Closing up shop……        

   Woman Sleeping by Window

At 5:30 it is time for the shoemaker to close up shop. He puts away his tools, wipes off his workbench. Glancing at the shoes he will work on tomorrow, he checks to make sure that his shop is secure and turns out the lights. With a click of the lock he turns his feet, and his thoughts, towards home.

Closing up shop. Our brains love this kind of ritual and order. When we want to promote restful sleep we need to be able to “close up shop” and to give ourselves a soft spot in which to rest that feels secure and nurturing.

Sleep comes first

This is especially important for folks who experience depressive symptoms. Oftentimes, in the midst of depression, almost every aspect of life can feel overwhelming. It is important to create one space that feels like a refuge. The bedroom is a good starting point. If sleep isn’t happening, recovery in all other areas will be more difficult.

Three steps

Bedrooms are for sleeping, so out go the chips, the crossword puzzles, and the computer….

It is best to remove computers, televisions and any other electronic equipment.
That pile of work papers, unread magazines and books also goes. Eating in the
bedroom? Not recommended. We want to create an environment that says the
day is done, to give our brains that signal. Many people with depression struggle
with falling asleep or waking up in the middle of the night, their minds roiling with
endless loops of what didn’t get done and what ifs. Clearing the space sets the
intention that no matter what is happening restful sleep is a priority.

Next shake out the sheets…

A friend of mine described her mother’s daily habit of “shaking out the sheets.”
Everyday the mom would remove the bed sheets and shake them in the fresh air.
It was a way of starting anew for her. That is a good metaphor for the second
step. Now that the space is reclaimed as a sleep haven, we can look at the
environment more closely. Take a few minutes to simply sit in your bedroom.
Start to notice what you want to have in your bedroom. Is there a pile of clothes
that could go into the laundry, to Goodwill, or storage? Do you like the blankets
on your bed? Do they keep you comfortably warm? This is a good time to dust
and vacuum. (Note: You don’t have to do the whole house, just the bedroom!)
For many folks, seeing more of the bed and floor space can be very satisfying.
Keep the theme of freshness in mind.

Make it your own, make it nurturing.

This final step is about adding to the space. Maybe you’ve been using an over-
head light fixture that you really dislike. Is there a kind of soft lighting that would
be more soothing? One person hated searching in the dark for a light switch. It
was a delight to get a lamp that came on with a clap of his hands. Are you into
scents or candles? Lavender can be relaxing. You can even consider pajamas
and slippers. This step is about nurturing and self soothing.

Step by step…..

Please remember that this is a process. It’s fine to do one step at a time. Many people report that asking a friend or family member to lend a hand has been very helpful in getting jumpstarted. You do not have to spend a lot of money. It is more about simplicity and peacefulness than particular things.

Sara’s Story

Sara checked her emails in her room at night and would eventually fall asleep watching television. She would wake several hours later still in her clothes. When she was at long last in bed sleeping, she’d stay in bed until the last possible moment. She’d get up grumpy and groggy. Tossing clothes and searching for her purse, she’d leave her room in disarray.

Sara worked on her room for three afternoons with a friend. The computer and television were moved to the living room. Piles of bills and mail were put in containers and moved to her desk area. Newspapers and magazines were recycled after Sara gave herself permission not to read all of those seemingly important articles.

In Sara’s situation, changing the sheets was refreshing. She and her friend sorted through several piles of clothes. At this point they were ready to wipe down the windowsills and furniture. Sara hadn’t noticed how much dust had collected over the months. She frequently had colds and flu and wondered if her stale environment contributed to this.

For the grand finale, Sara and her friend brought in extension cords so they could rearrange the lighting. They unearthed a stuffed animal that Sara had had since childhood. She decided to give it a place of honor on her bed.

Sara found these changes more pleasing than she could have imagined. Her problems and concerns didn’t disappear but Sara felt like she could call an end to her day and allow herself to rest. It was easier to get to bed and she found over a period of a few weeks she fell asleep more readily.

Let’s review the key points of this sleep friendly environment.

It is important to “close up shop” and have a soft place to rest.
Sleep comes first. It is the cornerstone of recovery.
Three steps to creating a sleep friendly environment:

Keep the bedroom a place for sleep only.
“Shake the sheets,” freshen the environment.
Make it your own, make it nurturing.

Step by step, go at your own pace and it is okay to ask for help.

Now you are ready for the next step. Plan to take a few minutes to look at your sleep space and write down a possible plan.

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