The Anxious Woman’s Definitive Guide on How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep

An Instruction Manual

Many people assume that the process of getting a good night of sleep begins at bedtime. This is one of many misconceptions surrounding the subject of what poet’s call “death’s cousin.” But if you follow the simple steps below, you, too, will wake up rested, refreshed and ready to start your day!

The small type:

Results may vary

This product is non-refundable

Step 1.

Set a regular schedule. Wake up and go to bed at the same time each day and night to adjust your body to a natural rhythm.

Step 2.

Get plenty of fresh air and exercise during the day. It is best to exercise early. Exercise close to bedtime may be stimulating. Allow enough time for your muscles to rest from exertion.

Step. 3

Avoid caffeine and alcohol. Yes, you may currently use caffeine to wake up after your shitty night’s sleep and alcohol to relax after your shitty day. This is ill-advised. Caffeine is a stimulant with a half-life that will play havoc with your brain in the night. Alcohol has also been documented to disrupt sleep.

Step. 4

Don’t shoot the author of this instruction manual. I’m just giving you the facts.

Step. 5

Make sure your bedroom is a relaxing environment. It should be cool and uncluttered, cleared of pets and, if necessary, partners who snore. The bedroom should also be dark.

Step 6.

No electronics within 3 hours of bedtime. No television. No computer. No iPad. No Kindle. No iPhone. Surround yourself with serenity. You may consider limiting your exposure to the news to under five minutes a day. Again, news consumption is highly stimulating and must be taken early in the day.

Step. 7

Repeat Step 4.

Step 8

Slip into your clean, cool sheets at your appointed bedtime. By now your body has naturally relaxed, because it is devoid of stimulants like coffee, alcohol and screen time. Your muscles are pleasantly tired from your earlier exercise and your mind is clear.

Step 9

Take a deep breath and exhale slowly. Next, practice this simple relaxation exercise. Starting with your toes. and moving slowly up the body, tighten each muscle group. Now one by one, let them go. Uncurl the toes, unclench the calve muscles, keep going all the way to your pinched, tense eyebrows.

Step 10

Let your mind go to wherever it wants to wander. Begin to agitate. Think about everything you haven’t done that you meant to. And that ill-advised email that you sent. And that small, weird swelling on your neck that just might be a lump. Think about Trump. Count the days until Nov. 3. Wonder when you will ever see your children again.

Step 11

Get up. Go eat something. Anything. That’s what the refrigerator is for.

Step 12

Go back to bed. Repeat the relaxation exercise. This time, don’t forget to unclench your jaw. Think about your aging parents if you still have them. If not, focus on one of your troubled children. Wonder about a mole growing on your leg. Think about the possibility of emigrating to Canada. Wonder how you will ever get your work done. Think about the work you’ve already submitted, and how shitty it was. Which is probably why the editor never called. She’s finished with you.

Thrash around the bed for 30 minutes and get up again.

Step 13

Go downstairs and turn on the light. Revisit the refrigerator. This time, grab the wine. Or if you prefer, go straight for hard liquor. The “How To Get A Good Night’s Sleep” manual is designed for flexibility so it can work for everybody!

Step 14

Go back up to bed. Now, take another deep, cleansing breath. Try a visualization exercise. Picture yourself is a place that you love. Perhaps it’s the beach. Feel the warm sand under your feet. Listen to the gentle, rhythmic sounds of the ocean. Feel the sun on your face. Oh shit, that mole. Realize you should have worn sunscreen as a teenager, but it’s far too late to do anything about that now. Make a mental note to schedule an appointment with the dermatologist about the mole.

Maybe your happy place is the mountains. Imagine yourself atop a glorious peak. The fresh air is heaven. The puffy cumulous clouds parade majestically across the sky. Vistas of forests and lakes spread out below you. Oh. Below you. You have to get back down from this mountain. Your hips. Your knees. Cortisone shot? How many can you have in a year? Physical Therapy? Covid germs. Would the physical therapist be touching me? In the end, you’ll need an MRI anyway. Think about whether wearing a mask inside an MRI machine be a meta experience of claustrophobia.

Continue thrashing for 30 more minutes.

Step 15

Get up. Go downstairs. Pace.

Decide that reading will calm you down. Nothing topical. Something transporting. Reach for Shakespeare’s sonnets on the shelf. Read the following:

Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed
The dear repose for limbs with travel tired;
But then begins a journey in my head
To work my mind, when body’s work’s expir’d:
For then my thoughts — from far where I abide —
Intend a zealous pilgrimage to thee,
And keep my drooping eyelids open wide,
Looking on darkness which the blind do see:
Save that my soul’s imaginary sight
Presents thy shadow to my sightless view,
Which, like a jewel hung in ghastly night,
Makes black night beauteous and her old face new.
Lo! thus, by day my limbs, by night my mind,
For thee, and for myself no quiet find.

Step 16

Realize you are fucked, as people have been fucked since at least the 16th century. Start rummaging through your medicine cabinet.

Step 17

Discover the one Percocet you saved from that dental surgery. Keep it for a bigger emergency. Keep searching.

Step 18

Discover the valium you were prescribed for anxiety while flying. Take the

valium. You are never flying anywhere again anyway, because the world is coming to an end.

Step 19

Rinse and Repeat

Journalist/author. Contributor NYT 20+ years. Also WSJ,, GH, more. Author: Mama’s Boy Myth (Penguin/Avery 2012). Cook. Parent. Queen Latifah fan.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store