'm not going down without a fight.

For the next month, I'm putting myself through a sleep boot camp.

Based on the studies I've read and countless tips I've gotten from fellow bad sleepers, I'm going to do everything it takes to sleep better.

Here's my plan:

First up: food, drinks and exercise.

Here are some things I know: Exercise helps you sleep. Coffee and alcohol disrupt your sleep. Your diet can have a positive or negative impact on how well you sleep.

So for the next 30 days, I'm going to exercise six days a week. While I don't find coffee generally impacts how well I sleep, I'm interested to see what would happen if I drank one cup every morning instead of three. (Sorry, but girl's gotta have her coffee. I'm not willing to cut it out completely.)

As for alcohol, I have a complicated relationship with it when it comes to sleep.

For example, on Monday night, I had a beer with dinner and I slept really well. But once I hit two drinks, it seems to affect my sleep -- which makes sense, since research shows although alcohol can make it easier to fall asleep, it makes it harder to stay asleep. So I'm going to stick to one drink, regardless of how badly I want a second.

Last but not least: food. I eat late at night, which is terrible for sleep. How can our bodies be expected to sleep and digest at the same time?!

For the next month, I'm going to stop eating an hour and a half before going to sleep, and I'm going to call it quits on my late-night cookie parties. Sugar isn't great for sleep either.

Next up: daytime.

Because I know some of my sleep troubles stem from stress and anxiety throughout the day, I'm going to incorporate some stress-busting action into my work day. I'm actually going to take a lunch break (It relieves stress and improves concentration!) and add 10 minutes to my daily meditation practice first thing in the morning.

Last up: nighttime.

I assume most of the game-changing sleep stuff will take place at night, so this is where I'm getting really serious.

Regardless of how I spend the hours immediately following work (sometimes it's out to dinner with friends, other times it's a night cooking at home), I'm going to turn my phone off as soon as I get to my apartment and leave my laptop closed.

Social media, work emails and text messages all elevate my stress level. While I know this probably isn't sustainable long term, I think I can handle it for a month.

I'm also going to finally put into action a sleep tip that's been very hard for me: going to bed and waking up at the same time every day.

Because I exercise in the morning, my bedtime is ideally 10 pm and my wake-up time is 6:30 am, but that rarely actually happens. This month, it will -- and hopefully I'll actually start getting my coveted eight and a half hours of sleep.

I'll let you know how it all goes in a month. Wish me luck!