The Early Bird
Her challenge: Brooke Brown, 38, is a married prekindergarten teacher with three children from Wellesley, Massachusetts. Given her round-the-clock proximity to small children (her own are ages four, seven, and nine), Brooke is understandably exhausted by the end of the day. So much so that she often falls sound asleep as early as 7 p.m. But she is routinely awakened around 2 a.m.―by a child, her husband snoring, or a need to use the bathroom―and never manages to fall back asleep. She lies in bed with her brain in high gear, eventually giving up on sleep and getting out of bed at 5 a.m. to get a jump on her day.
Expert advice: “She is spending too much time in bed,” says sleep-disorders specialist Susie Esther. Brooke should establish a standard waking time (and stick to it seven days a week), then work backward to figure out what her bedtime should be. So if she wants to get up at 5 a.m., she should plan to be asleep by about 10 p.m.―not 7 p.m. “She should gradually adjust her bedtime so that she is able to stay awake later, and that will help her body adapt to the new schedule,” says Esther. To quell Brooke’s middle-of-the-night worrying, Esther suggests that, instead of lying in bed, she get up and do something relaxing, like having a cup of decaffeinated herbal tea. “Staying in bed and trying to sleep will just wake you up more,” says Esther. “Sleep isn’t something you can ‘try’ to do.”