I haven’t slept well in 14 years. Nope, that’s not an exaggeration. First, I had two kids who didn’t sleep through the night till they were four or five years old. Then, once my youngest started sleeping well, I began going through perimenopause.
For me, sleeping like shit is one of the primary ways that I experience perimenopause. I experience the bulk of it the week before my period, which also happens to be when I’m dead tired and irritable anyway. During that week, I find it nearly impossible to fall asleep. Once I’m finally asleep, I toss and turn like nobody’s business. Then, I tend to wake up at the butt crack of dawn and can’t fall back asleep.
Oh, and when I wake up, I’m often drenched in sweat. Fun times.
Still, I can’t blame my hormones completely for my crappy sleep. I probably drink too much coffee. Between work, the pandemic, and raising a family, my stress levels are often through the roof. Oh, and I’ve become a prolific nighttime doomscroller.
I used to be able to put up with all the bad sleep, but the truth is, it really impacts my health and well being. When I don’t sleep enough, I have trouble getting stuff done, I’m cranky, and my mental health takes a nosedive. Lack of sleep also exacerbates my IBS and migraines.
Lately, I’ve been trying my best to practice better sleep hygiene. I’ve put the breaks on before-bed doomscrolling, and replaced it with scrolling through Instagram. Tiny house accounts are my current obsession.
But I definitely need to put some more things into practice so that I can maximize my ZZZZs. All of this was why I was intrigued when I came across a sleep system thought up by a doctor called the “10-3-2-1-0 Method.”
Dr. Jess Andrade, a pediatrician, came up with this method, and shared it on her Instagram, where it got a lot of attention. Clearly, I’m not the only one who deals with lousy sleep on a regular basis.
The method is based on some pretty smart and scientifically sound data on how humans sleep best, and the numbers make it easier to remember (well, unless you are old and chronically sleep deprived like me).
Here’s the basics of it, and what each number stands for.
10: Stop Consuming Caffeine Ten Hours Before Bed
Dr. Andrade recommends that you stop consuming caffeine about 10 hours before you expect to hit the sack. “Caffeinated drinks will clear from the blood stream in around 10 hours and eliminate the stimulatory effects,” she shares in her Instagram post.
So, if you plan on going to sleep at 10pm, for example, your last caffeine hit should be at 12pm (noon). This definitely makes sense, but many of us rely on a little afternoon caffeine pick-me-up, so this might be a tough habit to break. Switching to decaf might help, though.
3: No Food Or Alcohol Three Hours Before Bed
In her IG post, Dr. Andrade specifically says that skipping any “big meals” three hours before bed is best. I’m not sure if small snacks might still be acceptable. She says to not drink alcohol three hours before bed as well.
The reason for all this? Reducing your food intake before bed can decrease instances of reflux. Additionally “alcohol impairs your natural sleep cycle, reducing good quality sleep,” Dr. Andrade says.
2: Don’t Do Any Work Two Hours Before Bed
Dr. Andrade recommends that you should stop doing any work or homework in those hours before bed so that you can turn your mind off and quiet your thoughts. Instead, she recommends that you write down everything you need to do for the next day and let your brain take a “mental rest.”
This is definitely good advice, though I know that working parents—especially ones balancing virtual school and pandemic quarantines—may simply not have this luxury.
1: Turn Off All Electronic Devices One Hour Before Bed
This is some advice that many of us have heard, but that kinda sounds impossible, if you ask me. Dr. Andrade explains that the blue light that our electronic devices emit (phones, iPads) mess with our sleep cycles and aren’t good for us. TVs and laptops are also a “no.”
She definitely has a point, though I wonder if those blue light blocking filter and apps take care of that problem? Probably not, considering I doubt it’s just the blue light that is keeping us all up. Being engaged with TV, social media, news, etc., is extremely stimulating, can be stressful, and is probably not great before bed.
O: Hit Your Snooze Button Zero Times In The Morning
Dr. Andrade says that none of us should be hitting snooze on our alarms in the morning. She doesn’t give a reason for this one, but I know personally that if I keep going back to sleep in the morning, I do end up feeling more groggy all day.
Thankfully, most of us parents don’t have the luxury of hitting snooze, because our kids are basically climbing all over us as soon as we wake up. Most of us don’t even need alarm clocks once we have kids, because they are always up hella early.
Personally, I think that this method has a lot of helpful info in it, and I will probably do some version of each of these things going forward. The hardest ones to implement for me would be the “no eating before bed” one and the “no electronics before bed” rule.
First, as someone who has dealt with disordered eating in the past, I’m not that keen on strict food restrictions. But I have found that if I eat too late, I can get terrible reflux. I think it makes sense, as Dr. Andrade suggests, to move away from “big” meals before bed, especially if you are prone to reflux. But it seems to me that light snacks could work. Either way, I think making strict rules about this one is a slippery slope for anyone who deals with food stuff, so I would not want to go there.
As for the “no electronics one hour before bed,” I can see how that could be a good thing, for sure. But when you are a parent, and you literally only have one hour to yourself between when your kids go to bed and when you do, you have to do whatever it takes to get to sleep. I’m going to go with the blue light filter, and the “no doomscrolling” idea instead of a complete ban of screentime.
Whatever the case, Dr. Andrade makes a ton of good points, and I like a simple method like this that’s all laid out for you. I think, as with anything, we can all take what we need, and leave the rest behind.
Let’s hope that making a few adjustments like these can lead to better sleep for us all. We deserve it.