You know how you feel when you’ve had a long day at work, in front of a screen or in Zoom meetings for hours? You grab ten minutes here and there for a quick break but for most of the day you’re full-on. You get a lot done but when you eventually walk away from your lap top, boy do you feel tired!
But what kind of tired is it? I don’t know about you but for me it’s an unpleasant exhaustion. My body’s stiff after too much sitting in the same position, my brain’s fried after mentally processing stuff all day and my eyes feel all screwed up. And as for my mind – well, I may have left my desk but my mind’s still churning. Most of me is still at work.
I’m familiar with this in-between state of not working but not yet relaxed. I know the signs. I have a conversation with my other half but I’m only half listening. I’m tempted to eat chocolate or have a glass of wine – anything to speed up the unwinding process and enable me to fully leave work behind. Over the years I’ve learnt to recognize that when I’m like this, I’m wired tired – mentally exhausted but physiologically wired. It’s a very different feeling to the pleasant tiredness you get after a good walk, digging the gardening or a long evening bath with a book.
Wired tired stops you from relaxing into the evening. And when it comes to bedtime, wired tired will get in the way of refreshing sleep. For sleep you need a completely different kind of tiredness, the kind I call sleepy tired.
Sleepy tired is the relaxed, comfortable feeling you have when you know you’re ready for sleep. It’s when your mind is lightly ticking over with pleasant thoughts and you’re looking forward to stretching out in bed. When you’re sleepy tired sleep comes easily.
If you struggle with sleep it’s easy to focus all your sleep efforts onto what happens when you are in bed. Although there are a few lucky people who drop off the minute their head hits the pillow (and don’t you hate those people!) most of us need to bridge into sleep. Instead of waiting until you’re in bed, make a conscious effort to take practical steps earlier in the evening to help you switch from wired-tired to sleepy-tired. Being sleepy-tired – or at least part of the way there – is is far more likely to bring restful sleep.
What could you start doing to help you make that switch?