Asleep, Aware, Awake, and Five More Tips for Better Sleep

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Thank you to everyone who commented on Four Tips for Better Sleep. I’m not alone! I struggle with sleep, and it’s easy to feel like I’m the only one who is up in the middle of the night feeling miserable. Apparently there are quite a few of us.

My doctor explained to me that there are three phases in the process of waking: Asleep, Aware, Awake.

This understanding helps me get more sleep. Now I recognize when I’m just beginning to become aware. My eyes may not be open yet, and I’m still in a very restful state. If I can resist the urge to begin actively thinking about anything specific, and if I can avoid moving too much, getting up to go to the bathroom, or even looking at the clock, I can often drift back down into sleep.

Once I let myself move into being fully awake, it is much harder to get back to sleep. In the past I’ve forced myself to lie in bed, waiting for sleep to return, but in the process of writing this post and Four Tips for Better Sleep, I read several times that if you are still lying awake after twenty minutes, it’s best to get up and do something relaxing, like read or listen to music.

Last night between the hours of 2:00 am and 4:00 am, I had time to contemplate a follow-up post on sleep. As is typical for me, I fell asleep within five minutes of turning off the light. Unfortunately, when Russ came to bed more than two hours later, I woke up a little, then a little more, and finally I was wide awake.

After lying in bed for a time, I pulled on a hoodie and some fuzzy socks (thanks Amy C.), grabbed my pillow, and headed downstairs. I resisted the urge to turn on my computer, knowing that the blue light from the screen would make it even more difficult for me to fall asleep (see below), so I read until I was reasonably sure I could drift off.

Here are a few more things that help me sleep:

1. A Notebook

When I’m having a hard time slowing down at night, my mind jumps from one thing to another, mostly things I need to do. I keep a small tablet on my nightstand and write things down as they come to mind, that way I can let them go rather than try to hold them in my mind so I won’t forget by the next morning.

2. Giving Thanks

Often when I turn out the light, I consciously think through the day and give thanks to God for things, big and small. It helps to close my day with a thankful heart and I often drift off in the midst of my reflections.

3. Repeating Truth

In times of severe stress, when it is hard to pray with complete thoughts, I often repeat simple truths to myself as I’m going to sleep.

“I am safe. I am loved.”

“Jesus is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.”

“Nothing can separate me from the love of God.”

And the ancient prayer:

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.”

Sometimes I chance the last words from “a sinner,” to “your child.”

4. Eliminating Blue Light from Screens

[This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.]

A few of you mentioned wearing orange-tinted glasses to block the blue light from the computer screen or phone in the evening.  Here is a great article explaining the potential benefits. I’m ordering a pair for Russ today; at $8 they are worth a try.

Samuel has the Twilight app on his android phone which filters the blue light and gives a soft red filter. F.lux is a similar app for apple devices.

In general, I avoid the computer at night because I either keep writing and working, or I drift into serious time-wasting. But for folks who like to be on their computers or phones in the evening, this is an inexpensive tool to try.

5. Lazy Baby/Child Care

Some of you are still blessed with babies and young children. Back in the days when we had babies, I became a master of nursing in bed while sleeping. In the days before co-sleepers, Russ made one for me using a porta-crib. I don’t know how I would have managed so many years of mothering if I had actually gotten up to nurse. Even with Wogauyu who was bottle-fed, I fed him in bed and snuggled him, then shifted him back over into his little bed that was attached to ours.

Up until this year, we kept a couple sleeping bags in our room and rolled them out when we went to bed. The children were welcome to sleep there, but they were taught to only wake us if necessary. I’m certain this allowed us to get many extra hours of sleep.

What would you add to this list? I love this discussion; please keep the comments coming!

encourage one another,


This post may contain Amazon Affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.


  1. Lori Glasscock
    September 16, 2015

    I've been struggling with getting back to sleep after Gavin gets up a night. If I get up and take him back to his room I might be awake for hours, if he climbs into our bed Shannon and I will be both be sleepless. I remember you keeping a sleeping bag beside your bed for your littles to come into at night. That's the best option for me and I quickly return to sleep, but it often keeps Shannon awake. Uggg, there are so many complications to good sleep.

    1. Lisa Qualls
      September 16, 2015

      The sleeping bags were a lifesaver for us. We often had a child on each side of our bed, but we slept better than when we were all squeezed in together. I hope you get some sleep, Lori.

  2. Joelle
    September 16, 2015

    Great tips. It's really important to look into the best ways to sleep because as menopause approaches interrupted sleep only gets worse. If I do absolutely have to get up to go to the bathroom I try to keep my eyes as closed as possible. That seems to help arrest moving into the fully awake mode. Another tip, if it doesn't bother the other sleeper in the bed, is to listen to the Bible or some story you are familiar with on tape. That helps to focus your mind off of the racing thoughts and lull you back to sleep. And finally, even if you can't sleep, lying down and resting in bed still rejuvenates you to some degree and is better than actually getting up and doing things if you can handle the annoyance of being awake.

    1. Lisa Qualls
      September 16, 2015

      Joelle, I try to remind myself that if I'm not sleeping, at least I'm resting – good point. Sleep is so hard!

  3. Emily
    September 16, 2015

    I talked about Kalkidan with my research team today, and right as we were leaving, I checked my feedly and saw this picture- one of my favorites! I called everyone over and they all looked at it and loved it, too. Love you.

    1. Lisa Qualls
      September 16, 2015

      Love you too, Emily. It makes me glad that you talked about Kalkidan today – I want her to be remembered…

  4. Mary
    September 20, 2015

    My husband travels for his work and I used to get myself so jazzed up with fear that I could hardy fall asleep. The next day I was tired, cranky and without another set of hands. I realized my fear mostly stemmed from feeling vulnerable and unable to protect my children if need be. Whose room would I run to first? So now, whenever he travels, everyone sleeps in Mom's room! We set up cots and rotate who sleeps where for the duration of his trip. It forces me to get to bed at a reasonable time–when I tuck the kids in. We typically get ready for bed super early, do a book fest on my bed of reading for an hour or longer and then go to sleep. I used to dread him traveling. Now, we are making special memories.

    1. Lisa Qualls
      September 21, 2015

      That's brilliant, Mary. When Russ is out of town, I also go to bed early; if I stay up late I'm likely to scare myself silly.


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