Oh, dear. Only ten days into the sleep challenge and both Arianna and I are off the wagon. (And we have to go defend ourselves on Joy Behar’s show tonight at 9). The glamorous Arianna had her relapse because of a fabulous-sounding till-all-hours dinner party, but me? I retreated to my old five-hours-a-night ways last night because at three in the morning, I was thinking about logos and LEGO.
Here’s the deal. Last night was a late night anyway (dinner with friends, then a play, then reading stories for our next issue after). Fine—I just figured I’d sleep in a smidge later and still get my seven-and-a-half. But then I happened to wake up at three-ish and... all of a sudden, there I was in the pitch-black, mentally scrolling through my to-do list. “Ruminative thought” is apparently a typical female sleep problem, according to Michael Breus, Ph.D., but it was new to me: I can usually sleep through anything anytime (including loud clock radios and, much to my husband’s chagrin, screaming babies—a technique I definitely recommend if you plan to have children). But this time, the thought process went something like this:
And at that point I realized that if I was seriously considering getting out of bed, putting on a robe, walking down the stairs, across cold foyer tile and outside into the freezing 19-degree New York City night to remove a holiday wreath from my door at three in the morning, I really was not doing very well with the Sleep Challenge. I did end up eventually falling back asleep, but when I went for a run this morning, I accidentally locked myself out of my own house—I guess it’s true that sleep deprivation makes you flakier.
Anyway, as I mentioned, Dr. Breus sees this a lot in his practice, and he has a suggestion: Before you go to bed, write down all the little nagging things in the back of your mind that you’re thinking about, and write down a solution—even if the solution is “... think about this tomorrow... ” Another good idea: Try to schedule some time in your day to deal with all the things you haven’t caught up on, so they don’t catch up with you at 3am. Too many of us ignore this, he says. “During the day, when do you have time to sit down and think?” he asks. “You don’t. But if you haven’t scheduled that time on your day planner, when does it happen? It’s probably happening when you turn off your lights. And that’s just about the worst time you could be thinking about things.” So set aside some time for, you know, thinking during the day. And, if all else fails and you’re wide awake at three in the morning, try what Gretchen Rubin, author of the Happiness Project, just suggested on her blog: Pretend it’s morning and that “in a minute, you’re going to be marching through the morning routine. Often this is an exhausting enough prospect to make me fall asleep.”
What do you wake up thinking about at three in the morning? And how do you get back to sleep... or don’t you?