Last fall we thought I had whooping cough. It very well may have been, though the specific strain of bacteria responsible for WC is not what came back positive on the culture test. Violent coughing fits strained my breathing and caused me to vomit. Nothing stopped or dulled the coughing; being out in the cold and exerting myself at all - like walking - made it worse. My appetite vanished. Everything was more difficult, even rest, which is what I needed most. Sleep was limited to a couple hours each night in an upright position because, of course, lying down elicited a violent coughing fit. I was miserable. We finally turned to an antibiotic prescribed by my naturopathic doctor to kick it out after three long weeks.
It was wonderful to finally eat again and simply walk around the block with David and Eisley; but what I relished in most was finally being able to sleep - it was beautiful - even though my normal sleep cycle was skewed. The disruption, combined with winter travel and then a new semester schedule, left it skewed. It's been months, and yet I haven't fully recovered the sleep debt this illness brought on. The reason is because I haven't put focused intention into doing so. First, I was simply happy to be sleeping at all again; then, feeling slightly more rested was such an improvement over the previous weeks, fostering better sleep habits didn't take precedence. I know I would feel better if I slept for more hours; I know I should go to bed earlier.
I have a problem with the word "should." I don't like placing it on other people, and I don't like placing it on myself. "Should" perpetuates our tendency to shame ourselves and others into changing. When pushed onto others, it defines our perception of reality, or ideals, for them; when placed on ourselves, it layers perfectionist pressures on top of unrealistic standards. I tend to revolt against "shoulds."
The problem isn't knowing what I should do, knowing what would help, setting a reminder to do so, or creating the right environment. The challenge is in shifting the desire: to want to unwind in the evenings...to head toward bed...to embrace me time...to feel rested...more than I want the distractions that keep me from these.
I write all of this out as a gentle self nudge to reestablish ritual enjoyment out of the necessary - sleep isn't optional - and I know my mood, short-term memory, energy levels, athletic performance, life enjoyment...will all improve. I do this for myself not because I should, but because I care about myself and my health.
Fostering my bedtime rituals:
> I've noticed the benefits of having a magnesium drink in the evenings, but I think I'll treat myself to calming teas once in awhile.
> Breathing exercises and feel good mobilizations before bed played a major role in healing my digestion, but these practices also contribute to many other aspects of my well-being. I'll play with some variations here and experiment with restorative poses as well.
> I delight in burning essential oils. Sometimes I do a little of this (lavender, bergamot), plus a couple drops of that (ylang ylang, jasmine); but currently, I'm burning this mellow mix in the evenings.
> Awhile back I decided to turn off my analytical, academic (and passionate) mind right before bed, using a "for fun" novel or book to do so. Studying anatomy and biomechanics is fun for me though, so I easily forgot this decision as a couple movement-related and self-care manuals flowed into my bedtime reading. I'll be more mindful of this.
Please feel free to share some of your bedtime rituals in the comments!