Insomnia is the description of lack of sleep, difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, and waking up feeling unrefreshed. This is a feeling I have known oh so well. A lack of sleep can affect your daily performance, your attitude, your mood, your energy and can make you feel physically and mentally unwell. A lack of sleep is debilitating and exhausting.
I had a pretty bad case of insomnia a few years ago that lasted around a year. I was sleeping for 4 hours maximum a night. Disturbed sleep. I was struggling to focus on my college work, to find enthusiasm for friends, and things I loved, struggling to stay awake! My mood suffered a terrible low, I was getting ulcers all over my mouth, bags under my eyes, anxiety, and I certainly didn’t look my best! And despite being exhausted in the day, I would lie awake at night wide awake, brain whizzing around, tossing and turning, too hot then too cold, frustrated and irritated. There’s only so many sheep you can count!!
Lying awake at night for the last few nights has brought these awful memories of a year of sleepless nights to the forefront of my mind again, and I want to work hard to make sure that this does not become another permanent routine!
Over the years I have had a lot of good advice about insomnia avoidance which I aim to put into practice over the next few days to ensure my routine becomes one of restful sleep, especially as at the moment I am holding down two jobs, a home of my own, trying to keep active and exercise, holding down a relationship, trying to fit in time to see friends, a busy life with my pets and wanting time to myself. On top of all that, I am unwell at the moment and need rest to re cooperate and get back to my healthy self.
So I wish to share with you what I have learned about keeping insomnia at bay, some things you will have heard of, some you may have not. Some of it sounds ridiculously simple, and I have often felt somewhat patronised when I have been told to do some of these things, but the thing is, a lot of them work. And you won’t be arguing with simplicity when you’re sending up the zzzzz’s!!
* A hot bath – about an hour before bed, relaxing scents, candles and bubbles to really relax your muscles and calm your mind down.
* A hot drink – when you get into bed…hot chocolate, warm milk, hot juice, peppermint tea, but avoid caffeine!
* Read a book – tire your eyes and mind by reading a book and escaping to another world
* Turn off electronics – now this is one I really don’t like and often don’t stick to! We live in a world where iPads, iPhones, TVs and computers are at the forefront of society, and catching up on Facebook, Instagram or the soaps you’ve missed are part of many peoples bedtime routines. Try to do this an hour to two hours before bed and then turn off electronics, have your bath, hot drink and read your book to wind down. Electronics can keep you awake for hours after you switch them off as they stimulate the brain.
* Use your bedroom for only sleep – another one I find hard. I go to my bedroom to sit at my desk and work, read and watch TV in bed etc, but experts suggest that we only use our bedrooms for sleep, therefore our brains know to begin to switch off.
* Make your bedroom your sanctuary – correct temperature, cosy and comfy bedrooms make for a good sleeping environment. Investing in a good set of pillows, a duvet and a mattress topper are good for sleep. Know what you like from your bed…firm or soft…and go and get it! My bedroom is also a duck egg blue colour which is very calming!
* Write down any anxieties or thoughts in your head – if you have something on your mind, write it down on a piece of paper and agree to deal with it in the morning. Sometimes writing it down is a clearing process anyway and it may just mean you don’t need to deal with it in the morning after all.
* Relax your muscles – you can get muscle relaxant podcasts and meditations that are really helpful in getting your body to feel heavy and ready for sleep. Focusing on how your body feels gets you out of your head and too much thinking too!
* Make your room dark – shut curtains, blinds, doors and lights off.
* Breathe deeply
* Don’t nap in the day – naps in the day not only make me feel groggy and unwell if they are too long, but can also prevent me sleeping at night. If you must nap, make sure it is less than 20 minutes long so you don’t fall into a deep, REM sleep which is when the body and mind truly start to shut down.
I really hope some of these things help, I’ll certainly be taking my own advice at the end of today! Happy sleeping!!