My mom’s side of the family has a special gift: they can sleep anywhere, anytime. Moving car? Done. Fourth seat of a local train? Why not? The edge of a bed on a Sunday afternoon? Easy peasy. I too was blessed with this gift and as a child, I would stretch out and fall fast asleep across the laps of all adults in the back of any car I found myself in. Road trips with me were so much fun for my family… NOT.
Anyway, this lucky streak continued for me till I hit 30 after which, slowly, insidiously, my body started its treachery. I, the coffee lover, who could easily down three-four cups of coffee a day and snore happily into the night, I began to get sensitive to caffeine. I was already dependent on it: I can still fall asleep by 11 in the morning if I don’t have a cup of coffee with breakfast. But now, sip a second cup and I was wide awake at midnight. For no good reason. If I wanted a second cup of coffee, I HAD to have it by 3 in the afternoon, unless I was planning to pull an all-nighter. (This rule still stands. The only time I can safely have a second cup is if I’m exhausted due to too much exercise or PMS or whatever. Otherwise it’s decaf all the way if I know what’s good for me.)
Then, one fine day in January, Pookie was born. And if I thought my sleep was problematic before this, afterwards, it went straight to hell. Somewhere between sleeping in half an hour installments to cope with her colic, to waking up eight times a night to feed her or change her, to falling asleep in her bed and waking up at all hours of the night to haul myself to my own bed, my sleep pattern got, what’s the word, oh yes, entirely fucked.
To the point that I actually considered getting Ariana Huffington’s book on how to sleep. I was going to research sleeping, you guys. Me. Who once famously slept through a train robbery. No, I’m not making this up.
We were on our way back from Kolhapur, when our train halted in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere and masked men tried to get inside. The whole train was in an uproar, the grown-ups were frantically trying to lock the doors from the inside, and my excited and frightened cousins were trying to wake me up. Trying to wake me up. I briefly opened my eyes, took in the information that we could be robbed by masked marauders at any moment, and then went back to sleep because hello, priorities.
The phrase ‘how the mighty have fallen’ doesn’t even begin to describe my situation.
Over the years, I tried all manner of things to get over this insomnia business and they all worked to a greater or lesser extent till I hit upon the magical combination a few weeks ago. Oh, the irony. It took a stressful global pandemic to get me to sleep well. But I’ve finally hit upon the things that work best:
Decaf coffee: I cannot recommend this enough. You can call me a wuss, but if you’re caffeine sensitive yet love your afternoon coffee, this is the perfect solution. If you don’t love coffee, but want something during the coffee break, try a flavoured green tea. I like Tulsi Rose Green Tea.
Chamomile Tea: It calms you down and helps you sleep. I started taking it before my wedding and haven’t stopped since. And it has NO side effects, unlike say, alcohol.
The right temperature: The ideal sleep temperature allegedly is 15-21 degrees Celsius. Which is bollocks because first of all, everyone doesn’t live in a place with great weather or have an AC to make up for it. If you do, good for you. If you don’t, use a cooler or a ceiling fan to create the temperature that works for you. It makes a huge difference, trust me.
A head wrap: This is specifically for me, because when I sleep in AC in the summer, I freeze. But if I cover my head with a scarf, not only does it shut out sound, it keeps my head warm and stops me from waking up sneezing, which is what happens otherwise.
A SLEEP MASK: This has been a game-changer for me. I know people say that we should sleep without blackout curtains and let the light of the sun wake us up to reset our circadian rhythm or whatever, but that works only if you live someplace without light pollution. If like me, you live surrounded by street lights and night-owl neighbours, a sleep mask is your best friend.
I’ve left mediation off the list, although that is extremely effective when it comes to de-stressing before bed. But on days when it’s just not possible to sit up and meditate, these other things have helped a lot. I’ve been sleeping soundly for eight-nine hours without a break (touch wood) after taking care of these elements. Give them a shot if you’re having sleep issues and let me know if it helps.