Broken sleep? Staying up to all hours and unable to turn your brain off. Here’s how you sleep well again.
Hands up if this is you:
- You can’t stop checking your phone at night…
- You’re watching TV later and later…
- You’re so tired you’ve started napping at odd times of the day, or straight after dinner, so you’re wide-awake come normal bedtime…
- You’re propping your eyelids open with coffee or some other potent stimulant, because every early afternoon, just after lunch, your energy levels plunge through the floor…
- Early mornings are feeling worse and worse – especially Monday morning, where the unbridled staying-upness of the weekend lands on you like a ton of bricks…
- Your sleep patterns are massively out of balance, you’re really suffering, and it’s only getting worse.
Luckily, there’s an adventure-fuelled way to sleep well – and it’s right outside our front doors.
Last year Erin Berger, senior editor at Outside Online, discovered her sleep patterns were catastrophically out of whack, and it was starting to affect her work:
“Since middle school over a decade ago, my terrible sleeping habits have manifested in various literal failures to launch: waking up for an early-morning run is a laughable concept. I hit the snooze button, on average, four times every morning. My record is eleven. Lately, my energy’s been peaking later and later—I do my best thinking and running starting around 4:30 p.m. In my one attempt to have a consistent sleep schedule after college, I tried to be in bed by 10 p.m. But I often ended up just staring at my ceiling for hours, wondering who the hell is able to fall asleep in 10 to 20 minutes, which is evidently the average.”
Then she read this.
Her plan was simple: bed down outside when the sun went down, and rise when the sun came up again.
She’d turn into an early morning person (no choice in the matter – you can’t keep sleeping with a faceful of sunshine), she’d leave her gadgets elsewhere, turning to an “old-fashioned” alarm clock instead, she’d sleep well and for a surprisingly long time – and the results were quickly remarkable:
“Having drank the melatonin-spiked Kool-Aid, I unzipped my sleeping bag on day four feeling like a whole new, clearheaded woman. I could probably go without my morning coffee, I told myself while drinking my morning coffee. But I did drop the urge to have a cup at 2 p.m.—in fact, I genuinely felt chipper all day. I was becoming the type of functional person who I always thought just lied about their caffeine habits. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, to start craving a nap, but that was the weirdest part: I never felt sleepy until the moment my head hit the pillow, and shortly after I was out cold. It was like my body knew to be awake until I lay down, and then it said, “Aha! I’m going to sleep now!” “
So what if we all did this? What if we could all sleep well in exactly the same way?
Let’s propose three ways of applying this to your own life.
– REFRESH: Whenever you´re feeling like your sleep pattern is out of control, grab a tent, hammock or bivvy bag and get yourself outside for at least two nights (say, Friday and Saturday nights). When the sun sinks to the ground, so do you.
– TURN OFF & BACK ON: Once a month, give yourself at least two days sleeping outside, ideally three or four days. (If you’re going to work during this time, get creative.)
– HARD REBOOT: This is the Full Monty. Like Berger, you spend a full week outdoors, getting the full benefits. No glowing screens after sunset, no nothing, just you and the natural world. Seven days, and maybe, just maybe, a new you.
That’s our challenge to you this summer, while the evenings are late and the sky is cloudless. We can’t think of a better time to try this.
So are you joining us out there?