The Downtime Seeker
Her challenge: Regina Clark, 39, a married assistant professor of journalism from Somerset, New Jersey, stays up until midnight or later to have downtime, even though she knows it’s at the expense of getting a good night’s sleep. (She often needs to be up at 5 a.m.) When she does lie down, her mind doesn’t stop working, especially now that she is up for tenure at her teaching job and pregnant with twins. When she finally falls asleep, it’s a very light sleep. She’s awakened easily and often by things like her dog’s barking or her husband’s snoring. She normally manages to get about five hours of sleep but feels she needs a solid seven or eight hours to be fully functional. “I tend to be foggy or hazy during the day, unable to focus clearly or remember things properly, and I know it’s related to not getting enough sleep,” Regina says.
Expert advice: Regina should take 30 minutes or so earlier in the day to do the things that are keeping her up (like checking e-mail and writing lists). Also:
- She should ask her husband to have his snoring checked to make sure it’s not a symptom of a more serious problem―and she might try wearing earplugs to block out the noise.
- In addition, she can keep the dog out of the bedroom and maybe have her husband agree to get up with their two-year-old baby for a few weeks while she focuses on improving her sleep pattern.
- Regina should practice “letting go,” says psychologist Rubin Naiman. He encourages her to work on managing stress by exercising more and, if possible, delegating more at work so she doesn’t feel so overwhelmed. “We’re such an active, ‘doing’ culture, and then we get into bed and try to ‘do’ sleep,” Naiman says. “You can’t just ‘go’ to sleep, but you can learn to let go of waking.”