If you’ve read my last post, you know that I’ve been dealing with insomnia for the past ten years. And now is the moment I open my heart to you…
A decade ago, I was not a teacher. I worked in a 9 to 5 job, in an office… and I hated it. I was so unhappy and stressed out that, at 24, for the first time in my life, I started having trouble sleeping. Falling asleep took forever and I would wake up in the middle of the night, certain to be awake for another two or three hours before being able to drift away again.
I was exhausted. The lack of sleep started to affect my mood. I cried a lot, at home and at work. It got bad.
One day, I caught myself having serious and dangerous thoughts. The next morning, I consulted my doctor to get some help.
He helped me in more than one way, but one of the main things he explained to me was how important sleep is. He gave me some advice, that I’ve tried to follow since then and I thought that today, I would share it with you.
Disclosure: I am NOT a doctor nor a medical professional!
I’m happy to help you if I can, but please remember to get professional help if you need it.
1. Bedroom = Sleep
The first thing my doctor told me was to banish all activity from my bedroom, except sleep and intimate moments.
That means that my bedroom doesn’t have a T.V. screen and will never have one. That also means that you shouldn’t use your phone or any other electronic devices in bed. I’ll admit, I’m struggling with that one… Just like I find it almost impossible not to read in bed, even though my doctor tells me I would be just as comfy reading on the living room couch. He’s right, of course. But old habits die hard…
2. Have a Nightly Routine
This I’ve been doing for years, and it really helps, because the brain is a fascinating thing.
The idea is that by putting in place a routine and following it strictly, after a couple of weeks, your body will start associating the sequence with bedtime. It will know that when you brush your teeth and wash your face, for example, it’s time to get ready to shut down for the night. The habit will slowly enter your subconscient and will help you fall asleep faster when you lie down.
3. Quiet Time
Personally, I find it helpful to include some quiet reading time at the end of my routine. No screens, though! A real, old school book that you can smell (like the true Rory Gilmore fan that I am). And ideally not a thriller or something that will stress you out… 😉
4. Find Your Rhythm
Our bodies follow a circadian rhythm that roughly coincides with the length of a day, i.e. 24 hours. That biological clock can vary from person to person, that’s why it’s important to get to know how yours works. Personally, I know that if I get less than 8 hours of sleep, after a few days I will start to see a difference in my mood and demeanor.
If you’re attentive to your rhythm, you will notice that there are moments in the day when you start to feel tired. You’ll yawn, you’ll feel groggy or your eyes will become heavier. Normally, if this happens while the sun is still high in the sky, you’ll grab a cup of coffee and get back on to your to-do list.
The trick is to start getting ready for bed when you feel that fatigue coming in the evening. Your body is trying to tell you something, listen! I know putting on your pj’s and getting under the covers at 8 p.m. might seem ridiculous, but my suggestion (and my doctor’s!) is to do it. Because if you ignore the sleepiness and push through it, it will probably only come back in 4 hours. That’s the average. Four hours is a long time to wait for sleep… I’m just saying.
5. Don’t Stay in Bed
“What? Elaine, are you suggesting that I should get out of bed to sleep better?!”
You bet, I am! So is my doc! (Tired of hearing about him yet? Ha!)
Everyone who deals with insomnia has experienced the feeling of frustration that takes over when you’re trying to fall asleep and it’s just not working. You see the minutes, sometimes hours, go by and you’re getting more stressed by the second. You toss and turn, and you imagine the dreadful day you’ll have to get through because sleep was evading you.
Instead of staying in bed and going completely bananas, you should get up and go do something else. Something calm and soothing. Do NOT go and watch Game of Thrones or read the new Dan Brown! Read something a bit boring, draw a mandala, whatever calms you down and takes your mind off your lack of sleep. I used to do my required reading for classes when it happened to me. It was so not exciting that eventually, I would start to yawn and my eyes would get heavier… That’s when I would get back between the sheets and would successfully fall asleep.
6. Don’t Panic
Ultimately, you have to trust your body. Try not to worry too much when you have a bad night. Or two. Or three. I know, it’s easier said than done. It certainly isn’t ideal to only sleep a few hours per night, but you will survive. You and your body are though. And sooner or later, your body will become so tired that a good night’s sleep will happen. I promise. Especially if you start cultivating the good habits I’m sharing with you 😉
7. Get Professional Help
Ultimately, if you’ve tried everything I wrote and then some, that you’re still not sleeping and that it affects your mood, I STRONGLY advise that you seek help. I hope you have an awesome doctor like mine who will give you some pointers.
And maybe you’re like me and along with the tips and tricks, you’ll need a medication for a little while. I took mine for about a year and a half, before slowly lowering the doses and finally stopping completely. I’ve not needed it since, but I know that I did the right thing by getting help. It saved my life.
Do you suffer from insomnia? How do you deal with it? I would love to know your tricks and learn about your journey. Comment below, on Facebook or on Instagram!
Until next time,