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The Ritualist
The Ritualist

The Ritualist


You have scoured the internet for the best way to sleep and are very aware of what happens when you have a poor sleep. You follow any and all tips and advice about sleep, and have built a regimen routine (which is borderline obsessive) around sleep. When you don’t get to follow it, this increases your anxiety – and what’s more, the regimen doesn’t necessarily lead to better quality sleep. You might find yourself keeping a close eye on the hours and are speculating about the benefits of doing so ie “If I go to sleep now, I’ll get XX hours of sleep”. You might listen to ‘good sleepers’ and feel bitter towards them, as they just don’t understand. Despite this, sleep remains poor – the more obsessed you become, the worse it gets.

Your Sleep Diet

  1. The rules aren’t working. Give yourself permission to let go. You don’t have to be the perfect student to sleep – if that were true then good sleepers wouldn’t sleep with the odd cheeky espresso after dinner or late night. Stop punishing yourself for no apparent reason

  2. Everybody is different – therefore moulding yourself to the ‘perfect’ sleeper isn’t realistic. In our society, this seems to mean 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep, every single night, never ever having a bad night’s sleep and feeling amazing every single day. This is unrealistic

  3. A bad night’s sleep is actually OK. You need to feel at peace with that. The more you’re willing to let it go, the more your anxieties over this will fade and sleep will come easier to you. Anxiety = increased heart rate and temperature – basically, the equivalent of telling your brain it’s time to be very ALERT

  4. Get rid of the clock in your bedroom. Put the alarm on the other side of the room. You don’t need to know how many hours of sleep you are getting!

  5. Sleep debt does not quite work the way you think it does all of the time. It’s not “4 hours lost needs 4 hours gain”. Sometimes, your brain is so smart that it can actually increase certain stages of sleep it feels you need more, without increasing the duration of sleep. It seems slightly mad then, that we tell ourselves exactly how much we need and then change our entire behaviour around it – desperately clawing for extra hours of sleep, even when we are functioning just fine without it. This is not to say that when you can’t keep your eyes open, you shouldn’t sleep – but how much of your day is actually spent doing that? I’m guessing it’s an awful feeling of fatigue for you instead – this isn’t your body signalling you need deep sleep right NOW

  6. There are some very simple, realistic ways to regulate your sleep. It would be more effective to focus on these and be consistent with these basic steps, than to follow 20 ‘random’, unrealistic tips which aren’t evidence based.
    • Regulate your wake up time and don’t go to bed until you feel ‘sleepy’ (your eyes won’t stay open)
    • Don’t compensate outside of your usual opportunity to sleep – it may feel better in the short term but lying in, napping or generally just changing the hours you allow yourself to sleep won’t lead to consistent sleeping in the future
    • Find ways to be more accepting of wake time at night and take yourself away from your bedroom/sleeping area – find ways to enjoy yourself, even. The more you can steer clear of that pesky anxiety, the more likely you are to feel sleepy eventually


Be consistent with these simple techniques – this isn’t an overnight job, it’s not even a few days. Your brain needs to trust that you aren’t going to change your behaviour too often. This takes weeks. You are different from the next person, so stop trying to mould yourself to perfection! It doesn’t exist.