It’s dark. You’re in bed. You look at the clock. It’s 10:00pm. You flip over. Sigh. Look at the clock. It’s 2:00am. You’re still frickin’ awake. What the hell? You know, logically there’s nothing you can do now about the upcoming start of school that is only 3 weeks away! As a principal our monkey minds are forever chattering in the wee hours of the morning. Especially at the start of a school year. These five strategies may help you trap that monkey and help you get some sleep. It’s 4:00am .. . maybe not.
This is one strategy that I recently heard about on a podcast by Tim Ferris. He talks about when he can’t sleep the process of writing down your thoughts prior to going to bed is helpful. He found that the mere act of writing them down traps those thoughts on the paper. Somehow his brain realizes that he understands what he has to do and so no longer goes through a repetitive loop. Having a notepad by the side of your bed so you can jot down your thoughts could help you finally get those z’s you’re missing out on.
I have a staff member who is enthusiastic about mindfulness. During our icebreaker and team building of the last year she mentioned meditation and how it helps center her. I don’t do a formal version of this when I’m trying to sleep, but I do focus on my breath. I find that if I breath deep until my stomach expands for a while for two or three minutes my brain starts to chill out and I’m able to sleep more quickly. If I find myself going back to something that I can’t change immediately I tell myself to get back to breathing. For me, this technique works better than the notepad one. I’m prone to losing pens. :-)
Working out after a day at school might not be for everyone, but getting some type of exercise in before you go to bed may help you sleep. I sometimes do a combination of stretching and breathing exercises before bed. In my stretching I make sure to cross my limbs to stimulate different parts of my brain as a way to calibrate everything. If you’re interested in learning how crossing the midline helps calm you down, you can read more about it here under the subheading Hookups. The science shows exercising helps reduce stress. In turn this might help you get a good night sleep.
My wife has trouble going to sleep and I keep telling her it’s because she’s steady going through her phone, or using it to read. She’s put a filter on her screen so it no longer emits the blue light that can trick our brain into thinking it’s still day time. I do a decent job of shutting done my electronics before bed but I know many collleagues use the evening times to finally get to their emails. This will definitely keep your mind engaged and make it harder for you to sleep. If at all possible, set a time that you will actually stop replying to emails and be disciplined enough to stick to it. This will help you brain realize it’s time to shut down and rejuvenate.
This is as simple as it sounds. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. By having a set physical routine and practicing it habitually we can train our brains to shut down when we want it to. With our chaotic evenings often times we don’t know when we’re going to be home. Sometimes there’s that emergency that we solve by 7 o’clock but we spend the rest of our night reflecting on it. We wonder if we took the right steps, contacted the right people or may have missed something. Having a set physical routine alerts our brains that it’s time to sleep and makes the chances of it actually happening greater.
About a million things happen in a typical principal’s day. It makes sense that a couple of those are going to stick with you or you’ll project into the future trying to problem solve. Doing it while you’re trying to get a much needed nights sleep will cause you to crash and burn. Trapping your thougths in a notebook, meditation, exercising, shutting down your electronics, and having an established physical night routine are all great strategies to try when sleep escapes you.
What are strategies you use when trying to get to sleep? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.
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I'm a Principal and an Entrepreneur. I'm the former owner of a food venture Hustling Hoagies, the author of the children's picture books Detective Dwayne Drake and the Alphabet Thief, Detective Dwayne Drake and The Case of the Mathematical Misfit and the ebook Making it as a Male Model in Michigan. I've worked professionally as a model and commercial actor......