While the perfect night’s sleep is often as illusive as dragon’s eggs and fairy potions, getting a good night’s sleep is imperative for maintaining good health and handling the stresses of the day. Toss a deployment into the mix with all of that extra responsibility and worry, and even a good night’s sleep can become something of fairy tales.
Many military spouses often have difficulty adjusting to sleeping alone while their service member is deployed and in harm’s way.
Here are 5 tips to help you sleep better as you count down the days until homecoming.
Prepare to Sleep: Develop a Bedtime Routine
One of the easiest ways to help your body sleep better, even in the midst of chaos and stress, is to develop a bedtime routine. At the end of a long, hard day, be kind to yourself. Brew a cup of chamomile tea, take a warm bath or shower, use aromatherapy, read, meditate or do some other quiet and calming activity.
While none of these activities actually makes you sleepy, following a daily bedtime routine can help remind your body that it is time to de-stress and get some rest.
You’ll want to avoid exercise within an hour of your normal bedtime as the endorphins released during this kind of activity can keep you awake.
And recent studies have indicated that the use of electronic devices like iPads, cell phones, eReaders and television can affect your natural circadian rhythms, so give yourself at least 30 minutes of unplugged time before bed.
Get Organized: The Easiest Way to De-Stress
Stress can have a huge impact on your sleeping patterns, so managing stress can help to ensure a better night’s sleep.
Simple things like getting your clothes (and your kid’s clothes) ready the night before, planning weekly meals, setting up bill pay and keeping a good calendar of due dates and activities can help to eliminate the feeling of having too many balls in the air.
It can be hard to get into the routine of planning ahead, but thankfully there are all kinds of free tools on the Internet to help you with everything from planning menus and building shopping lists to keeping track of appointments. Even if you usually do okay keeping track of things, putting some simple organization and time management mechanisms in place can help you stay on schedule and can greatly reduce your stress levels.
Keep a Journal
Often the lack of communication with a deployed spouse can add to your worry and increase feelings of isolation and loneliness. And while you can rarely control when the phone will ring or when that long-awaited email will arrive, you can make the most of the time you have Skyping or chatting with your deployed spouse by writing things down.
Consider keeping a journal. You can even make it part of your bedtime routine. Jot down a few words about your day or vent all of your frustrations on those pages.
Putting it down on paper can be cathartic and it gives you a chance to reflect and revisit some of your more taxing challenges when you aren’t right in the middle of them.
Plus, it can help to eliminate the need to unload all of that frustration on your spouse.
But don’t forget to write about the good and exciting things too. Get into the habit of finding at least one thing to be thankful or happy for each day. It will help add balance and perspective to your view of the deployment.
Sleep in the Middle of the Bed with a Snuggle Alternative
This one can be a bit hard to get used to, but sleeping in the middle of the bed can help to all eliminate that “something’s missing” feeling.
Adding a full body-length pillow, a teddy bear sprayed with your spouse’s favorite cologne or perfume, a pet or even a snuggly kid can also help to combat the feeling of being alone.
Talk to Your Doctor
If you’ve tried all these techniques or if you find yourself under an unusual or significant amount of stress, don’t be afraid to reach out to your primary care physician.
Simple supplements like vitamin D or melatonin can help to encourage good sleep and there are a number of over-the-counter and prescription drugs that can help as well. But always seek a doctor’s advice before starting any kind of sleep medication to rule out other conditions like sleep apnea and depression.