Like a lot of people out there, I occasionally suffer from bouts of insomnia. In fact, it’s been recurring for me since my teens, and for awhile it radically affected my life and ability to work a ‘normal’ job. For years I worked night/evening shifts so I didn’t have to wake up early in the morning.
Of course, the older I got the more I hated working in the evening while my friends were out enjoying life. I always felt like I was missing out on something (irrational, I know.. but it’s how I was feeling at the time).
Insomnia is defined as difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep, or both, despite adequate opportunity and time to sleep, leading to impaired daytime functioning. Insomnia may be due to poor quality or quantity of sleep.
For me, I generally have troubles getting to sleep at night, especially when I know I have to be up early the next morning or something important to do. Though sometimes it can occur when I’m just not looking forward to something.. like getting up early for work the next morning. lol
There are a lot of articles out there that give tips or advise on how to battle insomnia. From what I’ve read and from my own personal experience, I don’t think there is any one set course to help get to sleep and get back on a regular sleeping pattern.
But I did find that there are some common elements to all of these advise and tip websites…
1 – Use your bed for sleep and sex only
I think we’ve all gotten into bad habits of reading in bed, watching tv or playing on our mobiles/iPads/tablets/laptops while waiting for sleep to arrive – I know I’m hugely guilty of this. By doing something in bed other than sleeping or having sex, you are associating the bed with that activity. Simplistic I know, but sometimes our psyches can take over what we’d really like to be doing.
And let’s not even go into whether it’s a good idea to eat or snack in bed. We’ve all done it at one point or another, but who wants to sleep in a bed full of cookie crumbs?
2 – Avoiding caffeine, alcohol and nicotine before bed
Sometimes these things are easier said than done. Who doesn’t love a nice cup of tea to relax in the evening before going to bed, or a glass of wine (or two) with/after dinner. And us smokers all have our little rituals, usually with a ciggie before going to bed. I try not to have a smoke too soon before bed, and really should switch to herbal tea (decaffeinated tea just sounds wrong lol).
3 – Medication
This one is a tricky one, as a lot of sleep-assisting medication can be very habit forming. If you’re finding yourself needing the sleep medication in order to get a few zzz’s, then you’re better off seeking medical assistance. There are many herbal remedies out there you can try as well. I personally try to stay away from these, but will use them on the extremely rare occasion.
4 – Sex
Let’s be honest guys (and girls too of course), once you’ve had that sexual release after intercourse or masturbation, we all get somewhat sleepy. And it’s not too hard to go from that to actually dozing off. And if you have someone special to snuggle up with after sex, there’s nothing sweeter than falling asleep in each others arms.
And for all us singletons out there, there’s always the pillow to curl up with..
5 – Get out of bed, change location
We’ve all been there – tossing and turning, and watching the time fly by as you stare at the ceiling or alarm clock wishing you could sleep and counting the hours until your alarm will go off.
Instead of laying there, give yourself a change of location by maybe moving to the sofa for a bit, or getting a glass of water. It doesn’t have to be long, but long enough that allows you to break the cycle of just laying there sleeplessly.
Just don’t get into the habit of going to the refrigerator when this happens.. that won’t help anything. And if you’re getting a drink, make it water or something non-stimulating. Soda or anything caffeinated won’t help.
6 – Turn off the electronics
Let’s be honest, we’ve all laid in bed playing with our mobiles or some electronic device (iPad, Kindle, tablets, etc) as a way to wind down before heading off to sleep. And as relaxing as this may be sometimes, it can actually be bad for you as you’re stimulating the brain.
I know for me I tend to take my iPad or Kindle to bed with me to read or play some ‘mindless’ game, and this is a hard cycle to break, but sometimes it might be better to read a physical book instead. Maybe 😉
7 – Sound therapy
For years, I could never get to sleep without some music playing softly in the background, as this was a way to drown out any other sounds from outside the bedroom (ie: inside the house/flat, the traffic outside, etc). Generally I would put on low-tempo Chill-Out music and drift right off. I know some people who use ear-plugs or white-noise as ways to block out any sort of noise.
Since I’ve moved to the burbs, I now find I don’t need this as much as I used to since it’s so quiet out here. However with the recent rain/wind storms we’ve been having in the UK, I’ve needed to go back to this habit.. except sometimes I do find it distracting and tend to get into the music instead of letting it lull me to sleep.
8 – Eating too heavily or too close to bedtime
Ok, I’m definitely guilty of this. Like a lot of people, my dinner tends to be my biggest meal of the day, where instead I’ve read this should be more of a light meal or snack so you don’t feel too full when you go to bed. I used to be really bad at snacking before bed (cookies, crisps, ice cream, etc) and this too can interfere with your sleep.
9 – Create a sleep routine
There’s a reason parents set a sleep routine for children, with them doing certain things before bed each night – a bath, brushing their teeth, a story, and so forth. Not only does this condition your body (and mind) that once you do certain things, it’s time to wind down and get ready for sleep. It also helps create a regular sleep-wake schedule so your body will set its internal clock and start the relaxing process.
10 – Dress Appropriately
Let’s be honest, if whatever you’re wearing to bed isn’t comfortable or is too restricting, then you’ll spend a good part of the night tossing and turning just to get comfortable or removing/re-adding pieces of clothing. Apparently your body is better at keeping itself hot than keeping itself cool, so make it easier on yourself and wear less to bed.
Definitely a great argument for sleeping naked, huh? 😉
So.. what are some of your tricks and tips for battling insomnia? Do you have a sleep ritual? Let us know in the comments below.