It always seems like a good idea at the time...
Does your internal alarm clock go off every night at 3 a.m. in the middle of a good dream? Are you up for hours, thinking about the lyrics to Sheryl Crow songs and Googling vintage U2 and Nirvana videos to figure out the meaning of life? Your beloved nightcap could be to blame.
Of course I mean the alcoholic kind. If you're wearing a real nightcap, please stop. Doctors and scientists tend to ruin our fun with their facts and figures, and studies from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism have shown that "alcohol consumed within an hour of bedtime appears to disrupt the second half of the sleep period." Meh.
Your wine with dinner (or vodka on the rocks with a splash of lime) could be keeping you up at night and causing you to walk around in a daze during the day, or making you forget to drive when the light turns green, because that particular glow of green reminds you of soft grass in a warm spring meadow, a perfect place for a nap ... until the honking horns jolt you back to reality (that happened to a friend of mine once).
If it happens to you, maybe you should quit drinking for a week or two to see if it makes a difference. For some of us, that's no big deal, but if you look forward to your nightly drink more than you care to admit, here are five tips and tricks to help you break the habit:
First off, let's state the obvious: Maybe you're an alcoholic. Look in the mirror and ask yourself, "Can I stop drinking on my own, or do I need professional help?" Whisper the answer if you have to, but be honest. Lying is a waste of time. Call a trusted friend, clergyman, counselor, or your local Alcoholics Anonymous chapter. It's the right thing to do.
Now, the tricks:
1. Embrace your inner bitch: Do you drink at night to take the edge off the stressful second shift of navigating the middle school math homework, the never-ending laundry pile, and refereeing sibling squabbles? The world won't end if you're cranky. Try not to be too mean, but if your temper bubbles over, leave the room, come back later, and apologize. It's life. Bitch happens.
2. Break the habit with a substitute: There's a bit of Pavlov's dog in all of us. Are you a wine drinker? Try a glass of cold white or purple grape juice in a wine glass; a fizzy drink on the rocks with a mini umbrella can go a long way to giving your hands and mouth their habit fix. This sounds silly, but it's true. I sat on my porch drinking Vitaminwater in a champagne flute every night for a whole summer once. Turns out it was the porch and the summer that I really wanted. Hot tea in a good mug works well for this trick in the winter. Get some good tea, and get a good mug. Treat yourself!
3. Go away: Get busy and leave the house during that time you usually start drinking. Take a little walk around the neighborhood (you, dog, flashlight, it's not so bad), go to the gym, the library, or make plans with friends (don't go out for a drink!) for the first week.
4. Look at the clock: Do you tend to drink at the same time every day? If so, talk yourself into pushing that time further and further out. If you always have a drink at 6 p.m., tell yourself, "I don't have to have it now, but I'll see where I am at 7 p.m." And then at 7? It's only an hour ‘til 8 p.m. If you must have it, have it. Tomorrow, push it another hour. When you get up to 9 p.m., just go to bed!
5. Take a hot bath: And use bubbles, and candles, and enough music to drown out the sound of the kids knocking on the door and the dog whining for you. Okay, you may have to put this off until the kids go to bed, but it gives you something nice to look forward to. And you'll sleep better, too!
Image via Slice of Pink