Most college memories are filled with late night parties and pranks. While I also have great memories, most of them happened before 11 pm. Even that early in life I had to learn the importance of sleep. This is true for all people, but especially for treating autoimmunity. With far more stress than a healthy body, an autoimmune person desperately needs sleep to repair and restore.
Now as a working professional sleep matters even more than my college years. My days consist of teaching and caring for hundreds of students as well as their teachers. I am committed to sleep so I can be my best self for my school community and for my family.
Following a regular sleep schedule, even on weekends, can make all the difference. This is more than just sticking to a time frame. It is also about calming actions before bed signaling your body to settle down and rest.
Our Typical Bedtime Routine
Jonathan and I work far too much, but we have come to agree on a hard stop time for work to end. If the kitchen is still messy at 8:00pm, we stop working. If I still have work to do for my consulting business, I stop working. While Jonathan’s financial company requires serious diligence, he still steps away from his office by 8:00, and if something serious arises, clients can reach him by phone. 8:00 is an hour before bedtime. We stop our work and find our way to the living room to connect and rest. Sometimes we have stretching and breathing yoga moments. For me, this rest often includes a beautiful cup of herbal tea. My face is washed for the night and I’m ready for the couch.
During couch time I have shed my work clothes or exercise clothes and found my PJs. A really good pair of pajamas can change your whole outlook on life. I’ve been know to giggle with glee when putting on my favorite pair of pajamas, especially if they are warm from the dryer! Shauna Niequist wrote a powerful book about peace called Present Over Perfect. I will never forget the connection I made when reading her words. Shauna is also a PJ believer. She writes how a good pair of Jammies sends a signal to your body communicating a time for rest. Well Shauna, I wholeheartedly agree! My favorite winter PJs are from Target. These thermals are super soft and cozy, plus the price is reasonable.
After 8:00 I make a mental commitment to tune out responsibilities. I am not ashamed to say I thoroughly enjoy TV and can get lost in an episode of Mrs. Maisel or The Big Bang Theory before bed time.
When 9:00 rolls around I take 3 milligrams of melatonin and I head to my room where I find a fantastic memory pillow, and a night stand filled with books. Lately I have been reading Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime. It is captivating, yet has me laughing out loud! I might get a whole chapter in, but I also might only read a page. Regardless of what or how long, reading is an escape, pulling my mind from worries.
Before drifting off to sleep I spend some time talking to God. This prayer time might be the greatest 5 minutes I spend with my husband all day. It is a peaceful time when we hear each other’s dreams and worries. We pray for each other, our families, and our friends. We enter into a time when our spirits find peace before we drift off to sleep.
Just before I am out for good, Jonathan reminds me to turn on the the sound machine. The Gurney children were trained from birth to fall asleep to a box fan sound. When I married into the family, I accepted it, and now find myself addicted to the sound. It’s like Pavlov and his dog experiment. The white noise from our sound machine sends us right to sleep.
In truth, we both have had seasons of life where sleep is disrupted and we are restless at 2:00am. For me this is connected to food. When my blood sugar is off balance from sugar or carbs, my body surges with cortisol in the middle of the night causing me to be wide awake. For Jonathan it is connected to his adrenal glands and the desire for achievement. I know I have to commit to a low carb, sugar free life. Jonathan has to take supplements for his adrenal fatigue and commit to staying off his phone in the middle of the night.
Friends, like us, you have important days and hours ahead. Maybe like us, you are working full time, running your own companies, and committed to important volunteer work. Maybe in the midst of that you have children who need your best self. Maybe you are deep in the pit of autoimmunity and need to heal. I hope you also have adventures planned for the days ahead. We all have a life to live. It is messy, and crazy, and beautiful. I wish you nights of deep sleep, so you are ready for your next great day.